Jackie Chan: US, Not China, Most Corrupt Country

The Daily Mail reports Hong Kong action star, Jackie Chan, has called America ‘the most corrupt country in the world’:

‘If you talk about corruption, the entire world, the United States has no corruption?’ Chan asked the host.

‘Where does this Great Breakdown (financial crisis) come from? It started exactly from the world, the United States,’ Chan told the interviewer. ‘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,’ continued the Rush Hour star. ‘If our own countrymen don’t support our country, who will support our country?’

The Hong Kong actor has made controversial statements in the past regarding the Chinese people saying they need to be controlled. Chan, known in Hollywood for his role in the “Rush Hour”movies, had made these more recent comments in an interview on Phoenix TV to promote his new movie. According to the South China Morning Post, Chan also said Chinese people should only criticize China to other Chinese people:

“We [can] talk about it when the door is closed. To outsiders, [we should say], ‘our country is the best’,” he advised.

The programme then began rolling credits before Chan could finish his speech.

Chan’s remarks have angered parts of the online community, both at home and abroad.

Chan recently sparked controversy for suggesting protesters be restricted in Hong Kong, and claiming he used “guns and grenades” to see off triad members.

Mark Fisher at The Washington Post has claimed Chan’s anti-American comments reflect a bigger a strain of anti-Americanism in China today:

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.

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.”

Still, you might naturally be wondering how Chan can square his criticism of the United States with his long embrace of the American film market. 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. 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.”

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Jackie Chan holds such opinions, or that this is even a particularly common view in China. The young Beijinger’s comments were roundly mocked on Chinese social media precisely because they were so baldly hypocritical. Still, they were an extreme form of a much milder but similarly contradictory Chinese perception of America, one that maybe has echoes in Chan’s condemnation of the country that has helped make him so rich.

In response to claims of Chan’s anti-Americanism, the Global Times has defended the action star:

During a talk show last month, Chan responded to netizens’ opposition on patriotic remarks he made in the past. Chan refuted this by claiming that China is continuously making progress in tackling corruption, but the US is the most corrupt country in the world. He called his Chinese countrymen to support their home country especially when China is targeted by foreign countries.

Chan is quite candid about his political stances, even those that may backfire. On the program, he admitted he couldn’t compete with economists and that he had no data or knowledge of the subject, but just said what he saw and believed. There is no sign that Chan had a malicious intent toward US in the program. The unusual reaction from US commentators might be because the remarks came from an actor that was born and raised in a democratic region and has a huge fan base in the US.

China is the largest holder of US treasury bonds, but does this make the US less harsh toward its biggest creditor? In the latest US presidential election season, we heard enough China bashing words. But to me the anti-US sentiments in China are no stronger than the anti-China sentiments in the US.

Everyone has the freedom to express his view. Making too big a deal out of Jackie Chan’s words may be a sign that many Americans are losing the grace to face different opinions.

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