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24 knows that the best way for a TV show to avoid jumping the shark is to consist of nothing but sharks. But even in a storyline composed of one thrilling implausibility after another, the China subplot bugs me.
Yes, it’s too bad the Chinese consul died back in season four when Jack Bauer led a team that invaded the inviolate space of the Chinese consulate in LA. But he was kidnapping the one man who could stop an atom bomb from wiping out LA, for God’s sake, and the bomb didn’t go off; in the balance I’d say China’s diplomatic corps in LA came out miles ahead. As season six began, 24 persisted in treating the Chinese as too stupid to see this and Washington as too stupid to point it out. On 24 the Chinese were robotically hell-bent on vengence, and Washington seemed to think they deserved it. So instead of offering a public apology and some sort of private quid pro quo – which I believe is how these things are normally handled – Washington let China kidnap Bauer (last five minutes of season five), toss him into a slow boat to Shanghai, and torture him for 18 months. Washington’s attitude: "Seems fair." The White House didn’t ask for Bauer back until it needed him to give up his life to foil somebody else’s cockamamy terrorist scheme, and from the way Bauer looked when he arrived, the Chinese had been whomping him up to the moment he stepped off the plane.
I’m sorry, I can’t accept this particular set of premises. The Chinese government should be fuming at the soulless way 24 depicted its people. (I tried calling the Chinese embassy in Washington to ask who there was fuming but couldn’t get through.) I would appreciate hearing from Chinese nationals, who can rest assured that 24 is one messy situation I will continue to monitor.