By Tom Bannister
Like a mumbling Clint Eastwood talking to an invisible man, Chuck Norris’s homophobia, or Vin Diesel’s face, Jackie Chan is one ageing action hero that cannot help but provoke criticism. Last month he called the US the ‘most corrupt country in the world’ in an interview on Hong Kong/Chinese TV station Phoenix TV.
At the time US broadcasters were slow to pick up on this slander, but now a Washington Post blogger’s article on the incident has provoked a stirring response from the land of Watergate and the Florida voting recount. The blogger, Max Fisher who writes about foreign affairs, labelled Chan ‘anti-American’ and said that this was largely due to Chinese insecurity:
“Chan’s comments, though widely disparaged on Chinese social media, do reflect a certain strain of anti-Americanism that is particular to some elements of China. Like his criticism of Taiwanese and Hong Kong democracy, it’s as much about defending China. And that defensiveness is often more about internal Chinese doubts about their country’s progress, which has come so far but still has a ways to go. The flip side of Chinese nationalism, which has risen along with China itself, is often a sense of national insecurity.”
All recognised measures of corruption would not agree with Chan’s claims either: Transparency Internationals most recent corruption rankings places the US at 19th least corrupt country in the world, far better than China’s 80th place ranking. And let us also not forget that most criticism should be directed to Chan’s remarks about Hong Kong – made in the same interview with Phoenix TV. In it he labelled his birthplace a ‘city of protest’ and said that protests should be cracked down upon more harshly.
After the WP blogger picked up on the story (several weeks after it occurred let’s remember), many other US and international news outlets were quick to run with it. Many of them, like Fisher, noted the hypocrisy that often arose in Chinese views of the US; quick to adopt many of its systems and ideas, but also quick to attack it when it is perceived to be in contest with China:
It’s the sort of contradiction that can make Chinese views of the U.S. baffling. I’m reminded of a 2011 Chinese TV documentary about the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, in which a young student beamed that he had been “very happy” about the attacks. He added of Osama bin Laden, “Anyone who quarrels with the Americans is a hero.” When the interviewer asked the Beijinger how he felt about the United States, he said, hardly missing a beat, “I love it. I’m studying in the U.S. soon. If I don’t have to come back, then I won’t come back.”