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kangkai

Chinese Sterotypes of Americans

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kangkai

I don't klnow where else to put this, but I figure anything goes here.

I'm living in Champaign Illinois and studying Chinese in my free time. In the process of learning, I've made friends with a number of Chinese. Reciently I've encountered a lot of the sterotypes that they have about Americans. I was discussing "Pulp Fiction" with a friend of mine, and she said that she thought "All the violence and drugs represented something every American can understand". After some more conversations I get the impressions she thinks we all are drug addicted silver toungued devils or something... yeesh.

How often do you guys in China get this? How do you handle it?

I also want to note that I'm not saying that Americans don't have their own sterotypes of Chinese (or anybody else). Instead I'm interested in how others handled similiar situations. So nobody accuse me of being a hypocrite. :)

Thanks!

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Guest Anonymous

When I first visited China back in 1998, I made friends with some of the local students who were about to graduate from high school and going into college. A couple of them wanted to study abroad, namely in the U.S., but had concerned. Since they know I came from the U.S, they had many questions for me. The one question that shocked me the most is how do I protect myself amongst all the violence and crime, namely from African-Americans. I asked what gave them the idea that African-Americans would be dangerous and they said that they got that impression from watching Hollywood movies.

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Tsunku

I heard the thing about African Americans too. A friend said to me, in America there are a lot of black people, you must hate them. He was surprised and embarassed when I said I had no particular bad feelings towards any one people. They expect white Americans to feel racially superior to other races, and usually expected me to eagerly participate in bashing blacks, the Japanese, the Hui, etc.

Other stereotypes about Americans? My boyfriend constantly complained that Americans aren't "careful." We're messy and emotional, according to him. He told me over and over and over again that I should "be more careful."

Another time I was speaking with a friend about dating, specifically about American men dating Chinese women, and my Chinese friend (a male) looks at my American male friend and says, "you must have a very big penis. You know, we always say: Big American Penis." So I guess that's a stereotype, although a favorable one for the guys. ;)

There's the stereotype that we're promiscuous (men and women both), fat, drunk, lazy, we're all rich (even if we claim we're just poor students, the Chinese won't buy it) ... but I never really got the drug-use stereotype. My Chinese friends were actually amazed to learn that I (a good girl by Chinese standards) had tried drugs before and yet was still a functional member of society.

It's fun to defy the stereotypes, usually they're not so deep held that they can't be broken. Maybe misconceptions is a better word? To their credit, most of my Chinese friends were much more eager to hear about what America is really like than to cling to their pre-conceived notions.

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kangkai

It's fun to defy the stereotypes' date=' usually they're not so deep held that they can't be broken. Maybe misconceptions is a better word? To their credit, most of my Chinese friends were much more eager to hear about what America is really like than to cling to their pre-conceived notions.

[/quote']

I admit that - this same person (who is from guizhou, which is known for its spicy food) told me that "Americans cannot take spicy food" and that "American food is not spicy".

I promptly challenged her to the local hot wings place, where we sat down to see who could eat the majority of the 10 "atomic" wings that we ordered. She could only eat 3, while I finished off the rest.

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Guest Anonymous
They expect white Americans to feel racially superior to other races, and usually expected me to eagerly participate in bashing blacks, the Japanese, the Hui, etc.

I never got the impression that Chinese people hated blacks or ethnic minorities in China. The hatred toward Japanese is pretty common and there's a historical reason behind that. Regarding blacks, the impression I have is that Chinese are afraid of them, mainly because of how Hollywood portrait them in movies and there are few black foreigners in China, mostly Caucasian. My general impression of Han Chinese toward ethnic minorities is that they are Han's "brothers and sisters". Occasionally I hear one or two negative things, namely the Uighur splittists who occasionally blow up buildings and kill Han Chinese living in Xinjiang. So if there are any bashing on ethnic minorities, it seems mostly to be a reaction than anything else.

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Guest jekor

I can't speak for China, but I did spend some time in Japan where I was asked things like "Do you keep a gun in your car?" (I don't even have a car, let alone a gun). I also spoke to some people who had chosen to study in the UK because they were afraid of violence in the US.

I probably contributed to a couple stereotypes by eating everything offered to me, using two separate cubbies for my shoes, and spilling rice on myself as I ate.

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Tsunku

The Chinese do stereotype the Hui (the other Muslim group besides the Uighurs). They have a reputation for being involved with criminal activities, drugs, trafficking, smuggling ... apparently this goes way back to the days when the Hui were involved in the transportation business traditionally. Nowadays "transportation" has dubious connotations in relation to the Hui. In any case, I heard several people make unkind remarks about the Hui, mostly to the effect that they're untrustworthy criminals.

