China (a nation of 1.3 billion people with a nuclear arsenal that could lay waste to human civilization) is still rending its garments over a segment that aired on Jimmy Kimmel Live (a show that teases people for not knowing what the new iPhone looks like). While Kimmel and ABC have already apologized for the kiddie-roundtable piece, in which a 6-year-old recommended to Kimmel that we “kill everyone in China” to solve American debt problems, China isn't satisfied, and has issued new demands for ABC to do…something. A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry said this week that “ABC should face up to its mistakes, respond to the just requirements of the Chinese community with a sincere attitude and prevent a repetition of such incidents.” That seems to be a veiled diplomatic request for ABC to fire Jimmy Kimmel, or possibly kill him; it’s hard to tell without the bracing rhetorical clarity of a grade-schooler.
If this ongoing saga seems like a disproportionate upheaval for an unfortunate thing that a dumb kid said, that’s probably because it’s not really about what a dumb kid said anymore. As the liberal activism site Think Progress points out, this affair has become just one more opportunity for China to exert pressure on Disney (ABC’s corporate master), which wants continuing access to the Chinese market. Disney would like Chinese moviegoers to dump their disposable income into Iron Man and Star Wars, and China would like Han Solo to maybe slip in a little monologue about the glory of a centralized communist system. The bigger stink China makes now, the more leverage they’ll have at the negotiating table next time Disney wants to peddle its wares across the Pacific.