US video blogger keen on spreading joy in China
‘City or not city’
Published: Jul 09, 2024 10:22 PM
Paul Mike Ashton rides a horse. Photo: Courtesy of Paul Mike Ashton

Paul Mike Ashton rides a horse. Photo: Courtesy of Paul Mike Ashton

Paul Mike Ashton is an active American video blogger on social media. In his recent videos about his travels in China, he often asks in a quirky tone, "City or not city, ah? So city!" These videos have quickly gone viral on various social media platforms, amassing over 10 million views.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mao Ning addressed this popular catchphrase at a regular press conference on Thursday, ­stating that she had just learned about the new usage of the word "city." 

Mao expressed her pleasure at seeing foreign friends enjoying the beautiful scenery and delicious food in China, and experiencing a vibrant and authentic China firsthand.

Ashton, known online as ­Baobaoxiong, responded by saying that he lives in Shanghai and travels across various provinces in China. He mentioned that he has been warmly welcomed by people everywhere in China and felt the enthusiasm of everyone he met. 

When filming travel videos, he genuinely enjoys the entire process and hopes to attract more foreigners to experience Chinese culture through his videos.

"There are many beautiful places in China, and the food is great, which is why I enjoy traveling around China," Ashton told the Global Times. 

"The word 'city' itself means urbanization, and it conveys a sense of vitality. I often feel a sense of freshness and happiness while traveling in various places in China, so I think it's very 'city.'"

Enjoyable experiences 

Hailing from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the US, Ashton has always been interested in Chinese culture and speaks Chinese fluently. 

He is adept at noticing subtle differences between Chinese and English expressions and presenting them humorously, which is why he can create popular catchphrases like "city or not city."

"I find the way Chinese people say 'city walk' quite amusing. Although the term has been around for a long time, I noticed that many Chinese people tend to pronounce the 't' sound more prominently than we do in English, which sounds really cute. Moreover, in business settings, many people switch between Chinese and English, which I find particularly fascinating," Ashton said.

"I find this word-switching between Chinese and English very interesting; it not only reflects the flexibility of the language but also demonstrates the integration of Chinese and English in everyday life in China. Coupled with my enjoyable travel experiences in China, 'city or not city' came out naturally," Ashton emphasized.

To Ashton, the most "city" place in China is Shanghai, because he lives there and loves the lifestyle. He also mentioned that anywhere in China can feel urban because everyone's experiences are different. So, no matter where you are in China, you can have a "city" experience because it's about love and excitement for life.

Ashton strongly encourages foreign friends traveling to China to try the wide array of Chinese cuisine. 

"I think the food is one of the best features of China. I believe that many times, foreigners might not eat too adventurously because we're unsure about trying many unfamiliar dishes. However, many Chinese dishes have left a deep impression on me and pleasantly surprised me. So, I would definitely recommend everyone to do the same and be brave enough to try a variety of foods."

Ashton has personally enjoyed traditional Chinese dishes such as mouth-watering chicken, lion's head meatballs, and squirrel fish, and he expressed a great fondness for them.

A view in Shanghai Photo: VCG

 A view of the Lujiazui area in Shanghai Photo: VCG

New life

Ashton said that he has gained more attention from Chinese fans, which has led to some changes in his life. His current work focuses on social media development and operation, which he finds interesting but also stressful.

"Now I have a platform to connect with more people, which is great. I get recognized occasionally, and some of the events I attend get more attention than before, so it's really busy now. I have had to transition from my previous lifestyle to a new one, but many of the changes are good, so I'm very excited to try this new life."

He had heard so many great things about various parts of China that it was difficult to choose what to experience next. Due to his current work, he has more opportunities to visit places he might not have considered before and shoot related travel videos.

In China, there are many places he really wants to visit. He said, "Last weekend, I went to Qinghai, and that was an amazing experience. If I had to pick a top place on my wish list, I'd probably choose Inner Mongolia as my first choice."

"My second choice is Changsha, where I will actually be going later this month. I'm really looking ­forward to this trip, tasting the food in Changsha, and experiencing life in another Chinese city," Ashton said.

Ashton would like to give a message for those who enjoy his videos and have been ­following him. He said that what he's doing now brings him great joy, and he hopes others can also find things in life that make them happy and spark an interest in pursuing them.

"One of the things that makes me happiest about making these videos in China is that they make my sister and I laugh and pass that joy on to other people. Everyone has the opportunity to find things that make them happy, even if it's not their job; just things they love to do," Ashton said.