In Season 6 one of the main storylines is a summit in China. In the episode A Change is Gonna Come Kate Harper and Will Bailey are sitting with the Chinese delegates going over the agenda when the Chinese officials receive a call from within the White House.

Will Bailey makes the comment "I thought cell phones weren't supposed to work in here." To which Kate replies "They aren't."

Two episodes later (in Impact Winter) the president is incapacitated and needs the chair lift to leave Air Force One. Kate is speaking Chinese to the official when the following dialogue is exchanged:

Toby Ziegler "Pretty snazzy with the language there."
Kate "Not really, just a second grade level."
Toby "Hydraulic compressor lift is second grade?"
Kate "Around here it is."

That is at least twice that the series is trying to say that the Chinese are superior to the United States from both an educational and technological point of view. Why?


China is increasingly the centre of production for most of the technology we consume. In part this is because of cheap labour but it also comes down to the fact that China has control of most of the worlds rare earth minerals manufacturing, particularly those used in the manufacture of microchips.

US and other western technology corporations often manufacture their products in China for this very reason, including most of our smartphones and tablets.

China's power in this area has lead to its recent decision to severely reduce exports of rare earth minerals, thus forcing western companies to increasingly relocate their manufacturing in China. This lead to Japan, the US and the EU teaming up to complain to the WTO about China blocking the free trade of these minerals.

There may also be an element of 'Race Trope' going on. The Asian tech-wizard trope perhaps started with the rise of Japanese tech corporations such as Sony and Nintendo, which inspired films such as Bladerunner, but may be updated to China to reflect concerns in the recent shifts in global economic power.

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  • 1
    See also Firefly :) – Tablemaker May 31 '12 at 19:25
  • 1
    @TylerShads Yes, that would be a good more recent example! Another film that springs to mind is 'Strange Days', although that is still the Japanese businessman with superior tech trope. Firefly reflects the shift in concern to China. – AntonChanning May 31 '12 at 19:45

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