Pretty Chinese Girl (Zhang Ziyi) on the Cover of Newsweek

May 3, 2005

So... Look who's on the cover? They call her Ziyi Zhang (--which is a whole issue unto itself. And just sounds wrong, I have to say). But they've chosen her as the face of modern China.

Zhang was also selected by Time Magazine last year as one of the world's 100 most influential people. Which strikes me as odd --sure, she's pretty, and she's crossed over. But I see no new ground broken and feel no influence. Please clue me if I'm missing something because i think they just wanted an Asian in their list and why not choose a young, hot one?

"Does the Future Belong to China?" the headlines ask. "In three years, [Starbucks will] probably have more cafes in China than in the United States," the article notes. Interesting measure of domination and progress.

I haven't read the whole 21 page China package, so I can only talk about the Zhang Ziyi stuff. "Zhang and her fellow Chinese filmmakers have added their own artistic accent to American movies, and have helped turn them into China's most powerful cultural export."

Okay, just a minute. ZZ is an actor, not a filmmaker. Am i just quibbling here? The article goes on to say that without Chinese cinema, there would be no Matrix, Jackie Chan, Tarantino, Bruce Lee or Jet Lee, no Face/Off, none of the "most thrilling martial-arts films ever made". Basically that's saying that without Chinese film, there would be no Chinese film or people (Matrix, Tarantino) who copy the most violent of Chinese film. Maybe that's why I love Newsweek. Never goes too deep.

So what it's basically celebrating with ZZ is the same old, same old. But wait! There's more! "Chinese moving away from the traditional Hong Kong chop-sockey movies. All those wire-work acrobatics have become a bit passe'...." Wow! A white guy, Sean Smith, noticed!

Mr. Smith quotes Michael Barker (prez of Sony Pictures Classics) who predicts that ZZ will attain the kind of international stardom once enjoyed by Sophia Loren or Marcell Mastroianni. And he might very well be right. She's gorgeous, has some talent, and according to my inside sources, is a bitchy diva --all the ingredients for success. (I admit, I hate her because she's beautiful, but am totally fascinated, too.)

But of course mitigating my love-to-hatedness of ZZ is the celebration that ANY Asian woman is on the cover of a multi-millionly-distributed mainstream magazine. That ANY Asian woman was noticed as being influential. (Though it makes more sense to me to mention someone like the president of Avon, Andrea Jung, or even Sandra Oh. But that's just me.)

Of course, the undercurrent of the Newsweek stuff, just from reading the headlines, is one of fear. "How America Should Handle Unprecedented New Challenges, Threats -and Opportunities" reads the subhead. "What America Needs To Do... How to Handle China?" reads another. It describes the Chinese military threat, the hugeness of the country, the projection that Chinese will suprpass English on the internet by 2007.

What's it going to be like for America not to be the dominant cultural force in the world? Will all kids be required to study Chinese? Will the white people in this country totally freak outlike they already are in some radio stations? Will blue jeans be replaced with shapeless cotton clothing and pink florals paired with red plaid? Will we become the victims of even more hate crimes, Exclusion Acts, internments, and acts of "national security"?

Interesting questions those headlines and pull quotes raise. I'll get back to you after I've read the articles.




