Hollywood and China just can’t seem to get along. Just three years after famed director Steven Spielberg spurned the Beijing Olympics over concerns about Darfur, Christian Bale has gotten into a spat of his own with Chinese officials. The New York Times reports:
The actor Christian Bale was assaulted by government-backed guards on Thursday when he tried to visit a blind lawyer who has been illegally confined to his home in eastern Shandong Province. […]The encounter, captured by a CNN camera crew who accompanied him on the eight-hour drive from Beijing to Dongshigu village, promises to become a public relations debacle for China, which has been eagerly promoting Mr. Bale’s latest movie, “The Flowers of War,” which premiered last Sunday at the one of the capital’s most important government buildings. […]The footage of Mr. Bale’s attempted visit is dramatic. In it, he is seen pleading with the men who guard Dongshigu’s entry points and then retreating as they push and punch him. “Why can I not visit this free man?” he asks repeatedly. The men, dressed in thick green winter coats respond with shouts of “Go away.” Even after they have retreated into their car, the group, which included a translator, was chased for 40 minutes by men in a gray van.
This is hardly China’s best week, but we should not overestimate the effects of the Bale incident on Chinese politics. Chinese nationalists (which is most Chinese) generally dislike western celebrities ‘meddling’ as they see it in China’s affairs. Hollywood loves the Dalia Lama, and many Chinese consider him a dangerous and wily enemy. If anything, too much attention from glamorous western celebrities can discredit local figures. Mr. Bale’s profile is higher than usual thanks to his recent role in the most expensive movie in China’s history (Flowers of War) which China hopes might land it an Oscar, but at the end of the day foreign celebrities will not change China.