The music video for ‘China Girl’ was directed by David Mallet and shot mainly in the Chinatown district of Sydney, Australia.
Bowie added that the video was “a vignette of my continuing fascination with all things Asian. One thing that I’d been surprised by when I was in Australia was the large Chinese population … so I based this whole piece of work around that particular community.”
The video featured Auckland-born model Geeling Ng, who now goes by the name Geeling Ching. After meeting in Sydney to film the video, it didn’t take long for a relationship between her and Bowie to blossom off-screen, with the then 23-year-old joining Bowie on his Serious Moonlight tour across Europe.
“It was so special. The time I spent with David I would never trade for anything,” Ng told the New Zealand Herald early in 2016. “It was such an odd dream. It was like someone else’s dream. You know we were supposed to be lovers [for the video], he worked really hard to make sure that I felt comfortable with him which was kind of odd because to feel comfortable with an icon and a hero of mine, he really made me feel comfortable and he was a pleasure to work with.”
In an interview with Q magazine in 2009, Ng stressed “Can I point out, contrary to popular belief, David and I did not have sex on the beach! It was shot at five a.m., 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.” She added, “David was my idol. When I met him it was terrifying. But he was very easy to get on with.”
The original video release includes the two lying naked in the surf (a visual reference to the film From Here to Eternity). In the United Kingdom Top Of The Pops initially banned the video, but subsequently showed an expurgated version that kept everything in long-shot. The uncensored version was issued on the 1984 ‘Video EP’ issued by Sony on Betamax, VHS and LaserDisc. Versions of the video included on subsequent video and DVD compilations (including EMI/Virgin’s ‘Best Of Bowie’) contain the censored version.
The original video went on to win an MTV video award for Best Male Video.