asian pop: fear of a chinese planet

Jeff Yang's latest "Asian Pop" column for SF Gate takes on this season's spate of political ads stoking anti-Chinese hysteria, including Citizens Against Government Waste's already infamous "Chinese Professor" ad. Jeff takes it a step further, looking back at historical fears of an Asian-dominated future, and it goes back further than you think: Fear of a Chinese planet.

Any science fiction fan worth his soy will find the sensibility evoked by the ad, particularly its final lines, familiar -- the call to "change the future" is a persistent meme in speculative fiction, from Isaac Asimov's classic "Foundation" novels to teevee cult fave "The X Files."

The latter even had a near-letter-identical catchphrase in its waning days: "FIGHT THE FUTURE." And in fact, the storyline of "X Files" (at least, when there was a storyline) had much in common with the one intimated by the brief runtime of "Chinese Professor." After all, "X Files" is about an alien race that insidiously seeks to conquer America (and thus, the world) by planting sleeper agents, subverting trusted institutions, and leveraging vast political and economic power through a mysterious set of high-placed collaborators.

The comparison is made even stronger by the bleak, dystopian lighting of the ad, the emphatic, triumphalist delivery of the Professor (all in clipped Mandarin Chinese, naturally -- the better to make him seem as foreign and exotic as possible -- and the dead-eyed stares of the otherwise attractive, all-Asian audience. The Prof doesn't whip out a pack of Morleys at the end of his lecture and light up in true Cigarette-Smoking Man fashion, but he may as well have: He's clearly a harbinger of a forward era -- the date provided is "2030 A.D.," well within most of our lifetimes -- that Americans are meant to find terrifying.
My question: did all the anti-China fear-mongering ads work? I know there's no precise way to measure their effect. But now that the elections are over, of the reported 29 candidates who invoked Scary China in their attack ads, how many actually won? Did it hurt or help them? Just curious. (Thanks, J.)

angry archive