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Jul 30

Give Us the Face, Keep the Change

Written by berlinf on Friday, July 30th, 2010 at 1:30 pm
Filed under:culture, Opinion | Tags:, ,
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Give Us the Face, You Can Keep the Change - 南桥 - 南桥的博客
Image from the Atlantic monthly article Renting a White Guy 

 
Reports of “renting a white guy” is making its rounds in the US media. In these reports, Mr. Mitch Moxley shared his rather interesting experience as a fake businessman in China. Moxley claims to have no working experience, yet he was hired by a Canadian Chinese to be a quality control expert for an American company in China. Together with several other such fake quality control “experts”, he went to a place in Shandong, attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony, made speeches, shook hands, and took photos. For these, he was dined and wined in a good hotel, and got paid 1000 dollars and promised better work like this in the future. I wonder if somebody in America would like to rent a Chinese guy for half that money. Not very likely, and there is even an immigration law coming in Arizona, making non-residents’ lives even more difficult than they already are.

In most parts of the world, it is more difficult to be a foreigner. In America, I am a Chinese holding a work visa and I am labeled a “resident alien” , as if I drive a UFO to work.  In many situations, I find that it is tough to be a foreigner.

Not in China, a “magic country” , where all things are possible.

I found the story from the blog of Dr. Allison Garrett, an expert on International Corporate Governance (a real expert, mind you). She thought this kind of acting might raise concerns of fraudulent practices, at least in a moral way. Also, this could risk the white guy who was there for hire. Acting as a pawn in a strange environment, and not speaking the language, might bring legal troubles later on. She linked to the original Atlantic monthly article which was recommended by over 9500 people on Facebook and commented by over 200 people. Some readers claim that this reflects an “inferiority complex” of the Chinese. When there is still a recession going on in the western world, while China seems to be doing pretty well, bizarre stories like this seemed to make some western readers feel rather good about themselves, I suppose?

As a Chinese, I of course find such stories disturbing. White westerners like Mr. Moxley should not have contributed to such cheating if they are brought up in a “You shall not bear false witness” tradition. Business people that hire him or other pawns like this are really selling their conscience for profit. The expatriate Chinese, together with their for-rent foreign accomplices, successfully set up a facade before truths about their businesses. My guess is that this is practiced more by “foreign enterprises” set up by Chinese who had emigrated, and then returned to China for a better business opportunity as China is still the biggest market in many areas. Once back in China to do business, they are unable to reconcile a Chinese face with a foreign enterprise label, hence the “rent a white guy” tactic which is probably a way of ironing out the seeming inconsistency between the matter and the manner.

The local governments may simply turn a blind eye, or would even encourage this kind of shady practices, as they may focus more on making an impression of being successful in attracting foreign investment. For that matter, a white face can help.

When things like this got exposed in international media, this really hurts Chinese businesses’ reputation (especially when quality control is involved). It also reinforces the impression that the Chinese have an inferiority complex issue.

The really bad news is that assumption about an inferiority complex is not all false. A China Daily article has an analysis that links the mentality to historical events:

“I could only attribute this aberrant way of thinking to the country’s modern history full of humiliations since the Opium War, when China was brought to her knees by the Western cannons and gun powder. After more than one and a half century, psychologically many people in this nation still have yet to get back on their feet.”

This mentality is obviously something that some expats can take advantage of. Moxley says that “being a fake executive has become a lucrative source of income for expats living in China.” There is obviously a hidden job market like this that Moxley brought to light.

When I submitted my article about this to the editor of Southern Metro Daily for review, he added that most Chinese were brought up taking Darwinism for granted, which makes it easy for people to accept Darwinism’s favorite cousin: social Darwinism. Many average Chinese do not have moral problems thinking that some races are superior and some inferior. Many were blatantly biased against the black people. The editor also suggested that it is the same thing within China. Chinese migrant farmer workers (“Nong min gong”), for instance, were often targets of discrimination by their very own countrymen. It bothers both of us to see such discrimination displayed often openly.

In the meantime, there is often a blind reverence towards the white. I hope these will change as interactions between countries increase. Other than historical reasons contributing to the national psychology, such prejudices may also be related to cognitive gaps. For many years, China had been a rather closed society with no access to foreigners. It is common for a foreigner to be stared at in a small Chinese city or town or village, where it is not often to see them. The lack of familiarity breeds blind romanticization. But I found this happen in other countries too. When I went to Ireland on a recent trip, I found, at dinner table sitting with many westerners who have no idea what China was like, also have many romanticized ideas about China while they were frustrated with their own economies or politics.

