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A 9-year-old told China’s president to lose some weight—and censors shut him down

Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
Chinese president Xi Jinping (left) meeting US president Barack Obama in California in 2013.
By Lily Kuo
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

A 9-year-old boy had some advice for Chinese president Xi Jinping: plan a mission to Mars and lose some weight. According to the Zhengzhou Evening News in China’s central Henan province, a primary school student named Niu Ziru wrote a letter for a school project to “Grandpa Xi” with his thoughts on the country’s space program, as well as some health tips.

Using a popular nickname for Xi, Niu wrote, “Xi Dada, You could lose some weight. You don’t have to look as slim as Obama. It’s all right to look like Putin!” The letter was never sent, but the student’s father posted it on the messaging app Weixin. It quickly went viral and was picked up by Chinese media, according to the South China Morning Post.


Whether or not the letter is authentic—Quartz was unable to locate the father of the letter writer on Weixin or other Chinese social media platforms—the Chinese government isn’t amused. The Zhengzhou Evening News’ story and reports of the letter in other media, including state-run Xinhua, have all been erased from the Chinese internet. A search for Niu Ziru’s name on the microblog Weibo, which is often censored, turns up no results. On Baidu, several links to stories about the letter appear to be broken.

Here is the text of his letter in English:

Dear Grandpa Xi Jinping,
Greetings! I’m a pupil from Zhengzhou, Henan Province. Today I want to say a few things to you about space. Everyone believes the next big challenge is space. I think so too. The moon, for sure has rich minerals, but it doesn’t have air and water and is definitely not suitable for human life. This is not a good place for a long stay. It’s time for China’s aerospace program to change directions.
Let’s have a look at Mars. It has both air and glaciers, so it is not inferior to Earth. Eventually, the United States and Russia will no longer use the international space station and they will land on Mars. Even the European Union and India will join in the fun. Let’s hurry up!
Okay, we should include some lighter topics. Xi Dada, you could lose some weight. You don’t have to look as slim as Obama. It’s all right to look like Putin! :)
Best regards,
Wishing you good health
Niu Ziru
Dec. 12

And in Chinese:


Additional reporting by Zheping Huang.

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