Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Na Thanks, Hubei.

Strings attached?

Now that Li Na has won her second Grand Slam tennis tournament, lots of people in China want a piece of her. Some, including the government of her home province of Hubei, are willing to pay a tidy sum to get it. This picture is of Li Na receiving a check worth $132,000 from Hubei’s Communist Party chief (Li Hongzhong), simply for having brought pride to the Chinese people. He looks happy to be basking in her reflected glory. She, on the other hand, looks like there are 800,000 other places she’d rather be, including resting at home with her feet up, munching on a few well-deserved Want Want rice crackers.
This publicity event has caused something of a firestorm in the social media on the Mainland. Most comments criticize the Chinese government for wastefully spending public money by giving it to a celebrity who is in no need of it. (She won twenty times this amount in prize money alone down in Melbourne.) Others criticize Li Na herself for not keeping up appearances and etiquette by pretending to be pleased, irrespective of how loathsome she may find the state-sponsored system of pushing athletes.  She has famously asserted her individuality as a key reason for her breakthrough success and steadfastly refused to allow herself to be used by an autocratic regime to promote itself and its legitimacy.
She is someone known for her humor and wise-cracking, which itself is a refreshing change from the usual stereotype of the stoic, robotic Asian athlete. However, she clearly considers being used as a propaganda tool as no laughing matter. Hopefully, there will be a lucky charity organization that in the near future will get a sizable donation, indirectly courtesy of the CCP. 

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