Minority women are also stereotyped as being more sexual than Han women. There is a definite exploitive element to how Han Chinese in general view their minorities, although it's not something anyone would really own up to. I'll agree that it's not hatred (excpet in the case of the Hui, they really don't like the Hui), but it is stereotyping. However, it's something you might not pick up on or be aware of unless you spend a lot of time in minority areas, because it's more subtle and not something Han Chinese give a whole lot of thought to, but it's there. Sex-tourism in Xishuangbanna and the Lugu Lake area partly illustrates this.

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PollyWaffle

Stereotyping is fun! The longer i live the more i think amerikans resemble the chinese. Both swallow anything their governments & media tell them. Both think they live in the greatest country on earth, and are blind nationalists. Both have evil klowns running the country who think there is a correlation between the amount of guns you have with penis size (when in fact it is an inverse correlation). Both have an 'us versus them', 'clash of civilisations' mentality. Both have citizens that, even if they hate their governement, will defend it to the hilt if a 'foreigner' even vaguely criticizes it. BUT.....

Both countries produce the most amazingly beautiful art, literature, music, and cinema imaginable. And both countries have a few of the most generous, lovable people i have ever met.

The crux of the matter is that stereotypes are everywhere because humans are genetically small minded, but they don't mean @#$% once you get to know someone!!

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pazu

I think Chinese don't really hate the minorities, but they just look them down. Because I learnt Tibetan in Dharamsala (India), I was curious and asked a Sichuanese friend (by email) if he got any Tibetan friend at his university, he thought it was one of the silliest question ever asked and just said, "how on earth can I meet a Tibetan guy in my school?"

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Guest Anonymous
I think Chinese don't really hate the minorities, but they just look them down.

I don't get that impression at all. I know I personally don't look down on ethnic minorities. I actually think it's really neat that they have different cultures and some have different languages. This is why I especially enjoyed my trip to places like Xinjiang and Yunnan.

Because I learnt Tibetan in Dharamsala (India), I was curious and asked a Sichuanese friend (by email) if he got any Tibetan friend at his university, he thought it was one of the silliest question ever asked and just said, "how on earth can I meet a Tibetan guy in my school?"

I don't see how that reply indicates Chinese look down on the ethnic minorities. Maybe there aren't many, if any, Tibetans at his university?

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smithsgj

I don't see how the reply does that, either.

But why *would* you look down on ethnic minorities? You're not Chinese in the sense Pazu was using the term, "a resident and national of the PRC". This is the normal, default sense of the word "Chinese".

Otherwise Pazu would have been being racist, and I don't think he is.

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skylee

I would think that people of Chinese ancestors can consider themselves Chinese, even though their nationality is not Chinese. I considered myself Chinese even when my nationality was British. By Chinese I mean 華人, not necessarily citizens of the PRC. But of course there are people who think otherwise.

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roddy
But of course there are people who think otherwise

I've seen a number of Chinese people (most, but not all, old) insist that anyone of Chinese ancestry is Chinese first and foremost, regardless of how many generations your family has been outside China, what your passport is, how little Chinese you speak.

As for Chinese stereotypes of Americans, the general view of taxi-drivers in Beijing is that America is getting a little too big for it's boots and Americans themselves are generally ok but don't know too much about what's going on in the world.

Roddy

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Tsunku

I think the Chinese have a kind of patronizing attitude towards minorities. It's not that they hate them. They think the cultures are fun and cool and colorful, they sing and dance a lot, wear crazy costumes, speak goofy languages. They are the Han Chinese version of the exotic, and they exist in the Han world largely to amuse and entertain.

When I would go out with my boyfriend, who is Dai, and we would meet new people, if he mentioned his nationality, 9 times out of 10, the first thing the person would ask would be "can you sing or dance?" If I tell Chinese people outside of Yunnan that I lived there, they'll ask me about minority dancing. The all-singing all-dancing Minorities of Yunnan became almost a cliche for someone like me who lives there.

There's a "traditional Dai village" near Jinghong that is set up kind of like a theme park of Dai culture. The people who live there make a living off of commodifying their culture, not for Westerners, who (in my experience) mostly turned their noses up at this kind of stuff (not *authentic* enough, whatever that means), but for the Han Chinese, who eat it up.

After I went to this place, I came home and asked my boyfriend if he felt that village was exploitive. He understood what I meant, but at the same time, those people have the choice of working from 4am-9pm in the fields, or putting on a show for the Han. It's hard to be concerned with exploitation when you need to feed yourself, but clearly, these minorities don't get a whole lot of respect from the majority.

kl, if you've travelled in Yunnan, you've gotta have an idea about this kind of attitude. It was almost blindingly obvious to me that minorities in China aren't really taken seriously. Not despised, not killed, not institutionally discriminated against, but put on display as quaint relics of dying cultures. It is indeed patronizing to ask someone to sing and dance for you when you meet them.

I feel there are echoes of American history present here too. Think about the way American culture has historically viewed minorities -- not the way they are treated, but the way they are viewed. Lots of similarities to the way the dominant Han culture sees the ethnic minorities.