hey guuys don't start hating ZZ. Anyway who was the one who said she was bitchy? Who has actually been to talk to her? Well, mariah Carey quite a dive too. I'm a chinese too and i must say that ZZ is pretty and talented but she isn't the best among the asian celebrities...
i'm a chinese girl from the mainland , in china ,there are also different views about ziyi , we just think her as an actress ,maybe more famous than other acress . but in your eyes she represents china in some ways . i don't know why americans always think china like this , a threat?
Dave is true, she is and I know, met her three times at cannes and this year was last straw, she behaved like a bitch and appears to be getting to big for her boots. There is only one way people like that eventually go...down !especially if i ever see her at the other end of my lens again :-)ian
XD;; actually i cant stand ZZ either. its just one of those actors i just cant seem to take a liking to. everytime watch a movie with her in it, i seem to hate the character for some reason and sometimes i feel like slaping her. i really dont know why but i just dont like her. maybe its her look. shes got this expression in every single one of her characters. i think "bitchy diva" works just fine ^_^ oh and you're not alone. alot of my other chinese friends dont like her either. but oh wells everyone is entitled to which actor they prefer or dislike.
I've got to throw my hat in the ring with this one. Ziyi Zhang is one of the most talented actresses I've ever seen on the screen. I am a Western male...lived in America my whole life, and I have grown so weary of American culture. It is therefore very refreshing to see the great movies coming out of China, with such talent! (As opposed to ‘Rocky XI’ etc.) I was in a "let's talk" program in College wherein we met foreign students and had a great cultural experience. It was the highlight of my College experience. My friends in the "let's talk" program were from China.I believe it is completely ridiculous to fear China's emerging strength, etc. China has an ancient culture, and I think Ziyi Zhang has done a lot to capture that essence on the screen. My point is that Chinese people are wonderful, generally speaking, and we should simply celebrate the great gifts that Ziyi Zhang has presented on the screen, and we should celebrate the progress that China is making. Yes, China has many human rights issues that need to be addressed. But remember, it has only been about the last 40 years that black people could ride at the front of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, etc. Slander and innuendo come from low minds and low people. Keep your thoughts to yourself if you feel compelled to think of Ziyi Zhang as a ‘bitch.’ Whoever says that Ziyi Zhang is a bitch is just jealous of her. Not too many women in the world have her talent, grace, and beauty. Jealousy will move some people to say anything.
Jennifer -- While you're right about most everything about the Newsweek "China" edition, your gratuitous insult of Zhang Ziyi is plain out mindless. So, your "inside sources" tell you that she is a "bitchy diva," do they? Well, how sweet of you! And who are these anonymous sources? Please name them. How would you like nameless sources slandering you in such a fashion? No doubt, your sources are the same worthless Hong Kong entertainment writers who have been slandering without evidence Ziyi for the last several years. It's just sad that a bright, pretty and charming Chinese artist like Zhang Ziyi is the target of such maliciousness.
Dude, chill, I don't think that was a slam on Zhang Ziyi. I like her too, she's one of a bunch of great Chinese actresses, among them Shu Qi, Maggie Cheung, Gong Li, the late Anita Mui, the Twins...Regardless of Zhang Ziyi's diva-ness, bitchy divas are all part of the great Chinese acting tradition, as it is in Hollywood.
Hmm.. so calling someone a "bitchy diva" isn't a slam? What a strange parallel universe I must be living in, because where I come from that phrase is hardly a compliment. The need to "chill" isn't the point here. Lazy, thoughtless commentary that picks up and recycles the "bitchy" label that has been stuck on Zhang Ziyi by the Hong Kong tabloids ever since "Crouching Tiger" is the point. And to shrug and claim all great Chinese actresses are bitchy is hardly a useful reply. Sure, in this day and age, you apparently can say and print anything about entertainers, whether true or not. But pinning the "bitch" label on Zhang Ziyi so early in her career isn't funny or fair.
Okay, I admit calling ZZ a bitchy diva was a totally catty thing to do. I pretty much acknowlege that in the blog by saying that I hate her because she's beautiful. We love to hate the beautiful celebrities we admire, why do you think tabloids that show their cellulite?I don't read Hong Kong tabloids and don't know what they say about her. The source that told me she's not nice is another actress who worked with her. But thanks for providing another source to confirm that opinion, because now I'm more likely to believe it.Anyway, that's not the point of this blog! My point in bringing up Zhang Ziyi is merely to illustrate the way that Americans view China --they want to put the pretty young actress on the cover (which is so boring and predictable) --but she's an actress with an edge. And China, likewise, is a trading partner who is also a potential threat that may develop the position to not only radically change the global economic balance, but it's cultural milieu as well, and Americans seem scared by both.
