Back in 2008, a certain Icelandic singer dedicated her song “Declare Independence” to a certain part of China that has famously been trying to do just that for over 50 years. Last night, Elton John dedicated his Beijing show to infamous dissident artist Aye WW.
While most probably not as seriously or damaging as the Bjork incident (which was 4 months before the great Olympic coming out ceremony in 2008), it begs the question “Why won’t these primadonnas ever learn or think what the potential consequences of these actions might be?”.
Promoters across China work hard in the margins, trying to incrementally increase their ability to do more and at the same time increase choices for the Chinese public. In fly cosseted stars on their private jets, stay in their Chinese presidential suites for a night and think they will solve the problems of a nation by embarrassing the state in their own back yard. Then fly out, back to their mansions in Cannes surrounded by sycophants that tell them how brave they were and how significant those actions will be, and we are left to clean up the mess.
So what are the consequences likely to be? Most probably an increase in the already expensive and weighty Ministry of Culture approvals process. Most likely more scrutiny for international artists wanting to come and play China and subsequently less variety and frequency of shows. Life post Bjork was tough here in China…
Progress is currently being made and artists of all stripes are arriving every week to play China’s big cities sharing messages, friendship and collaborating with fans and artists here. Soft power is a very real phenomenon, and has very real results.
Everyone knows and appreciates Mr. Aye and his efforts to stand up for the rights of the Chinese nation and her people – the foreign media cover it on an almost daily basis. If Elton wants to do something valuable for China, why not play a benefit concert for orphans; or how about spending some time in Beijing understanding the issues, then going home and writing an op-ed for a global publication about his experiences and thoughts? Nah, let’s go for the easy one: call out my “mate”, get some headlines which never hurt global Elton PR and get the fuck out.