Those who know such perceptual gaps can take advantage of them. Many “foreign experts” in China are no more expert than an average Chinese, except perhaps their faces and languages. In the US, I found there are jokes about the most available job for an English major is to flip hamburgers at McDonald, as other jobs are difficult to find. If such an English major goes to China, he or she can easily become an English expert. Years ago, I went to teach in an undergraduate university, where as a general practice new teachers were assigned dorms to live in. At that time I at least have a Master’s degree which was not too bad since many other of my colleagues were just recent graduates from the same undergraduate program. You’d expect that they’d treat me a little better, but I was assigned a dorm in a building labeled as being dangerous for living. I almost got swallowed by spiders and bugs in such preposterous dormitory. In the meantime, I noticed that many international teachers were housed in a luxurious “foreign expert” building even though they may have less education, less or no experience. This may still be acceptable as I worked for the English language Department where there is indeed an advantage to be an authentic English speaker even though he has a bachelor’s degree in, say, economics, while I had an M.A. in English. I admitted that I never could speak English the way they do. However, having a fake “businessman is surreal and unacceptable, though I know it is not uncommon.

In the book Netherland by Joseph O’Neill, the protagonist Hans has a black friend called Chuck who does business in New York City. As a black immigrant from Trinidad, he found it hard to earn the trust of his customers. He therefore found a Jewish guy to be the head of his companies, offering a 25% commission. The Jewish guy just shows up and acts important and busy while Chuck does all the real business. I guess that it might be easier to do business as a Jew as the Jewish people seem to have a better reputation in business. Chuck did mostly renovation and other blue-color jobs facing individual customers who might harbor such prejudices. However, I notice that most businesses declare themselves to be EEO employers with no apparent prejudices against personal backgrounds.

An assumption in mind often can develop into discrimination in action. It is probably worse in China than it is in America, as anti-discrimination laws are not yet in place. In one of the universities I used to work for in the US, I had a friend who is a director of the International Office. He sometimes sent folks to China to recruit students and he found the least popular of his messengers are the Chinese Americans. When school administrators take photos with the visitors, they dislike taking a photo that does not apparently show an “American” because the Chinese American would look exactly like them. Their preferred choice would be a white American. I am wondering if the Canadian Chinese mentioned in the Atlantic Monthly article was renting a white guy just because of this? If so, then he is cheating his customers who in turn are cheating their customers. Who pay for all the cheating in the end? The consumers.

Renting a white guy as a “vase” – as these for-face people are sometimes called – is just paying a lot of money for a temporary worker. On the other hand, I found that many international friends who really want to help China are given a lot of unnecessary difficulties. Chinese government was said to have turned down the application of citizenship for a German volunteer teacher Eckart Loewe (卢安克) who was devoted to teaching Chinese children in a remote Chinese village, where he had worked for over ten years. Alexander Brenner (包立德), a fluent speaker and writer of Chinese was another case in point. He has a column for Reuters’ Chinese edition offering unique, insightful and helpful perspectives that would really benefit China as the country grope for ways to make improvements. Mr. Brenner was also working on a book about middle-class Chinese. Unfortunately he had to leave China, with much dismay, as he was not able to get a work visa in China.

Maybe we just want their faces more than their hearts and minds. What a loss of opportunity to engage in deeper, more meaningful interactions in culture and thoughts, which would result in positive changes either way! It is like paying the price for the most expensive pearl to just get its casket.


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72 Responses to “Give Us the Face, Keep the Change”

  1. Rhan Says:

    “Decades in a relentless onslaught from the Western media – newspapers, magazines, fictions, academia, Hollywood, television – that promoted the myth of the Savage Native and then the Stupid Native inflicts a certain toll. And it’s always paid for by the natives.

    In China, that media blitz has reached the point at which the White man is the Messiah, the Knower of all things, the Deliverer of miracles as illustrated in this article in The Atlantic, a White supremacist magazine. Reading it, there are just three conclusions to be drawn.”

    http://shuzheng.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/in-china-a-white-prostitute-named-mitch/

  2. berlinf Says:

    I thought this article is good for some healthy discussion here, hence my translation. But I wrote my original article for the Chinese audience, so I am more concerned why there is a condition for such faking. I think we have to admit there is indeed some racism going on to make such strange stories possible. Once people know there is something wrong with it, people can start to do something about it.

