Chimerica Analysis

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Over the past few years, the world has seen a shift of power in the economies of the emerging world. Among these economies is China and the United States which are the two strongest economies in the world. Emerging from the Eastern part of the world, China, for its 2000 plus years of existence, has primarily had an influence in trade across different regions of the world, making it become a global superpower. On the other hand, United States of America is a state with a dominant position in economics, military, culture, and technology making it dominate the West. While United States global dominance may appear to be an old instance of international relation, the new rising power from the East has made the two nations to interact in a more substantive way. This essay, therefore, seeks to analyze these interactions based on the play “Chimerica.”

How the Politics Relationship of the Two Countries are Portrayed in the Play

            Kirkwood’s play is based on the powerful international relations and political examinations of the sifting powers between the West and the East. The play asks questions about the decline of the Western supremacy and the emergence of China as a global pioneer in trade, politics, and culture in the world. Kirkwood through his play, “Chimerica explores the unfavorable legacy and impact of the authoritarian government in China and the personal price of this type of leadership to the people of China.

In June 1989 as tanks roll through Tiananmen Square, crushing the student protestors’ cries for democracy, Joe a photojournalist from America, captures a film moment of defiance that comes to symbolize the struggle (1).

The play is set against the period of the American elections in the year 2012. As Lucy Kirkwood examines how the two countries have related over the years, she introduces us to the first international relation through a photojournalist in the streets of China. The photojournalist was keen in catching the protests for democracy against authoritarian rule. In the first scene of the play, Kirkwood portrays how China’s ascent to world dominance was pioneered by an authoritarian rule which eventually brought about the politics of democratization due to economic development. On the other hand, Joe’s conversation with Tess reveals how America committed atrocities during the Vietnam War. It was the aspects of the war that brought about the progress in the use of technology in America, making it rise to superpower dominance through products such as Technicolor and iPhone.

No-one could forget what was happening out there when the blood was right there in Technicolor for the first time. All that, because the Vietnam War was not lost on the battlefields of Vietnam. I don’t think there is more tragedy in the world. I just think there are just more cameras (10).

Kirkwood’s portrays how journalism has been embraced in America following acts of atrocities committed by the politics of the country. She utterly displays how the setting between China and USA changes so frequently after acts of misery and destruction that enhance the two countries into leadership positions across the world.

How the Cultures Relationships of the Two Nations are portrayed

            In “Chinamerica,” Joe’s quest is to explore the fate of the man who stood in front of the tanks. However, Kirkwood prefaces her script with instances of how culture has been transformed through photojournalism with such quotes as “images anesthetize”. The cultural impact explored in America and China through instances of photojournalism shows the similarity between the two states. People in China are obsessed with the new advances in technology and therefore use this to capture the numerous events that occur across the nation. In the conversation between Joe and Frank, they argue on the images captured by Chinese students due to the new craze of mobile phones and cameras. In fact, the images catch the attention of the top newspaper company in China and feature their images in the pages of their newspapers.

Yes, Joey, I think three hundred Chinese people being gunned down by their own government warrants a little more than a hundred words on page six, don’t you? (13)

On the other hand, an American journalist captures the Tankman at the moment he stood in front of the tanks that aimed at killing thousands of students in protest. Using his phone he captures a captivating moment since he thinks it is his responsibility to record events using his phone. The new culture that has evolved around Americans due to the influence of technology and social media makes everyone to explore the world of photojournalism when the need arises and to acquire fame due to the events captured. Joe argues on how culture has relatively changed in American schools due to the influence of technology.

There are school kids armed with iPhones who do my job way better than me now. And it seems like maybe photographs are like people. The more there are of them, the less any individual one means (39).

The two illustrations in the play show how Kirkwood portrays the cultural changes of the two nations and how it has been used in social movements.

How Business Relations between the Two Nations are portrayed

            China has solidified its place among the business capitalist nations of the world. This power has been mainly attributed to the global shifts in trade relations between China and the global superpower nations such as America. Kirkwood portrays the business aspects of the Chinses government that have impacted the U.S spending habits. She portrays this in the last scene, following a conversation between Tess and Joe.

The only way the Chinese are different to us is they make sure they have the money before they spend it (108).

China has a tendency to save and convert their currency and this has attracted business relations with the U.S. The international reserves has supported the American borrowing habits, therefore, diluting the global economic power of the United States. When these payments are eventually defaulted by the loaned country, China profits through the interest paid on an annual basis.


            In conclusion, the economic linearization experienced in China is clearly portrayed in Kirkwood’s play “Chimerica.” Kirkwood brings about a comparison between the two superpowers through culture, business, and political relations. Through these relations, she shows us how the two global dominant nations are mutually dependent countries. China and America, therefore, need each other for global domineering.

Works Cited

Lucy, Kirkwood. Chimerica. New York: Hablong, 2013.

November 24, 2023

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