Trying to get a sense of China’s place in the American public consciousness—to the extent it exists at all– isn’t easy. As we’ve seen, China barely registers in presidential campaign, and when it does (as in the Republican debate the other night) the subject tends to elicit absurdly simplistic soundbites (which ,as I write that , I realize is redundancy squared…).
China, however does play a bit part in one of the most popular TV series in the US: 24, the drama in which super Agent Jack Bauer routinely saves the US from terrorists in one day ( 24 stands for 24 hours). The series is entertaining—I count myself as a fan—even though the plot lines have become increasingly, shall we say, convoluted now that the series is in its sixth season. I mean, how many different ways can Jack Bauer save the Republic from terrorists 24 hours?
Well, one way is to have China, the rising superpower, play a sinister role in this season’s back story. At end of last season, China intelligence agents kidnapped Jack and took him back to China, where, according to the story, he was tortured mercilessly for two years. Why had they done this? Because Jack had shot and killed a Chinese agent at the LA consulate in his pursuit of Islamic terrorists earlier in the season (why was he shooting up the Chinese consulate in pursuit of Islamic terrorists? Never mind, it seemed to make sense at the time, even if it doesn’t now)….
At the beginning of this season, Jack is returned from the Chinese prison, looking a little worse for wear, having been tortured for two years. Nevertheless, in about five minutes he’s fit as a fiddle and tracking down terrorists again. Now, as this season draws to a close, we find that Jack’s father—a high techy, CEO kind of guy—is helping the Chinese steal a critical electronic component which will give Beijing access to all of Russia’s defense plans. How is it Jack’s father is in bed with the Chinese, and why in the world does everyone from the President of the United States to Jack Bauer care so much about //Russian// defense plans? Never mind; like I said, it’s more than a little convoluted.
The highlight of this episode—at least for those of us with China on the brain—came when Jack’s father tried to kidnap his grandson (Jack’s nephew). Again, never mind the rationale or how the kid fits into the plot. The priceless bit of dialogue comes when the grandfather speaks by phone to the grandson, explaining his plans for the two of them:
Jack’s father (speaking to the grandson, Josh): “…I’m taking you away from this ungrateful country, to someplace we can both start over.”
Granndpa: “China. Within a decade, they will have surpassed this country in EVERY possible way. And WE can be part of it! I am going to give you the future I promised you when you were born.
Josh: “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
“No, I didn’t think you would, but you will…”
Wow. I say this as a certified Panda Hugger (married to a Chinese woman, own a home in Shanghai, don’t believe China’s really a threat to anyone right now): I’m with Josh!
What the hell ARE you talking about, Grandpa!!?
The question of the day is, wouldn’t most Americans ask the same question as Josh? Or do they, god help us, agree with Grandpa?