In the 1998 Mulan animation, Mulan undergoes a comedic physical transformation in preparation to meet the matchmaker. As she attempts to fit into the line of picturesque, proper young women, the movie soundtrack repeats an important plea:
Please bring honor to us (Please bring honor to us) Please bring honor to us (Please bring honor to us) Please bring honor to us all
“Honor to Us All” highlights the significance of dignity in Chinese culture. But while “honor” conjures images of strict, Confucian families of ancient China, the contemporary narrative is all about mianzi.
Airports blocked, fire on the streets, tear gas, and police brutality–this isn’t a 20th century war zone, but rather, a series of mass demonstrations that began in June to protest against the recent Hong Kong extradition bill. This bill would allow Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to mainland China for judicial hearings, despite Hong Kong and mainland China operating on a “One Country, Two Systems” principle that allows Hong Kong to retain autonomy in the legal and judicial spheres. These protests have ignited into chaos on both sides. However, despite China’s claims that the police are the victims, the broader implication of these protests highlight the flaws in mainland Chinese politics.
The trope of China as a superpower is far from a new one. After all, China was arguably the most advanced civilization for a thousand years. China as a threat, however, can be traced back to the Chinese Communist Revolution in the 1940’s. Despite economic transformation and the emergence of China as a regional superpower, China is arguably portrayed as even more threatening in contemporary society. Perhaps this proves that America will never be fully willing to allow another country to become the global hegemon; China will always be something Other.