    It may not be directly related to promotion by the Chinese media (though it is not innocent either). It had existed way back in the days of Lu Xun (Remember how he portrays the Fake Foreign Devil in A True Story of A Q) and much earlier. China is a more hierarchical society which take inequality of races or groups for granted. Therefore I wrote the article for the Chinese readers, and hope it can help in some small way, though it is a tough thing to admit about the inferiority complex, etc.

  3. pug_ster Says:

    After living here in the States for too long of a time, I think this kind of hype about white or Black people are overated.

    I don’t think the problem is Chinese holding high esteem towards White people, rather the problem is White people don’t like Chinese/Asian influence. You can only check out the recent movies like The Last Airbender where all the leading (good) characters are white. The movie 21, it was supposed to be about a couple of Asians, but it was Whites instead. In China and other Asian countries, White people are universally welcomes, while in the US, Chinese people are not.

    In the case of the ‘renting’ the white guy is for the same reason. I’m sure if some Chinese guy wants to be the ‘face’ of the company, many foreigners would not deal with him because he is Chinese. So they had to ‘rent’ the white guy.

  4. Wukailong Says:

    Well, I live in China, and I can say that the “rent a white guy” thing is hardly limited to people who’ve emigrated and then come back. This is pervasive stuff, and I’ve been asked many times if I can join in ceremonies and picture taking for companies because having a white person there shows the company as more successful. I’ve declined all but once, because I was interested in seeing what happened. Never again.

    I don’t believe in #3, that it’s foreigners creating this problem. It’s something Chinese companies often do among themselves because, as berlinf pointed out, they have a blind reverence towards white people.

  5. pug_ster Says:

    Wukailong,

    Really? If you say that there’s a blind reverence towards white people then why don’t the Chinese let the white people actually run the companies? Every company (either Western or Chinese) wants to put their best face on. Some companies get their best looking employees to join in their ceremonies, other companies hire models to do their bidding, and some other companies hire White guys to make themselves look more international. They are equivalent to spokesperson for the company or part of their PR campaign.

    FYI; Berlinf in #2 when he mentioned about white people during the ‘Lu Xun’ times is a racist statement. Gee Lu Xun didn’t exactly write his book recently and does it truly reflect the way Chinese thinks today?

    FYI: Last year my wife tells me that they are going to set a website of a Chinese export company to the US. The (White) Sales director was in charge of doing this and he asked for White, Black and Hispanic models to show off their products and specifically asked not to put any asians in there. This is the kind of pervasive racism exists here in the US toward Asians, especially males.

  6. Wukailong Says:

    I got the expression “blind reverence” from berlinf’s article above. It’s not always appropriate – it’s a double-sided thing. On the one hand, white people are seen as being successful, nice to be seen with and all that. On the other hand, they are also uncivilized and not to be trusted.

    Of course not everyone thinks like this, but it’s quite common in the society here. White people give “face,” but you don’t want them to marry your children or be in too high a position in companies.

    Every company wants to put their best face on, but it isn’t as simple an explanation to the things that are going on. This is one of these things I really think is difficult to get a feel for if you don’t live in the country.

  7. jxie Says:

    Beilinf, glad you brought this topic up, and wrote one of the better blog entries. Allow me to start with a personal story.

    The go-go years before the dot-com bubble burst, saw me and an understudy of mine, who happened to be a white American guy, doing some system integration work in China. The work was contracting for and representing an American firm. As most of those system integration projects, toward the end, there was a period of hand-holding and user training. Since Chinese was my native tongue, naturally I would be the one who was doing the training. Just so that you know, based on the feedbacks in other places, I am not a bad trainer — to me the key is reading the body language, keeping the communication open, and adjusting the pace accordingly. Anyway, something totally unexpected happened. The local Chinese PM asked if the white guy could be the training instructor, and I be his translator. Mind you, the white guy was pretty green, and it should’ve been clear to everybody near the end of the project, that bringing him along the project was in a way for me the train him.

