Facts and thoughts about “China Girl”

We’ve all heard the classic song China Girl by David Bowie. I just heard it on the radio again, and thought: let’s do some research! As always Wikipedia answers a lot of questions.

“China Girl” is a track on David Bowie’s album Let’s Dance. Bowie originally co-wrote the song with Iggy Pop for the latter’s 1977 album The Idiot, and decided to re-record it for his 1983 album. An edit of the 1977 version was also released as a single. Under the auspices of Nile Rodgers, the song was given a much more commercial sheen than the sinister Iggy Pop version.This song is arguably about heroin addiction; “China white” is a street nickname for heroin, and based on the following lyrics in the song:

I could escape this feeling, with my China girl
I feel a wreck without my, little China girl

I’m a mess without my, little China girl
Wake up mornings, where’s my little China girl.

The song also concerns commercial imperialism, and as such continues the theme established in the video for “Let’s Dance”. It was again edited for single release, but attracted more attention for its striking video. David Mallet’s clip, shot in Australia, featured Jee Ling (actually it is Geeling Ng) as a Chinese Goddess, and also lying naked in the surf with Bowie (a visual reference to the film From Here to Eternity). The latter’s bared buttocks saw the video generate some lurid tabloid headlines, though the clip as a went on to win an MTV award. The UK single release reached #2 in the charts, and the US release #10.
Source: Wikipedia.org

Model Geeling Ng’s performance in David Bowie’s “China Girl” made her a lightning rod for controversy. Today, she’s positively suburban, living in New Zealand, raising orchids, running marathons, and managing a restaurant. Source: vh1.com

David Bowie China Girl

In the Family Guy movie titled Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story David Bowie tells Asian Reporter Tricia Takanawa “Just you shut your mouth.”

China Girl

Words and music by David Bowie and Iggy Pop.

Oh oh oh ohoo little china girl

I could escape this feeling, with my china girl
I feel a wreck without my, little china girl
I hear her heart beating, loud as thunder
Saw the stars crashing

Im a mess without my, little china girl
Wake up mornings wheres my, little china girl
I hear hearts beating, loud as thunder
I saw they stars crashing down

I feel an tragic like an marlon brando
When I look at my china girl
I could pretend that nothing really meant too much
When I look at my china girl

I stumble into town just like a sacred cow
Visions of swastikas in my head
Plans for everyone
Its in the white of my eyes

My little china girl
You shouldnt mess with me
Ill ruin everything you are
Ill give you television
Ill give you eyes of blue
Ill give you men who want to rule the world

And when I get excited
My little china girl says
Oh baby just you shut your mouth
She says … sh
She says

And when I get excited
My little china girl says
Oh baby just you shut your mouth
And when I get excited
My little china girl says
Oh baby just you shut your mouth
She says … sh
She says

Oh oh oh ohoo little china girl

David Bowie China Girl

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0 thoughts on “Facts and thoughts about “China Girl””

  1. I remember watching the video recently and noting that the “China Girl” in the video is actually rather unattractive.
    During the early 80s there were hardly any Asian women on TV so it bothered me to think that there would be people out there who thought that this was suppose to be a real Asian beauty. Luckily websites like this has shown what real ASian cuties look like.

  2. really? i saw the video recently and was reminded of how exotic, beautiful, and f***cking SEXY that girl and that video were to me when i first saw that video on TV when i was 12! great song, great video, gorgeous and sexy woman!

  3. Tomorrow I will post another videoclip for you guys. Also from the 80’s with another Asian model. This one, unlike this girl in the Bowie clip, did turn me on quite a bit. Be sure to visit tomorrow ppl! 😉

  4. I think the video shows, and most likely influenced, Asian fever in White males of the time.
    The video has some decent cinemeatography but, in my opinion David Bowie can’t sing. Maybe Michael Bolton or Sting would have done better?

    Regardless how lame I thought it was, I’m sure Chinese women att he time ate it up…most of them in China still listen to country western music SIMPLY BECAUSE It’s “American”.

  5. Bowie may not be the greatest singer in the world (although I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with him), but Michael Bolton is a shocker!

  6. I dount many people in China listened had heard the song back in the early 80s. It just wasn’t easy to come by. Besides, Bowie is British.

  7. “Wait untill you see my next videoclip posting! :-)”

    It’s not a Michael Bolton vid is it? Cause that would be bad….

  8. Yeah what’s the big deal if they like Country western? I think it’s pretty unique how the Japanese are able to integrate all things American into their culture and yet stand so far apart to still have their own identity.

  9. f you want to hear the definitive version of “China Girl” than listen to the original release by Iggy Pop. It was Bowie’s butchery of this song the that finally laid to rest my interest in David Bowie, although I did see him play keyboards for Iggy in New York City when Iggy had his first comeback concert promoting “The Idiot” album.
    Concerning Geeling Ng, I think she looks lovely, particularly in the beach scenes. She may not look like the models and porn stars that usually grace Asian-Sirens, but I believe that has more to do with make-up and PhotoShop than anything else. Geeling Ng looks as real and as enchantingly elegant as any of the beautiful woman I see every day in the shop and on the streets here in Japan.