Your explanation is well-put and accepted. (However, don't ever consider the Hong Kong press a trustworthy source -- it's about as reliable as our supermarket tabloids.)But your largest point is so important -- America's knowledge of modern-day China (let alone its centuries of civilization) is appallingly wanting, and mainstream media organs like Newsweek are barely helping to better inform.I'm delighted they put Ziyi on the cover -- she, along with Yao Ming, are among the latest and brightest treasures China is exporting. But, sure, she's on the cover to boost newsstand sales because she's gorgeous. Why didn't Newsweek put China's first astronaut on the cover, or its medical scientists doing revolutionary stem-cell research, or a thousand of other pioneering Chinese? For probably the same reason retired CBS correspondent Tom Fenton notes in his new book that CBS in a recent year aired just 4 stories about China -- just 4 -- and two were about Pandas Middle East, Islam and terrorism.Yes, you're sadly correct that the American public well may develop a growing fear of China and, if it does, it will be because of right-wing politicians warning about the "Asian Red Menance" and a media stuck on old stereotypes and worn-out storylines. And that will be truly tragic.
About Zhang Ziyi's bitchy diva ways, you may want to check out She didn't make much of an impression on the staff at the Tribeca Grand.
Jamie, that website is mistaken. Zhang Ziyi wasn't even present at the Tribeca Film Festival. So, how could the staff form of an impression of her "bitchy diva ways," if she wasn't even there? Ziyi was scheduled to attend, but her schedule was changed. Her 2046 costar, Tony Leung, was in attendance though. Can you post the exact link on where you got that erroneously information? Ziyi wasn't at Tribeca and certainly isn't "bitchy." I'd like to correct them too. ___________Sorry to knitpick, Jennifer, but you really shouldn't be surprised that the focus is on Zhang Ziyi instead of China and the way Americans see it, when you yourself say in the blog, "I haven't read the whole 21 page China package, so I can only talk about the Zhang Ziyi stuff." I've long found it unfair that such nasty labels as "bitchy" have been applied to Ziyi. And the leading sources have been Hong Kong tabloid trash papers and magazines. Unfortunately, and without a shred of independently confirmable evidence to support such accusations, such nasty things are taken as credible in the West, as evident here. In a way, the issue of Ziyi does closely relate to the point you really wanted to make with this blog on the Newsweek articles. Afterall, how can we in the West get more accurate info and facts reported here about China, when we can't even do the same about person chosen for the Newsweek cover?
is it just me, or does this seem to be an inordinate amount of attention given to the 'bitchiness' - alleged or otherwise - of an actress? the IDEA that a 'screen diva' from ANYWHERE could be or would be 'bitchy' hardly seems surprising to me. (I am sure their is a "pu tungh hwa" word for bitchy, so the concept certainly exists there) Also, given Ziyi's recent 'high profile' due to movies, it is no shock that Newsweek would put her on the cover. Would you prefer they find the Chinese equivalent to Bella Abzug??However, that is NOT what the Newsweek story was about.Now, in light of the actual story, it seems inappropriate to use Ziyi as the 'image' because the story focuses more on economics, foreign relations and military issues - NOT movies. But given the broad topics, maybe it was impossible to find a single person that could be seen as representative of China's 'ascendency' in all of those areas, so you go for 'recognizability' instead.
I don`t like ziyi either,she `s got a little talent,I don`t see she is that beautiful,she is just famous, appeared in bunch of movies,there are alot of chinese actresses are better than her,what I know from chinese people "she acts all sweet and innocent in front of camera,in real life she is just a bitch,we are sick of seeing so many movies that got her in"
Arnold: if you read carefully, she was in NYC to promote a beauty product not to attend the Tribeca Film Festival. She stayed at the Tribeca Grand Hotel.
YAY. i love ZZ! she's my girl! yay! omg! she is waaaaaay tooo cute! i wanna be her! YAY! she's great! she does like all this awesome kung fu! she can beat anyone! you go girl! all RIGHT!!1!
i'm a chinese girl from the mainland , in china ,there are also different views about ziyi , we just think her as an actress ,maybe more famous than other acress . but in your eyes she represents china in some ways . i don't know why americans always think china like this , a threat? we just want to live a better life , china is becoming stronger just because eneryone wants to have improvements. isn't it a wonderful thing that 20% of the population of the world are struggling to live better !
Jennifer, you are way, way, way too self-involved.
she is just a successful(I mean famous) actress no matter you hate her or love her. There are tons of people in the world you don't know, but can make you sick.About chinese culture influence.. it is directly propotional to the economics power of the country. Like the current influce from america to the world. If america wants to keep this, they should focus on developing their own economy instead of try to resist. Look at the average people and the young generation here, no way to compare to the hardworking people in the developing countries. No wonder america is losing his power.
I worked with ZZ on a photoshoot. She is incredibly gorgeous but is I hate to admit it, a diva. I guess it's part of the business but I was disappointed in her behaviour. (Not to mention the huge bill she racked up.)