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Guest Anonymous
But why *would* you look down on ethnic minorities? You're not Chinese in the sense Pazu was using the term, "a resident and national of the PRC". This is the normal, default sense of the word "Chinese".

On paper, I'm an American, but I'm still a proud Chinese. Even if I wanted to completely give up my Chinese heritage and become a "red-blooded American", it wouldn't be possible. No matter what people say, racism is still at large in the American society. When people think about the people of the United States, they think of a Caucasian. Also, while this doesn't affect Caucasian-Americans, generally, non-Caucasian-Americans are often asked "where are you from?" even to those who might have been born in the United States. Although when asked this question, I proudly say Taiwan but I'm sure it bugs those non-Caucasian-Americans who were born in this country and still looked at as "aliens". To say that oversea Chinese are not Chinese is not only silly but would be completely wrong.

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Guest Anonymous
kl, if you've travelled in Yunnan, you've gotta have an idea about this kind of attitude. It was almost blindingly obvious to me that minorities in China aren't really taken seriously. Not despised, not killed, not institutionally discriminated against, but put on display as quaint relics of dying cultures. It is indeed patronizing to ask someone to sing and dance for you when you meet them.

I did notice this trend, however, it's not nearly as common under my impression. I don't believe it's fair to say that *ALL* Han Chinese view ethnic minorities that way. During my stay in Beijing and Shanghai, I've made many both Han and ethnic minority friends (namely Uighur and Tibetan). I didn't feel like my Han friends treated my ethnic minority friends like zoo animals. However, this trend does exist and it's most visible at tourist attractions in regions where ethnic minorities live. But if you think about it, this isn't all bad because it offers them job opportunities. I don't mean just for them to dance and sing either. When I was on my tour to Yunnan, I had two ethnic minority tour guides (out of three), a Dai and a Yi. I'm sure they make decent money as tour guides, considering how much we all tipped them.

I feel there are echoes of American history present here too. Think about the way American culture has historically viewed minorities -- not the way they are treated, but the way they are viewed. Lots of similarities to the way the dominant Han culture sees the ethnic minorities.

I believe this is an universal trend which would occur in any nation where there's a "mainstream" race/ethnic and racial/ethnic minorities.

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Guest Anonymous
I've seen a number of Chinese people (most, but not all, old) insist that anyone of Chinese ancestry is Chinese first and foremost, regardless of how many generations your family has been outside China, what your passport is, how little Chinese you speak.

I believe it's up to the individual to decide who he or she wants to be. No one should have the right to tell them otherwise. If a Chinese-American is proud of his heritage then who's to say he can't say he's Chinese? If another Chinese-American is so "Americanized" that he feels he can't relate the other Chinese people then who's to say he can't say he's American?

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roddy
If another Chinese-American is so "Americanized" that he feels he can't relate the other Chinese people then who's to say he can't say he's American?

Personally I agree with you, but I think an earlier poster in this thread might disagree. They said . . .

To say that oversea Chinese are not Chinese is not only silly but would be completely wrong

:?

Roddy

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Guest Anonymous
If another Chinese-American is so "Americanized" that he feels he can't relate the other Chinese people then who's to say he can't say he's American?

Personally I agree with you, but I think an earlier poster in this thread might disagree. They said . . .

To say that oversea Chinese are not Chinese is not only silly but would be completely wrong

:?

Roddy

My point is that the choice is up to the individual. When I said:

To say that oversea Chinese are not Chinese is not only silly but would be completely wrong

I meant that for *ANOTHER PERSON* to say that oversea Chinese are not Chinese is not only silly but would be completely wrong. But at the same token, to say that oversea Chinese is *ANYTHING* at all would be wrong because it's up to the individual to decide, not anyone else.

We're all something on paper, be it Chinese, American, British... etc. but we may not all be from China, the U.S. or the U.K. and therefore what we are on paper may not be what we truly are inside.

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Tsunku

I agree completely that its not necesarrily a bad thing kulong. The tourisim brings a lot of money to areas which have historically been very poor. Lives have improved as a result, without a doubt. I'm definitly not someone whose going to say those people shouldn't be making money from their cultures. Most Dai, Yi, Naxi, etc., that I've met are happy to make money entertaining the Han if it keeps them out of the fields. Moreover, they're proud of their cultures, and preserving them, even in their watered down tourist forms, is something most view as worthwhile.

I think the good that minority tourism does generally does outweigh the bad. However, hidden behind it is an attitude about the minorities which very few Han seem to question. They might not treat individuals any differently (if they even realize those individuals are minorities. With a few exceptions, you wouldn't be able to tell a minority from a Han just by looking in most cases), but as a whole I think the government has done a good job of pushing a happy, dancing, singing, "I'm glad they let us be a part of China" image of the Minorities which most people just accept. And I agree, you can't really tell unless you spend a lot of time in tourist areas, but if you happen to live in one of those places, the above gets very old, and I'd imagine it would get even older if you were one of the minorities in question.

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