Action film superstar and martial arts stuntman Jackie Chan is running the gauntlet of criticism after he reportedly said on Chinese Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television that the US is the "most corrupt" country in the world.
According to The Washington Post, Chan was responding to international criticism of China's censorship of a magazine when he said on the Chinese TV interview that the US is the most "corrupt country in the world."
He expressed disapproval of Chinese who criticize their country openly, saying that he is always careful only to praise China whenever he gives interviews in the US media.
According to AFP, the Hong Kong native told Phoenix TV: "When you talk about corruption – the whole world, is there corruption in the United States? The most corrupt in the world!"
The show host, apparently surprised about Chan's statement, questioned him. Chan did not back down from his statement. He said: "Of course! Where did the great breakdown (the recent global financial crisis) come from? The world, the United States started it."
The Washington Post's Max Fisher, provides a translation of the interview by Ministry of Tofu, while pointing out the "fun fact" that the Chinese word for the US is "Meiguo" ("beautiful country"):
Jackie Chan: The New China. The real success has been made in the past dozen of years. Our country’s president also admits they have the corruption problem, and some other stuff, but we are making progress. What I can see is our country is continuously making progress and learning. If you talk about corruption, the entire world, the United State, has no corruption?
Chan: The most corrupt in the world.
Chan: Of course. Where does this Great Breakdown [financial crisis] come from? It started exactly from the world, the United States. When I was interviewed in the U.S., people asked me, I said the same thing. I said now that China has become strong, everyone is making an issue of China. If our own countrymen don’t support our country, who will support our country? We know our country has many problems. We [can] talk about it when the door is closed. To outsiders, [we should say] “our country is the best.”
Host: So he can’t get enough of his more than 20 ambassador titles. I think the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should ask him to be the ambassador to the United States.
Chan: Seriously, I am always like, when the door is closed, 'Our country is like this and this. "Who and who is not good.” But outside, “Our country is the best, like so and so, is the best.” You cannot say our country has problems [when you are outside], like “Yes, our country is bad.”Jackie Chan, ardent supporter of the Chinese Communist Party?
According to The Washington Post's Max Fisher, what many American fans of Chan may not know about him is that he is a staunch defender of the Chinese Communist Party who attacks anyone opposed to the Communist Chinese government.
Fisher comments that while Chan's statements may come as a new revelation to his American fans, it will not come as a surprise to many Chinese viewers who are already aware of his conservative political views. According to The Washington Post, the Hong Kong Chinese film star criticized Taiwan and Hong Kong as models of what goes wrong when you have "too much freedom." Chan even once defended China's censorship of his films, saying: “Chinese people need to be controlled, otherwise they will do whatever they want.”
Fisher observes that for a man who once reportedly referred to Taiwanese democracy as "the biggest joke in the world," his views about the US should not come as surprise because the US is widely considered Taiwan's "puppet master."
International Kung Fu film star Jackie Chan poses for the upcoming 2010 SportAccord Combat Games. [Photo: Zhenyu Li]
Chinese 'anti-Americanism?' Why don't we talk about American 'anti-Sinic' feelings instead?
Criticism of Chan's comments in the US media largely reflect back on American attitudes toward China. The Washington Post's Max Fisher, for instance, describes Chan's comments as "anti-American rhetoric rooted in China's insecurity."
"To the degree that Chan’s comments were anti-American, they likewise reflect a common Chinese view of the United States, one that is rooted not just in attitudes toward America but in China’s proud but sometimes insecure view of itself.
"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."
While Fisher comments on anti-Americanism "particular to some elements" in China, we may point out the "anti-Sinic" attitudes pervasive among Americans. Any American writer who comments extensively and critically about the "anti-Americanism" of the Chinese glosses over the even more pervasive hostile feelings in the US against the Chinese.
"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... "
If one comments on a sense of "national insecurity in China" relative to the US, what does one say about the almost paranoid obsession in the US, not only with tracking Chinese progress, but the palpably intense fear and suspicion of the intentions of China in their region. Is that a demonstration of American sense of security?
