Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Jackie of All Trades

By Chip Tsao | published Apr 23, 2009

Jackie Chan is best remembered in his movies for his wacky kung fu stunts, not his dialogue. I always wondered why Hollywood producers have been a bit stingy toward him and saved the few enlightening lines of his films for more brainy folks like the quick-witted Chris Tucker. Here’s perhaps the answer. At an international forum in Hainan, with former president George Bush junior among the guests, Jackie Chan angered many Chinese people by commenting on politics. Chan said that the Chinese people may not deserve freedoms and “need to be controlled.”

Chan’s offensive remarks were interpreted by many to have branded the Chinese as what amounts to “a nation of slaves,” and he was asked to apologize for what he said. But instead of joining the angry Chan-bashing chorus, may I be allowed, for obvious sentimental reasons, to play the devil’s advocate and say a few words in defense of the kung fu emperor at such a rush hour?

First, the Chinese people have long been subject to a form of serious control—birth control. This has been a state-sponsored policy for at least the last three decades. It is a control widely welcomed by the world—a consensus shared by Deng Xiaoping, the United Nations, and many presidents of the United States. Hardly anyone would dispute that with a population already standing at 1.3 billion, the Chinese people would plunge the world into a more serious food and energy crisis if they were granted the reproductive freedoms enjoyed by the Swedes, Finns or Dutch. Is that a racist comment? I would say it’s more like Malthusian arithmetic and common sense.

And would any liberal western government loosen the immigration controls applied to the Chinese? China has a GDP comparable to the United States, and at the G20 conference, the Chinese leader was stood in the center of the front row next to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown—yet the Chinese passport is subject to harsh and hostile visa requirements from most “civilized nations” of the world, putting it in league with Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Mozambique. In a way, Jackie Chan was simply being factual, although as a world celebrity and an Australian citizen, Chan is among the lucky few Chinese who are exempt from such controls.

And who would disapprove of public signs in simplified Chinese saying “flush toilet after use” or “please do not take excessive food you do not need” hanging at Carnegie Hall, the lavatories at the Louvre, or in three-star hotels in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bangkok, or Manila? These are designed to apply some behavioral control to allegedly one of the oldest civilizations in the world. One can rant and rave at the kung fu master who kicks and pounces, but this time poor old Jackie Chan has pulled no punches in laying out his feelings for the Chinese.

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