Anna May Wong US coin is a timely reminder of deep US-China ties
- Recognition of the film star’s efforts in championing fairer Asian representation in Hollywood movies offers a chance to look back on the deep and unbreakable connection between China and the US
To compound her situation, when she visited China as a glamorous actress, she was attacked for misrepresenting Chinese people and playing roles that catered to the exotic Oriental imagination of the West.
Wong’s sad experiences were the result of multiple interrelated factors: how American society perceived itself and Chinese people; how Chinese society perceived itself and Westerners; what position each country had in the world; and, the relation between the two countries.
The forces that made Wong miserable a century ago are still around today. Although the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1943, we still see Chinese Americans facing unnecessary and unimaginable pressure as a result of China-US tensions.
The ironies here are glaring. It appears that it’s not only Chen, a Chinese American, but Asian Americans in general who are being affected by the dual influences of China and the US. The worst thing is that the Asian American community is being torn apart right after being collectively subjected to hate crimes because of tensions between the two countries.
Facing such a gloomy outlook, one has to wonder where the bottom is.
That is why the news about Wong appearing on US currency is so timely. It is a huge recognition of her efforts in championing a fairer representation of Asian people in Hollywood films.
Equally important, her story offers us a chance to look back and recognise the deep and unbreakable connection between China and the US.
Recognising this connection offers opportunities for dialogue and understanding, and also reminds us of a dark period in history that we do not want to go back to.
April Zhang is the founder of MSL Master and the author of the Mandarin Express textbook series and the Chinese Reading and Writing textbook series