The Jackie Chan Puzzlement
Sparks have been flying at Jackie Chan since his fateful remarks that China is best left a nation of puppets who need to be controlled, lest they end up with a (semi) democratic mess like what Hong Kong and Taiwan now suffer from. Call it an innocent “the emperor wears no clothes” outcry, but the patriotic kung fu star—branded by his opponents as someone “who has never read many books”—only expressed what he honestly thought, and gave voice to the repugnance and fear that is widely shared among the ruling elite both in Hong Kong and China toward the ordinary Chinese person.
It is also a dominant official view that since the Chinese population consists of mostly ill-educated peasants, the Chinese people are not intelligent enough to adopt a Westminster-style democracy. Had Hilary Clinton openly preached this on her recent trip to Beijing, she would have been labeled a racist by the editorial board of the New York Times. But this view is commonly shared by more and more patriotic Chinese, especially overseas Chinese students studying for an MBA or electronic engineering degree at Harvard or Cambridge.
We are proud to take up the superpower’s burden by liberating the Tibetans from the boredom of daily prayers and endless Buddhist scripture-reading classes by introducing them to modern amenities such as karaoke bars, shark’s fin restaurants and massage parlors—even though the ungrateful Tibetans continue to curse us for destroying their religious faith and tranquil lifestyle. At the same time, we doubt the cerebral nature of our own people, believing that the Chinese are simply not bright enough to play the complex game of electing our own government by universal franchise. The Chinese need to be tethered, and their mouths need to be bound so that they may only eat or drink, but not disagree.
For the Chinese, is it politically correct to assume that we are born unequal compared to the Americans, the Indians, or the Pakistanis, and support the motherland’s iron-fisted rule because it is more patriotic to do so? Or is it politically incorrect to embrace the so-called corrupt western liberal “imperialistic” view that all men should be born equal, with guaranteed human rights and freedoms?
Jackie Chan said he was confused. So was Yul Brynner, who played the unforgettable role of the bald-headed patriarchal King of Siam in the musical “The King and I.” He was keen to learn to speak English, but rejected the idea of learning from Lincoln and abolishing slavery—recall the broken English of one of his more memorable songs:
“When I was a boy, world was better spot. What was so was so, what was not was not. Now I am a man, world have changed a lot. Some things nearly so, others nearly not—what a puzzlement!”
It is indeed a very big puzzlement—Yul Brynner, Anna the English teacher, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Chris Patten, Mao Zedong, the Cultural Revolution, Donald Tsang, etc., etc., etc.