  10. When I was young, I thought asian girls were gross as the only asian women on TV were ones like in this video. My area was 100% white except so there were no real world counter examples. Probably the hottest asian girl on TV during that time was Connie Chung!

  11. it’s your loss kaine if, in your youth, you though Geeling Ng looked gross. I hope your tastes have matured with your age because this is what most real life, non-porn star, beautiful asian women look like. If you want a more bland and white bread, vapid and trite, western looking asian woman see my post on Tera Patrick.

  12. wow Mr Spooky, nice strawman there. So now a person either has to find Geeling Ng very attractive or they are only into the Tera Patrick porn look?

    My point was that during the 80’s asian women weren’t portrayed very well in western entertainment. Others in this thread have echoed the same sentiment so it’s like this is some sort of revelation.

    And BTW, I still find Geeling Ng very unattractive.

  13. Sorry to seem so judgmental kaine but to me, and others on this post, it’s the strong asian features of woman like Geeling Ng that I find so attractive vis-à-vis western woman.
    While you’re being so judgmental, I wonder which asian women you find comely. Beside Connie Chung that is.

  14. I don’t think those are “strong asian” features at all. In fact, I have seen very few asian women that look anything like Geeling Ng.

    In fact, David Bowie also used a very similar look in his “Let’s Dance” video in Brazil. Rather than displaying typical brazilian youth, he used those with features very similar to Geeling Ng.

    There is no reason to get so defensive and worked up. It’s obvious that western audiences didn’t take to the Geeling Ng type look.

    It’s not like a person needs a PH.D in asian women appreciation. Asian women are people, not objects like a bottle of wine that only those with “sophisticated” or “mature” taste can appreciate.

  15. Please don’t misunderstand kaine, I’m not trying to get into a pissing contest here.

    As you say women are not objects or bottles of wine, although the very fact that we’re both on this site means we’re objectifying women, still I don’t think it’s fair to call a woman’s look “gross” as if it’s a wine that’s gone off.
    “Gross” is a common response of young boys to any woman or girl, but tastes do change with age and experience.

    I don’t know if it’s “obvious that western audiences didn’t take to the Geeling Ng type look.” Most people “take” to the familiar and safe, not to the foreign and exotic. I can’t think of any asia women that western audiences accepted up to that time, other than Anna May Wong in the 30’s.
    It’s only recently that western audiences have grown accustom to seeing asian actors and models. Still they are few and far between and by no way represent the diversity and variation of beautiful asian women.

  16. Spooky, I agree with your post. I used the word “gross” because at that time I was very young and that is how I felt. I still find her very unattractive but I wouldn’t use the “gross”. That’s ok that we disagree though because it takes all kinds. 🙂

    My overall point was that I didn’t do a really good job of making clear in my original post is that asians were not well portrayed in the 80s and that continues to hurt asians today.

    The way asians were portrayed in China Girl and I Want Your Sex actually set back asian progress in entertainment as they were they were portrayed as barely looking human. To an American that didn’t live in NYC or the west coast and weren’t used to seeing many asians, those videos weren’t a good introduction to typical asian beauty as they were both extreme.

    It would be like introducing the Rolling Stones in the 1930s. Tia Carrera in General Hospital and Wayne’s World actually did a lot more to show that asians can be really attractive to those not from NYC or the west coast.

  17. Just to put my 2 cents in. I’m Asian and I also find Gee Ling unattractive. In fact, I would say in most of Asia, she wouldn’t be deemed a baeuty. That’s just the facts.
    But if she floats your boat then fine. Good for her. Different strokes for different folks.
    Just just thought it was a shame that there was so little respresentation of beautiful asian women in Western media that alot of westerners thought that was the best we had to offer.

  18. Poor Geeling Ng, must she suffer this ignominy and pubic scrutiny forever? And “poor me” for coming to the defense of an innocent woman who has no idea men she will never meet are raking her over the coals for how she looked over twenty years ago.

    Living in Japan the past three years I’ve heard most Japanese don’t find “asian looking” woman very attractive at all. For example Lucy Liu, who many find a knock out, myself included, is not considered pretty by most people here. They prefer more “western looking” woman, Cameron Diaz and Julia Roberts and seen to be the epitome of beauity for most people in Japan. I don’t find either of them to be attractive or good actors for that matter.

    Everyone to their tastes but why must men put down Geeling Ng, or any women’s looks just because they don’t apple to them?

  19. Typo alert! “Everyone to their tastes but why must men put down Geeling Ng, or any women’s looks just because they don’t “apple” to them?” “apple” is obviously meant to be appeal.

    As the this mistake indicates I’m getting tired of this whole discussion. I’ll end it by saying listen to Iggy Pop’s original version of “China Girl” and ogle any woman you like!

  20. She’s cute, but I dislike the Freddy Krueger fingernails.

    “Just just thought it was a shame that there was so little respresentation of beautiful asian women in Western media that alot of westerners thought that was the best we had to offer.”

    That damn Western media… 😛

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