"... This aspect of Chinese nationalism has seemed to peak at moments when China comes under more international criticism, as Beijing-based journalist Helen Gao wrote in a great piece about the anti-Japanese protests from this past summer. In many ways, Gao argued, such outbursts are less about lashing out against critics than a manifestation of 'the Chinese public’s struggle to reconcile the frustrating social realities surrounding them with the lofty patriotic ideals they have long internalized.'"
The same comments apply to the US. It took only a few comments from CNN's Piers Morgan, a citizen of the UK, a country that is probably the closest ally of the US in the world, to bring out the worst display of jingoistic nationalism from a section of the American political spectrum.
One may comment at this point that it does appear that Americans, especially of the conservative political spectrum, are capable of being sincerely baffled at outsiders' "anti-Americanism" while harboring stronger "anti-foreigner" feelings of their own that seem natural to them.
"Particular to some elements" of the American political spectrum that harbor the most intense and virulently anti-foreign attitudes are strong antagonistic feelings toward "furriners" who express negative views about the US.
An "outsider" commenting on American politics would often encounter vapidly supercilious expressions of the attitude that only "Americans have the right to comment on American affairs" or even that "only Americans understand their country" and thus, only Americans should comment on American issues.
For citizens of a nation that reserves to itself the "world policeman" rights of interference in the the internal affairs of other nations, the attitude is contradictory and from the perspective of outsiders baffling.
Jackie Chan with fans in London.
What Americans don't know: 'Anti-Americanism' is usually the flip-side of an equally intense 'pro-Americanism'
Practically every American blogger and columnist commenting on Chan's statements accuse him of the hypocritical act of "biting the fingers that fed him," and suggest that Chan should love America or otherwise pretend to because he "made millions of dollars at the U.S. box office."
The Washington Post blogger also could not avoid the pitfall of suggesting that Chan should have refrained from criticizing the US because of his "his long embrace of the American film market."
Fisher appears to share the general feelings of astonishment among Americans about Chan's comments: "How, after all, could he spend so much time making movies in 'the most corrupt country in the world'? It’s the sort of contradiction that can make Chinese views of the U.S. baffling."
Chinese views of the US are baffling to Americans only because of their common inability to detach from their perspective and view the US from the perspective of outsiders.
While the attitude that the rest of world "hates" America is "particular to some elements" in the US who interpret every negative view of the US outsiders express as evidence that the "world hates us," (or otherwise envy us), the truth is that most outsiders have ambivalent feelings towards the world's only superpower.
The admiration of the US is universal; but the admiration does not blind outsiders to its faults as they perceive it, rightly or wrongly. That is the context in which Chan can be best understood. "Anti-Americanism" is very often only the flip-side of an equally intense "pro-Americanism."
The ambivalent feelings that most of us outsiders have for the US is exceptionally well illustrated in Fisher's anecdotal reference:
"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.'"
How else can one interpret the fact that The Washington Post blogger notes: The Chinese word for the US "Meiguo" means "beautiful country."
Would the Chinese call America "beautiful" if their feelings towards the country is an undiluted hatred?
Should Chan defend the US because of his connection to its film industry?
Contrary to what Americans appear to think, Chan does not have to say nice things about the country because he "made millions of dollars at the U.S. box office," any more than American businessmen making millions in China have a duty to defend the Chinese Communist Party.
The Washington Post blogger concluded:
"To the degree that Chan’s comments were anti-American, they likewise reflect a common Chinese view of the United States, one that is rooted not just in attitudes toward America but in China’s proud but sometimes insecure view of itself. In other words, we shouldn’t be too offended."
Fisher's conclusion that Americans shouldn't be "too offended" may be fair, but the reason he gives for his conclusion only reflect his American perspective.
From the perspective of a neutral outsider, such as this writer, the better reason why Americans need not be offended by Chan's comments is that feelings of hostility, suspicion and insecurity are mutual in sino-American relations. Chinese have as much right to their "anti-American" feelings as Americans have to their much cherished "anti-Sinic" feelings.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com