Review: Coldplay feat Rihanna – Princess of China


Martial arts moves, check. Hindu iconography, check. Desert at sunset, check. Gongs, drums, lanterns, and long-sleeved robes, check.

The video for Coldplay and Rihanna’s recent collaboration is a hot mess of cultural appropriation. Check it out:

The song lyrics have no reference to China at all, which makes the title and video a pretty clear-cut example of exploiting orientalist imagery without any context or reason.

Still from music video "Princess of China".What’s interesting (though unsurprising) is that while many comments criticise the cultural appropriation of the video, far more point the finger at Rihanna than at Chris Martin. It might just be that no one expected Chris Martin to know any better, as a white guy and the partner of famously privilege-denying, Hindu-phrase-misappropriating Gwyneth Paltrow. Oh by the way Chris Martin also pitched a duet to Beyonce but got turned down which contributes to the rumour that Chris and Gwyn’s friendship with Beyonce and Jay-Z is imaginary and also to the likelihood he thinks black women are replaceable (even the famously irreplaceable Queen Bey).

Anyway, if the comments directed at Rihanna were in the vein of “as a person of colour I would have hoped she’d be more sensitive to cultural appropriation”, I might’ve been faintly grumpy at the expectation that people of colour are always held more responsible for their actions than white people, but I’d understand. Instead it’s mostly straight-out racist comments:

a black women cant be princess of china -_-!!!

– NazimAydin

damn, i love coldplay and you are trying to be asian NOW?
at least be white.

– Memoreakt

Cultural appropriation is clearly the birthright of white people and how dare people of colour try to get in on that action.

I definitely think cultural appropriation between people of colour is worth discussing, but I’m often hesitant to bring it up because it so easily slips into these conversations that white supremacists love to have:

1. White people get a free pass to be racist because people of colour can be racist too. Some white people will try to argue for the existence of “reverse racism”, the sneakier ones have given up on that and focus on internalised racism, colourism/shadeism, and racism between people of colour of different backgrounds. All of which are real problems but, conveniently, ones which white people appear to be powerless to change. Actually if white racism towards all people of colour suddenly ended, it would have a massive impact on all those issues.

2. It’s boring and predictable for people of colour to be involved in their cultural backgrounds, but exciting and innovative when white people are.

3. It’s bizarre and ridiculous for people of colour to be involved in other poc cultures, but exciting and innovative when white people are.

4. It’s pathetic, inauthentic and traitorous for people of colour to be involved in white Western cultures, but also inevitable and punishable if they resist.

Anyway, it’s a silly video for a pointless song. I’m not saying Rihanna shouldn’t be called up for problematic imagery in her videos. Friends have pointed out that the video for “Hard” glamourised American militarism in an Arab setting. But I predict that commentary on the video will hold Rihanna more responsible than Chris Martin, despite the song being a Coldplay release with Rihanna as a featuring artist. When will we expect more from white people?

Jinghua Qian

Author: Jinghua Qian

Jinghua Qian is a Shanghai-born cultural commentator living in Boonwurrung and Wurundjeri country. Eir work focuses on marginalisation and resistance, and spans verse, prose, performance and broadcast. Jinghua has written for Overland, Sydney Morning Herald, and SBS, performed at Melbourne Writers Festival and The Famous Spiegeltent, and presented multilingual queer programming for 3CR Community Radio.

1 thought on “Review: Coldplay feat Rihanna – Princess of China”

  1. Shouldn’t we think of this as society becoming more interracial and closing our differences?

    I think it’s great that we’re crossing cultures and borrowing from each other in art, religion, music and everything else.

    One World Baby!

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