US writer Todd C. Ames concludes his two-part discussion of the ways in which Chinese and Americans think of each other, and the most common misunderstandings that arise AMERICANS don’t know much about China. What they do know comes from three main sources: movies, the news, and history classes. This can be a sensitive subject, and I do not wish to offend anyone – my goal is only to give you an overview of American stereotypes of China. Just as I have encountered many stereotypes that the Chinese have of America (some accurate, some absurd, some insulting), one can similarly encounter American stereotypes of China in the US. – All Chinese know kungfu and dress like Huang Feihong. (Source: Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and Bruce Lee [Li Xiaolong] movies)
. – Anything to do with China is “ancient” and “mysterious.” (Source: the fact that Chinese language seems to be made up of “mysterious symbols” to Western eyes, movies about Chinese history). – All Chinese are “brainwashed” into worshipping Chairman Mao and can’t think independently. (Source: studying the Cultural Revolution in high school history classes.) – “Guangdonghua” (Cantonese) is the official language of China. (Source: Hong Kong movies, Chinese-American immigrants who came to the US from Guangdong and Hong Kong during the 19th and 20th centuries). – Chinese culture is basically the same today as it was 1,000 years ago (eg, “traditional, conservative, polite,” etc.). (Source: studying Chinese history without being familiar with modern China).
– In China, no one can express any idea that isn’t approved by Chairman Mao – if you do express an “unapproved” idea, you will be instantly sent to jail or shot. (Source: studying the “cultural revolution” (1966-76)in high school history classes, the events of 1989 in Beijing). – Chinese (and all “Asians”) are good at maths. (Source: I don’t know). – China and Japan are basically the same. (Source: ignorance). – “Asian” women are generally subservient to men, anti-feminist, and more “morally pure” than Western women. (Source: movies about ancient Japan, cultural differences. This stereotype is again the result of ignorance of modern China – and thinking that today’s China is really 12th-century ancient Japan). Chinese stereotypes of US
As an American, I can give you a unique perspective on the Chinese stereotypes of the US that I have encountered. Some of them really made me laugh – as I’m sure some of the above American stereotypes of China made you laugh. – Americans don’t care about their families very much. The opposite is true. Almost every American will tell you that family is the most important thing in life. – Most Americans have AIDS and have sex in the streets. I’m still laughing at this one. One of my friends told me that she thought this was true before coming to the US. – Mixed ethnic background = intelligence. The more mixed your ethnic background, the smarter you must be.
This kind of thinking is truly confusing and shocking to most Americans. Many Americans would even consider this kind of thinking “racist,” as some sort of inversion of Hitler’s “race purity” theories. In any case, I was really surprised to hear this from virtually every Chinese I know. Almost all Americans have a diverse and mixed ethnic background – so we must all be geniuses. – All American men are “se lang (lecher).” (Source: cultural differences.) – The crime rate is so high in the US that your life is always in danger. This is a vast exaggeration. – The US has the most socially liberal society in the world, especially when it comes to sex. This idea comes from Hollywood – and it couldn’t be more false. The US in general (especially the Midwest) is very socially conservative.
Virtually every European country has a much more “liberal” and “open” view of sex and social relations in general compared to the US. In my opinion, the US is closer to China in this respect than to European countries. You probably don’t believe me, but if you get to know some Americans, you will see that it is true. As far as social relations and sex go, I would put Japan and Europe in one category. And I would put China and the US in one category. – All “Western” countries are basically the same. This stereotype is the mirror of the American stereotype that all “Eastern” countries (China, Japan, Korea, etc.) are basically the same.
Both stereotypes are completely false and are purely based on the perception that “all foreigners look alike.” – Most American college students don’t study, party all of the time, and are ignorant of the outside world. This stereotype is pretty accurate. – Every American owns a gun. Roughly 25 per cent of American adults own a gun, which is extremely high compared to most other countries. But still, the vast majority of Americans do not own guns. Food
In general, Americans love Chinese food. Chinese and Italian food are probably the two most popular types of food in the US. However, most of the Chinese food you will find in US restaurants is “Americanized.” You probably won’t find things like stomach or intestines on the menu. Also, pork is not so popular in the US. Beef and chicken are much more popular in the US than pork. So don’t be surprised if many Americans you meet don’t like pork. One “food stereotype” that I have encountered among Chinese (and everyone else outside the US) is that all Americans eat McDonald’s. I don’t have any friends who like McDonald’s. I hate it. Everyone I know hates it. I think McDonald’s is probably more popular in other countries than it is here in the US. Of course, it is popular to some degree; but it tends to be more popular among certain segments of society than others.