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Emperor Tan and the ‘Yellow Peril’: Sinophobia and Cardiff

From Planet 215

Anthony Brockway traces a history of Cardiff’s connections with anti-Chinese prejudice from the looting of launderies to the media backlash against Vincent Tan.

When Malaysian Chinese businessman, Vincent Tan, took control of Cardiff City Football Club in 2010 the news was greeted with optimism by fans. Here at last was a sugar daddy opulent enough to launch them into the English Premier League. With club fortunes increasingly determined by the wealth of their owners, the future suddenly looked golden for the perennially cash-strapped Bluebirds. Enthusiasm withered, however, when it was announced the team would have to play in red rather than their traditional blue, and a dragon would now replace the bluebird on the badge. Vincent Tan, who made much of his billion dollar fortune by bringing McDonald’s to Malaysia, was applying franchise marketing methods to his newly acquired football club.

Although the rebranding of Cardiff City has drawn criticism from the media it has rarely amounted to much more than superficial hand-wringing. There has been little denunciation of the economics that underpin such takeovers. Rather than castigate Vincent Tan for being a destructive capitalist the media prefer instead to poke fun at his foreign-ness. Tan is routinely portrayed as an Oriental Bond villain. He is also ‘Emperor Tan’, a cruel and stubborn autocrat who mistreats his staff. Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times suggested a bunch of Malaysian macaque monkeys would do a better job of running his football club. Stereotypical eastern qualities such as inscrutability and a belief in unfathomable superstitions have been affixed to him. In The Independent, Ian Herbert wrote, ‘days before the start of his reign, he sprinkled the four corners of the pitch with rice for good luck ... and it is the same belief system which has turned him on to Cardiff playing in red’. You’d hardly believe he is describing the man who once owned the Krispy Kreme doughnuts franchise in Malaysia. Underlying such coverage is a fear that invasive overseas tycoons are threatening the sovereignty of British football…



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