Jackie Chan is knockout draw for the media

Jackie Chan says if more films from Hollywood are shown in China, the move can also spur local talents to upgrade skills.
Jackie Chan says if more films from Hollywood are shown in China, the move can also spur local talents to upgrade skills.

The press conference was on probably the softest of issues - cultural development - of the political meetings under way in Beijing.

Nonetheless, the auditorium at the Beijing Media Centre was packed to the rafters. And no wonder, for one of the speakers was Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan.

The others were celebrities in their own field - calligrapher Su Shishu, China Central Television news anchor Hai Xia, writer and painter Feng Jicai and chairman of Phoenix TV Liu Changle.

But going by the fast and furious camera clicks whenever Chan spoke, the press was there mainly for him. And he did not disappoint, punctuating his comments with graphic gongfu moves of his arms.

Asked how he felt about being awarded an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement last November after 56 years in the film industry, he spoke about how he failed to break into Hollywood early in his career and returned home to hone his mastery of action movies.

"I realise that if you persevere in something, it doesn't matter if people see it or know about it or not. So long as you work on it diligently, there will be a day when someone will appreciate you."

On the speculation that the government may allow more Hollywood movies into the country, he said: "We are worried and very afraid but this pressure is good for us. I believe with more movies entering China, we will improve."

Yesterday's press conference of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top advisory body, was on boosting the Chinese people's confidence in their own culture, which President Xi Jinping has said is a way to rejuvenate the nation.

Mr Feng, an advocate for preserving traditional folk culture, spoke about how young people should experience tradition rather than just learn about it in books. For example, during the approaching Qingming Festival, parents can take their children tomb sweeping or on a nature outing, a traditional springtime activity. "They will remember this event... they will know how people in ancient times paid attention to being close to nature."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2017, with the headline 'Jackie Chan is knockout draw for the media'. Print Edition | Subscribe