The Oxford Union debate on the motion This House Believes that the 21st Century Belongs to China took place in November 2012. Lord Wei spoke in favour of the motion.
Because I am able to embed the video above, you do not need to see its posting on YouTube. If on the other hand you elect to click that hyper-link you will see that someone has posted a comment saying, “He’s a pathetic orator”. At the time of writing that is the only comment.
Should I leave it there, or shall I proceed to provide my own critique? I could leave it there because I fear the comment is correct.
The first and most glaring problem is an old
friend enemy of this blog. Wei is too much of a talking head. He does not dare to cut himself free from his script – though on this occasion it is not on paper but an iPad. That first sentence – Ye Gods! – is he really incapable of saying that without reading it? No of course he isn’t: he just hasn’t been shown. Regular readers of this blog will have spotted it immediately and will already be watching in horror from between their fingers. All the familiar problems are there: stilted wording, ridiculous stumbling over sections that would not be subject to stumbling if merely spoken, etc.
Then comes the really frustrating part! Watch from the two-minute mark, and you’ll see an excruciating, toe-curling hiatus when he loses his place; and then around 2:20 he adds an aside which involves his face rising and – wonders! – actually addressing the audience, and his tongue merely speaking. That’s the first fluent and engaging part of the speech. There are others to come – and all for the same reason. That wretched script is manifestly his worst enemy in this environment. For a few seconds at a time he’s quite a good speaker: for extended minutes he is – to quote the YouTube comment – pathetic.
What twists the knife in my entrails is that he is in a huge majority. Audiences are constantly being subjected to this sort of abomination. And the knife twists again because I have proved countless times that it is completely unnecessary. No one who has worked with me needs a script.
I am not terribly keen to get into what he says. I happen to find it naive, superficial and lame, but I’ll defend his right to say it.
I’d defend, much harder, his right to deliver it properly and the audience’s right to have it so delivered.