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Career change

China's Obama impersonatorImage copyright
Xiao Jiguo

Image caption

Barack Obama impersonator Xiao Jiguo demonstrates one of his ‘Obama’ looks

US President Barack Obama will be leaving the White House in January, but does that mean that China’s Obama will be out of a job too?

Xiao Jiguo, a 30-year-old Chinese actor, rose to fame for his uncanny resemblance to the outgoing president.

Such is Mr Xiao’s fame in his homeland, that the direction and popularity of US foreign policy had direct impact on his own burgeoning career.

“People in media, television programmes and movies were worried that inviting me could become political.”

Media captionChinese Obama impersonator Xiao Jiguo is moving into film – but not in a presidential role

“When President Obama holds office, I sort of have to take political factors into account. But after he steps down, my path as an actor may become clearer,” Mr Xiao told the BBC.

Yes, he can

Mr Xiao had always dreamed of becoming a singer but after moving to Guangdong from Sichuan province over a decade ago, he worked as a security guard to make ends meet.

Then in 2008, one of his co-workers told him he looked like President Obama. At that point Mr Xiao had no idea who President Obama was as he did not really follow politics or global affairs.

But he scented opportunity and started mimicking President Obama: his expressions, gestures and unique way of talking.

Image copyright
Xiao Jiguo

Image caption

Xiao Jiguo

In a curious sense, their careers can be seen to mirror one another. So just as President Obama was elected and sworn into the White House, so Mr Xiao launched his new and unusual career.

Mr Xiao speaks very little English but this never stopped him. He even developed a habit of making up words that approximated to English sounds when “giving speeches” during his performances.

But his career only really took off last year. His resemblance to the president attracted a lot of Chinese and international media interest, particularly during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the United States.

Mr Xiao has since then become immensely popular for marketing events and has landed several commercial and movie deals. He recently starred in a streaming comedy called “‘Obama’ goes on blind dates”.

An Obama path to riches

But, he says, this resemblance was not always helpful: “While he was in power, the name Obama became relatively sensitive in China,” be said.

Mr Xiao recalls his first appearance on television, in 2012, when he appeared on a talent show to showcase his singing ability. When the producers realised that people on set were talking about his resemblance to Mr Obama, they ordered that the sequence be filmed again, without mention of the president, such is the sensitivity.

But it has made him richer than he could have imagined when he started work as a security guard.

The Obama impersonator told the BBC that he earns at least 100,000 yuan ($14,700; £11,700) every month now since last year.

Image copyright
Billie Chan

Image caption

Xi has joined an agency, which also signed a contract with a Kim Jong Un lookalike

The United States and China have not always exhibited the most cordial of relations, but Mr Xiao is counting his blessings.

“The majority of Chinese people know President Obama. He has left an impression among people from all over the world… People will not be able to forget him so soon.”

“He is the first black US president. Putting politics aside, people admire that.”

Mr Xiao is now studying part-time at a drama school in Beijing.

So the search must now be on for China’s Trump.