I went to see the movie The Campaign
(directed by Jay Roach) recently and found that a good part of the movie made a villain out of Chinese businesses. Two rich businessmen outsourced their jobs to China for high profit. Later, they tried to “insource” the businesses to the North Carolina district for even higher profit. In the end, the right thing for a candidate is to give up their financial support so that their district will not be sold to China.
I enjoyed the movie, the way I enjoyed Dr. Strangelove, in which the former Soviet Union is the villain. Besides, the movie focus on making fun of people like senators and lobbyists, who, in their pure depravity, made evil Chinese businessmen look almost decent.
As a Chinese I occasionally feel flattered that people bash China based on the assumption that it is a threat, the way former Soviet Union was a threat in the cold war. In my understanding, China faces too many domestic problems to pose a threat in any near term.
I do not know how many of my countrymen will enjoy this movie. On second thoughts, it should not matter. It is not the kind of movie intended for the Chinese market anyway. Those trying to enter the Chinese market, such as Kungfu Panda, and 2012, all cast China in a positive light to please potential Chinese audiences. In 2012, Chinese migrant workers even build ships to save the world from looming disaster.
While living in America, I have encountered organizations or people who bash or tease China or Chinese in all sorts of ways. I remember a bookstore in upstate New York who poked fun at Confucius in their advertisement. I remember an Amish furniture store in West Virginia promoting their products as being superior to “Made-in-China” products. I remember all sorts of political candidates huff and puff about how they will stand up to China whenever they want public support. These bashers have one thing in common: They all try to sell something, be it books, furniture, or some political credibility.
Even if China bashing is a choice, there is room for improvement. Let me offer a few suggestions which I hope can take China bashing to a new level:
First, do not make fun of people like Confucius. Confucius and his family are highly respected in China. People do not want him to have a bad press even today. By the way, Confucius does not use such awkward sentences as “he who…”. Bad translators write that for fortune cookies and rotten movies. Nobody will burn the American flag if you show disrespect to Confucius’ name, but it is not nice. It is not nice to disrespect Fang’s name either. If you are talking about a current Chinese celebrity, absolutely, go for it.
Secondly, try to bash realities, not straw men. If China bashing is based on lies, it can lead to disgrace. In the movie The Campaign
, I see images of large numbers of Child workers in the factories. Child labor phenomenon is more an exception than a rule nowadays. Earlier this year, This American Life retracted its January 6th program titled "Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory," which includes Child labor accusations which turned out to be fabrication. Most Chinese children are single children. It would make you a better China basher to poke fun at the little princes and princesses who do not do any work, not to mention factory work.
Thirdly, if you are a politician wanting to score political points bashing China, remember that you operate differently from comedians who can get away saying all sorts of things to be funny. When Mitt Romney said “China stole our jobs”, it is neither true or funny. People contending for public offices had better use words with greater precision. “Stealing” is a strong word. It does not apply when factories voluntarily move in to China due to business considerations, such as lower costs, greater material supply or higher productivity. For the same reasons, many multinational corporations are moving from China to Vietnam or Bangladesh nowadays. The Chinese don’t say Vietnam or Bangladesh
stole our jobs.
Unskilled China bashers do not pose a threat as their side kicks and front kicks hit empty air. Bashing China to gain business, tickets or votes is understandable, but it is more prone to fail. There are better strategies out there with a better chance of success.
Few people in history leave a legacy defining themselves simply by sharing what they are against, not what they are about. For instance, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may be against social inequality, but people remember him more by the dreams he had. Bashing China may please those who do not know any better, but one does not become a better American by attacking China, and vice versa.