    That incident got me thinking quite a bit. At a personal level, life is never fair. You live your life with a lot of pre-conceived notions about you. Sometimes the negativity can really dishearten you. My two cents are that you have to accentuate the positives. For instance, an Asian face can give you a lot of unearned credibility in technical fields, because we are assumed to be scientifically inclined and good at math… This could be a weird “rule” from an Esquire magazine I read, “a hip Asian is the hippest.” (Maybe because it takes a lot hipness to shine through that inner nerdiness?)

    At a more collective level, some past historical stories:

    * In the Gilded Age, a pretty common thing among wealthy American bachelors was marrying some European noble names. You can argue that then Americans had their own “inferiority complex”, despite their wealth. Well, eventually Americans grew out of it. If only those American bachelors could foresee one day that there would be a major war in Europe and America would be the savior during and after the war, and there would not be enough American soldiers, even the poorest ones, for European women to marry to…

    * In Ming, there were thousands of Chinese families living in Southeast Asia (some even estimate up to around 1 million of those families). They were highly privileged compared to the locals, backed by the fact Ming was much wealthier, more powerful & better organized. For instance, if a Ming killed a local, for the most part, the Ming only needed to make monetary compensation to the victim’s family. The privileges extended well into the 1600s. Yet in a very short period of time, the Little Ice Age and the rebellions came, and a Jurchen tribe with its fearless leaders was able to unite a decent number of Jurchens, Hans, Mongols, and Koreans under its banner. Pretty soon those privileges were all gone…

    Well the Atlantic article pretty much spells the beginning of the end, if not the end of the white-guy-with-a-tie rental business. For starter, the story would be known to the Chinese. Then there are just too many unemployed white guys who now know the trick and are ready to dilute whatever opportunities left.

  8. jxie Says:

    The Atlantic is a white supremacist magazine???

  9. pug_ster Says:

    Jxie,

    Good point. In my wife’s Chinese export company, All the sales persons and one support person who deals with US customers directly are White. While everyone else from the CEO down to the merchandiser are all Chinese. Why? Because all the White people are the face of the company when dealing with US customers. My wife is based in the US because she speaks pretty good English and has alot of technical knowledge of the product. My wife with her excellent knowledge of the product and presentation skills would never make a salesperson because she is Chinese. It’s sad, but it is a fact of life while the other salespersons who are the face of the company makes more money than my wife.

  10. jxie Says:

    @Pug_ster, about your wife’s story. It sort of reminds me Abercrombie & Fitch’s “Wong Brothers Laundry Service—Two Wongs Can Make It White” incident. Well, if you go to China now, a rather sad fact is that a large number of clothing models in billboards are whites — I would say a majority of them are whites in many places in China. My personal observation is that in likelihood of Chinese faces being used in those billboards, Hong Kong > Shanghai > Chongqing.

    Think about it, if Chinese use white faces to sell clothes to Chinese in China, out of all places, why should they use Chinese faces in the US (not that they aren’t any, BTW)?

  11. No99 Says:

    I’m kind of interested in this phenomenon including berlingf and Wukailong’s comment because I haven’t experienced it before. Then again, I’m not white and my travels were short. It’s kind of complicated in my mind because everyone seem to be just taking advantage, like if not for racial features, then something else would be used.

    Do the locals really have that type of attitude or deep inside they just see White faces as some sort of pawns? Like not just tools but also a neutral third party. I’ve heard sometimes they get a foreign face (or local, it can work vice versa) in a dispute as neutral territory or extra arsenal for one side sort of speak. Even if that person won’t really do much other than having a physical presence.

    I get the whole light Caucasian association with wealth and modernity, it’s persistent in a lot of places and cultures. Sometimes it’s history, or media. Though, they do happen in different ways.

  12. Wukailong Says:

    @No99: I think you’re pretty close. Yeah, it is an association of Caucasians with wealth and modernity, and the face you get out from this. Jxie’s story is sort of depressing, but not surprising. I don’t know about the situation in the US, though, because I don’t live there, but I know what’s true here in China.

  13. No99 Says:

    Yeah, the issue with race in the US is still kind of complicated. At the very least, the mass violence and discrimination in public institutions (mostly) is gone or going away. It’s still a lot better than many places, relatively speaking.

