April 18, 2010

"Too much plotting and scheming is the cause of her undoing"

Zhang Ziyi, darling of the Chinese media but not as beloved by the Chinese people, once again stirred up controversy when news with the following title made the headlines: "Celebrities Contribute 400 million yuan to alleviate drought, Zhang Ziyi Anonymously Donates."
Zhou Xun, Huang Xiaoming, Li Bingbing and others were conspicuous in the list of donors. At the same time, an anonymous donor also attracted many looks. Like most of the stars who donated, this person gave 200,000 yuan to the southeast provinces that have been suffering from drought.

Deputy Treasurer of Red Cross China told the reporter that she noticed the anonymous gift a few days ago. Only now did she find out that the money came from Zhang Ziyi, because Red Cross recently deposited a check with Zhang's name.
If I may point out, juxtaposition of the actress's name with the word "anonymous" produces an veritable oxymoron. In a real anonymous case, nobody should know the donor's name except the donor herself. Besides, I thought organizations did not disclose details of donations without consent from the donor.

The speed with which this eulogy spread on internet was truly remarkable. The article came out immediately after donations for the drought began. Within hours of its first appearance on Xinhua, every single major news site re-posted it.

The media's present eagerness to laud Zhang contrasts sharply with its reticence just a scant weeks ago, when the Chinese public questioned the whereabouts of the 1 million USD Zhang Ziyi reportedly raised abroad in the name of 2008 Sichuan earthquake victims. The fundraising activities, which landed Zhang Ziyi several respectable charity awards in China and greatly improved her image, were later suspected to be hoaxes as the money she gathered never saw the light of the day. However, while numerous theories about what truly happened floated around, the media cooperated with Zhang Ziyi and agent to release statement after statement--each time, Zhang's story changed.

In 2008, Zhang told the media she raised 1 million USD and she was following up with the government to ensure that this money was put to good use. In February 2010, Zhang's agent claimed, in direct contradiction to her employer's previous interviews, that $400,000 was the true amount received at Cannes. In the subsequent months, this figure eventually dropped down to $1300. Just to put things into perspective, $1300 is approximately the monthly unemployment benefits for one person.

Despite of these glaring inconsistencies, the media never exerted its investigative fingers. Red Cross China distanced itself from the mess, even though Zhang Ziyi said at different times (with videos of interviews as proof) that she would be taking the money back to Red Cross. The only time the humanitarian organization talked was to inform the public that Zhang Ziyi fulfilled her donation promise; this made more people mad as the announcement obscured the Cannes deceit and misled readers. Finally, an official spoke up: It is not easy to train an internationally-renowned actress. Why don't Netizens stop focusing on all those negative news about her? Which was the Chinese way of saying, "She is too big to fail."

So, with the current "anonymous donation" debacle, I am reminded afresh about this actress and her PR team's ability to reveal the worst side of Zhang Ziyi. Let's assume Zhang merely exaggerated and did not pocket 1 million USD as some suspected. After all, that would be a monumentally stupid and amoral thing to do. If Zhang had just come straight out to say that she wrote a check for 840,000 yuan, which was still one of the biggest donations by mainland celebrities in 2008, and avoided the show she put up at Cannes, people would have respected her a lot more. If Zhang had just donated 200,000 for the drought like all the other celebrities, without trying to impress people with her "low-key" donation, no one would think the news article a further demonstration of her conniving nature.

As things stand now, Zhang Ziyi lowered herself even further in the public view. And the self-contradictory news report does not help to improve Red Cross China's sometimes shaky credibility or the reputation of Chinese charity.

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