Off-limits: exploiting patriotism unacceptable

By Xu Qinduo Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/22 19:13:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Xu Dabao, a Chinese Internet celebrity, has recently stirred up controversy by wearing a dress featuring the Chinese national flag at the Cannes Film Festival in Paris.

Strictly speaking, wearing the national flag is not against the current law on the acceptable use of flags, so long as it's not used as a trademark, for marketing purposes, or in private funeral services. 

But the real issue goes much deeper than the superficial controversy. Showing up at an international event has long been regarded as a shortcut to fame. Cannes, in particular, given its international glamour, the fashion, the red carpet and the numerous cameras, is one of the most important festivals of the year. A report by China Global Television Network says that even Fan Bingbing is now a jury member at this year's festival, having managed to make headlines for years through her shiny gowns that wowed cameramen.

Therefore, Xu's attempt to seek fame is not unusual. What is at issue, however, is her defense against those who questioned the propriety of wearing a national flag at an entertainment event.

She said, "by wearing this dress, I wanted to show the world that I am Chinese and proud of my nationality!"

If that's true, one wonders if she went to the wrong place to make an unnecessary political declaration. Besides, for this year's Cannes Film Festival, there's only one Chinese movie in the line-up, only slightly better than last year's total absence. For Chinese participants, there's actually not much to feel proud of at Cannes. 

What's interesting is, the more she defends her publicity stunt, the more vulnerable she becomes. Responding to overwhelming criticism of her likely abuse of the national flag, she noted that she designed the outfit in an effort to showcase Chinese elements and support the country's Belt and Road initiative. She said her goal was to manifest the confidence of Chinese Internet stars and their patriotism. "While walking on the red carpet, the song (national anthem) is ringing."

Showcasing Chinese elements is welcomed but "supporting the Belt and Road initiative" smacks of opportunism.

To be fair, Xu is neither the first nor the only one who has jumped onto a political bandwagon in order to steal the limelight for self-promotion. 

In March, when Chinese public anger was at its peak against the installment of the THADD system in South Korea, Internet celebrity Mu Yalan filmed a two-minute video calling for a boycott of Korean products and businesses. In the video, she stands in front of the national flag while rapping in a tasteless manner.

Being patriotic is always laudable, including by those working in show biz. But there's a line between loving one's country and promoting oneself under the guise of patriotism.

With the rapid expansion of social media in daily lives, there appears to be a trend that those in show business, such as live streaming hosts, tend to ride the wave of patriotism to pursue recognition and fame, sometimes at the expense of the national image.

For example, Mu's video was uploaded to YouTube and the viewers universally judged it for its shoddy and gauche production. People were disgusted by Mu because she was seen by some international media as representative of Chinese young people.

Along with exploitation of patriotism is the practice of narrow-minded nationalism, such as the smashing of Japanese-brand cars during protests a few years ago over the Diaoyu Islands after they were nationalized by the Japanese side.

Going back even further, there was a renowned TV host who launched a campaign to drive Starbucks Coffee out of the Forbidden City.

Patriotism is a lofty attachment to our homeland. In the current narrative, people are advised to be rational in expressing their love for the country. It's actually quite simple: We should always hold high national symbols such as the flag and national anthem. Exploitation of such for commercial purpose should be off-limits. 

In this sense, the heated discussion surrounding this recent controversy is healthy and meaningful. It helps raise awareness of expressing patriotism in a proper way. Pursuing one's 15-minutes fame is really up to an individual. But one must be extremely careful using patriotism and political statements to do so.

The author is a commentator on current affairs with China Radio International. Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

blog comments powered by Disqus