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  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 2:42pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 January, 2013, 3:49am

Jackie Chan: a buffoon with a point?

Is America "the most corrupt" country in the world?

This statement in the affirmative by action star Jackie Chan has started an online storm, sparking more than 250 readers' responses on the Post website and heated discussions elsewhere.

I am quite intrigued. In substance if not in style, what he said is very similar to a speech the main character made at the end of British comic star Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator: "Imagine if America was a dictatorship. You could let 1 per cent of the people have all the nation's wealth. You could help your rich friends get richer by cutting their taxes and bailing them out when they gamble and lose. You could ignore the needs of the poor for health care and education. Your media would appear free, but would secretly be controlled by one person and his family.

"You could wiretap phones. You could torture foreign prisoners. You could have rigged elections. You could lie about why you go to war. You could fill your prisons with one particular racial group and no one would complain. You could use the media to scare the people into supporting policies that are against their interests."

An exaggeration, but basically true! OK, Cohen has a special genius for playing various buffoons, while Chan is a buffoon. Maybe Cohen's dictatorial character didn't mean it. But what he said is readily acknowledged and recognised by many people.

Chan was wrong to say "the most corrupt", but if he had said "a most corrupt country", then that becomes eminently debatable.

Here is what Simon Johnson, an MIT professor and ex-IMF chief economist, wrote: "The fact that our American oligarchy operates not by bribery or blackmail, but by the soft power of access and ideology, makes it no less powerful. We may have the most advanced political system in the world, but we also have its most advanced oligarchy."

And, of course, no one denies China is terribly corrupt, not least its ruling elite. Different countries and systems are corrupt in different ways. To me, there is no question that the political systems of the world's two largest economies are corrupt. The real question is: which system is resilient enough to self-correct without collapsing?

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This article is now closed to comments

captam
Its time you started reading history, putting your biased preconceptions aside.
You should begin by learning about Deng Xiaoping 邓小平 (鄧小平), earlier a true Marxist, who in 1961 had the courage to make his famous quote " It doesn't matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice."
From 1980 onwards, Deng convinced the majority of the politburo to change track and support capitalist reforms. As a result of this change, after only 30 short years the Chinese economy is on the verge of becoming the world's largest. This is a prime example of self examination and correction by the party. There have been many more corrections but you are obviously unwilling to open your eyes to them.
Today we are witnessing China's admission of environmental protection failure and the need to clean up their act. Not easy to do overnight, but watch this space. They will do it and, in another decade will shame the West with their moves into green technology. China's large cities currently do have the dirtiest air but they are actually doing something about it. At the stroke of a pen the true air-pollution figures are now being measured and published, while Hong Kong has been procrastinating for 20 years about making changes to its obsolete index.
pokfuklam10
Alex Lo has got it right again. The retorical question at the end will of course have different answers depending on your political perspective and Alex is being careful not to put his US Visa in jeopardy. When asked by the republican leaning Homeland Security agent he can of course say he was referring to the Land of the Free.
John Adams
Alex : read through the comments re yesterday's Jackie Chan article and pick up the two by me. To me, incidents like the Iran nuclear centrifuge story, which I can personally vouch for the truth of (and I even reported to the US consulate in HK , not that they took any notice) are much worse "in essence" than anything Wen Jia Bao's family has been - or may have been - up to. Because if - eventually WJB is caught out he and his family will be finished, and some may even go to jail . But the Iran nuclear thing was done with the deliberate connivance of the US govt. - until it became so big that it could no longer be connived at so they found a convenient scapegoat and the US public company continues to do business as usual and the directors go free .
Meanwhile the USA has been slapping billion dollar fines on HSBC and Standard Chartered for doing much less .
Yes Chan may be labelled a buffoon with a point, but he sure has balls , which is more than can be said of the US govt when it comes to turning the finger on themselves
Institutionalised and "legalised / covert " corruption is far worse and more insidious than illegal / overt corruption.
whymak
"Institutionized corruption?" A good point and a broad paint brush. But isn't your point about Iran also ambiguous which has nothing to do with corruption?
Perhaps some US policy makers realize that Iran having a nuclear device is a good thing because it restores true power balance to the Middle East. If you are not part of the Jewish lobby AIPAC, you may agree that a nuclear enabled Iran could deter Israel attacking its neighbors at will and thus might produce useful negotiations and lasting peace for Palestinians and Israelis.
Another point. The real point about a specific corrupt act is the marginal social and economic costs. No matter how we define it, we must do our best to understand its real costs. Remember the fundamentals in economics. The price we pay can be quantified by the ratio of marginal benefits to marginal costs. A quid pro quo bribe for politicians to license a project being held up with parliamentary procedures by ideologues could produce jobs for thousands and other ancillary business activites.
Yes, the world is under threat by institutionized US "corruption," exorbitant professional - legal and accounting - fees for compliance and avoidance of penalties. And now fiscal cliff and yet another looming debt ceiling crisis.
Perhaps all the Western media emotional heavy lifting about China's corruption is much ado about nothing.
Jackie Chan can speak for himself. We don't need to defend him.
honkiepanky
The sad thing is, most of the items on that list from "The Dictator" would actually be an improvement for China.
- "media would appear free but secretly be controlled" -- China doesn't even bother to fake the appearance of a free media
- "rigged elections" -- a la Hong Kong -- would be a step up from having leaders chosen behind closed doors
- "help the rich get richer through tax cuts and bailouts" -- seems preferable to outright theft by officials and their families
likingming
"Control" creates corruptions. To remove it. Simple. Deregulations! And China is on the right direction from marketisation of its original centralised hierachy.
xiaoblueleaf
What is definition of "corruption"? Outright bribery for direct personal gain is vastly different from using political donations to influence policies and government decisions, directly or indirectly controlling politicans through lobbyists which is the case in many countries: USA, UK, Japan ... There is a difference by degree. Up north, corruption is almost at every level, down to towns and villages where non-corrupt official is the rare exception rather than the rule - charities included. What is worst is that corruption leads to moral decadence, making these doing little other than enjoying life: partying, gambling, keeping mistresses ... Disasters are reported almost everyday: mine explosions, poisons leaking into rivers, abandoned orphans, landslides, collapsing bridges ... There is complete absence of check-and-balance. Anyone who reads Chinese might be interested to go to Weibo to get all these info; apparently not Jackie nor Lo who more or less stand on high ground shooting from the hip.
Asynsis
Democracy & corruption - inversely proportional? Everyone has it in one and only the elite have it in the other. Within Chimerica - a dynamic equilibrium.
Dai Muff
The real question is: which system is resilient enough to self-correct without collapsing?
And the answer to that real question is: "The one that allows its corruption to be exposed, analysed, and disposed of by freedom of speech, a free press, and the ability to have peaceful political change."
ianson
The meanderings of Alex Lo's mind continue. In an article purporting to deal with the subject of corruption in America, not a word is devoted to the topic. He evidently simply does not begin to understand the word.

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