    On the other hand as history and Jxie’s mini history lesson shows…these conditions aren’t lasting. I’m aware that in China’s past, although light skin is the ideal favorite, there were times when darker complexions were desired. The attitude towards light Caucasian features weren’t at the level of today (it was a mixture of contempt, curiosity and indifference depending on level of interactions). I read some more books and notes by observers (mostly missionaries) before Communist rule. That humiliation of China period a century before didn’t appear to really bring Chinese people’s self-image on their knees. The attitude towards Light Caucasians seem more of the same before and after that. Generally speaking. So, it leads me to believe this Whiteness-Wealth/Modernity association is something more recent. The notion of being white above another your own, in the case of the Chinese, hasn’t quite seeped in as much as other societies. Some of these Hong Kong people favoring all things British, I haven’t met any in real life though for some reason they appear to show up a lot on the Internet.

    In a way, the attitude towards Whiteness is not 100% worrisome. It is kind of a matter of exposure and interactions with others that don’t look Chinese often dispels this belief. Though I don’t think people want to go back to Ancient attitudes, but it appears here and there. It’s complicated with non-whites though, especially Blacks. However, it’s true about the social Darwinism part towards their own people. It does need some work in improving that.

  14. berlinf Says:

    @No99

    1. I think you are right in saying that the white skin being favored is more recent than I had thought. I remembered that in Pearl Buck’s books (written in the 1920s and 1930s), the white people were largely demonized. People didn’t seem to care so much about them. I think it might have something to do with the Chinese societies being more open in those days than now. For instance, missionaries can freely come to China. The Nationalist government is also on good terms with the west, so there is less opportunity for blind romanticization.

    I am thinking that it may also have something to do with the value system in general. In old China (as recent as Pearl Buck’s China days), there are still people who believe in traditional Chinese values and societies as being equals with western counterparts, if not better. Now the measurement of the country and individuals is how “modern” we are in the ways we live. And modernity is a largely western construct. Therefore, of course people tend to associate the west and westerners with democracy, wealth, etc. In other words, the internal compass that Chinese used to have is now lost.

    2. In Mao’s time, when China is largely closed, there is no such worshipping. Of course, this has a lot to do with ideological reasons when the western world was largely hostile towards China and vice versa. But Mao was also rather successful in developing a national pride which is not existing now. In spite of the material wealth China has accumulated, people are more frustrated than ever due to social inequality. People are looking to the west to provide better frameworks for politics.

    3. Though I don’t see being a foreigner is a good thing in an America, there seems to be a time in America when having an Asian boyfriend or girlfriend is a cool thing. I am not sure if it is still the case.

  15. No99 Says:

    I think after people are close to finishing their consumption of the superficial layers of modernity, two situations might happen.

    One, they will eventually become bored or lose the edge of competition if all they are doing is emulating and copying all things “Western”. By then, they will kind of have little choice but to innovate, be creative and do something entirely new that’s neither “Western” or anything that’s consider part of Chinese tradition.

    Two, people will eventually find out how hollow and empty it is to imitate only the outer layers of Western modernity without taken into account all the other values that balanced it, such as family, hospitality, etc. Some of them is evident within traditional Chinese thinking (not Communist). All of it has nothing to do with labels like Chinese or Western but is just a part of being a decent human being in general.

    To be honest, out of all peoples, it really is even more ludicrous for any Chinese to worship others (Western or not) since everyone else has some level of exceptional admiration and awe for all things Chinese….for various reasons.

    I think a lot of people, especially on the internet, are kind of getting tired of constant criticism of Chinese people for just being, so I’ll just get straight to the point.

    This fad just isn’t going to last. With more exposure and interaction to the outside world, attitudes will be more balanced.

  16. HKer Says:

    No.99 “Some of these Hong Kong people favoring all things British, I haven’t met any in real life”

    Perhaps the reason You haven’t met any in real life is because THEY DON’T EXIST.

    What you are describing there are BRITISH born bananas, dude.

    While in the UK anti-Chinese sentiment on the part of the “white” majority host community has abated since the 1970s, segments of the UK press still frequently resort to stereotypical depictions of Chinese in their coverage of news events concerning China or Chinese in Britain. THEY are not treating there own non white citizens any better than we’ve always treated them in HK. Most of the long time Brits in HK are fine Hongers, but one can’t ever rid the world of the snobbish kind, whatever their skin color may be, now can we?

  17. mhuang Says:

    Interesting post, Berlinf. Chinese today are not just “renting a white guy.” They are also renting “white” institutions.

