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In this song, the singer warns the China girl that he will destroy her culture by imparting Western values of materialism and superficial beauty ("I'll give you television, I'll give you eyes of blue,I'll give you a man who wants to rule the world"). Paul Trynka, the author of David Bowie's biography Starman, claims the song was inspired by Iggy Pop's infatuation with Kuelan Nguyen, a beautiful Vietnamese woman. She was staying at the studio and Bowie encouraged the couple's relationship. It has also be argued that the song is about heroin addiction, as "China White" is slang for the drug.
Iggy Pop wrote this with Bowie. It first appeared on Iggy's 1977 album The Idiot. The song did not see commercial success until later performed by Bowie. Iggy Pop was a very influential musician, but he didn't sell a lot of albums and was often low on cash. The proceeds from this gave him some financial stability for the first time. (thanks, Angelique - Allentown, PA)
Stevie Ray Vaughan is the lead guitarist on this song and most of the album. Bowie discovered him after seeing him at a music festival. Bowie got him to play on his album and asked him to tour with him, but Stevie surprisingly declined. He believed in his group Double Trouble and thought they could make a go of it on their own.
Bowie's version of this song was produced by Nile Rodgers, and was much more slick than Iggy Pop's version.
The video was banned in many countries, but it went over very well on MTV. It won the first ever award for Best Male Video at the 1984 Video Music Awards. New Zealand waitress Geeling Ng was chosen by Bowie to play his object of affection. She is now a TV presenter. Ng recalled to Q magazine June 2009: "David was my idol. When I met him, it was terrifying. But he was very easy to get on with." She added: "David and I started dating soon afterwards, but I didn't enjoy the lack of privacy."
In the video, Ng has a beach romp with Bowie. She told Q magazine: "Can I point out, contrary to popular belief, David and I did not have sex on the beach! It was shot at 5am; the water was freezing and wasn't a great lubricant and we were being watched by a film crew and joggers passing by. Not very romantic."
In the film, The Wedding Singer, Drew Barrymore's character, Julia, sings this song in a nightclub.
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