    Fake diplomas dim chances of imitating Western business
    http://opinion.globaltimes.cn/commentary/2010-07/553550.html

  18. Berlin Says:

    mhuang, thanks for sharing the link. During the past few decades, the pursuit of material success has blinded people to the vices and pretensions of the elite in China. When someone is successful, people rationalize about it and find all sorts of virtues to justify them, forgetting that human nature is tricky and people are prone to err in all sorts of ways. I am glad that someone is working on exposing these.

  19. jxie Says:

    @No99 #13, & @Berlinf #14,

    Don’t know if Pearl Buck would’ve written a different China in the 20s and 30s, had she spent most of her time in Shanghai. Before the availability of radio, television to Internet to the mass, information traveled at very slow pace. Back then if you introduced a new idea to folks in Shanghai, it would take decades if not centuries to travel to say rural Anhui. To the common folks, they probably couldn’t feel the “humiliation” suffered in the hand of the West directly like the societal elites, since virtually all wars started by foreigners until the Japanese invasion were relatively short, and fought in small areas. Sure after the wars, indirectly they became the proverbial frogs in the boiling water. Anyway, my point is that the West worshipping was long there, just it hadn’t traveled into the Chinese heartland.

    A point to add to my story, which WKL found to be depressing. Every man has his rationales. The local Chinese PM had his own reasoning, which didn’t come to me fully until later. The project was mostly sponsored by a government fund that was supposed to promote high tech, and he needed the sign-off of the other parties. In the contract it spelled out the training by “foreign experts” (外国专家). There was probably a potential risk that the training was perceived as being conducted by someone who wasn’t foreign, or foreign enough. As any good PM, he wanted to mitigate that risk. Anyway, we quickly wrapped up the classroom training and moved to the hands-on training. I let my white colleague take the lead, and interestingly it turned out to be far better than I thought, and in a way possibly better than I could give the training. My colleague whom I still maintain friendship with, is the antithesis of “ugly American”. He had no problem of using squat-style toilets and eating strange foods — actually he seemingly thrives on those. Most of the Chinese engineers were very smart and the training time was way over-allocated anyway. They and my colleague had a ball in the training sessions — they got to spend time practicing their English with a real Westerner, and my colleague got people to answer a lot of his curiosities.

    Well, that was at a time when the American power, and by extension Western power, was at a peak vis-a-vis potential challenging powers. The sway of that power in China has been considerably eroded after the global financial meltdown, in what Washington Post called China’s “bubble of inflated ambition.” “Sea turtles” today command far less respect and attention than in the 90s, and to a less extent, white Westerners. Quite a few friends of mine have quietly given up their American green cards, and acquired HKSAR residency. Granted, it’s probably more a tax move because American citizenship and green cards are downright baneful for tax purpose. In the far more visible case of Dr. Shi Yigong who gave up his American citizenship, it might have something to do with the credibility among his Chinese peers in China. This could be the beginning of a new trend, or just the manifestation of the “hubris about [China's] emergence as a global power.” We will live through to see it all, I guess.

  20. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Berlinf:
    it is not unusual for Canadians and Americans to go to China (and other East Asian countries) to “teach” English with no other qualification than simply being able to speak English (ie most of them aren’t trained as teachers). I think this all falls into the spectrum of a “perception” of ability rather than a “demonstration” of ability, and this perception in China may well be tied to skin colour. However, at the end of the day, all of this is but a reflection of the powers of marketing, and ultimately of what consumers would like to buy. Just as beautiful people are used to model clothes to convey to consumers the possibility that they, too, could look beautiful in those clothes, so too are “vases” in demand because of the apparent connotation that those vases carry with Chinese consumers. To curb the Chinese appetite for such “vases” will require a gradual shift in the appetite of Chinese consumers. Ultimately, when it comes to marketing, most of the time the goal is to cater to what consumers want. It’s not too often that you get a Steve Jobs type who can show consumers that they want something that they didn’t even know they wanted or needed beforehand.

  21. MAO ZEDONG Says:

    google: history of china. china in 19-20th. century

    google: inferiority complex in china. india. africa.
    india china africa were either colonies or colonized by europeans in the 19-20. century.

    india UK colony till 1947.

    civil war in china in 1949.

    google: 1949 civil war and famines in 1950s 1960s. death of 30-million.

    google: 1911 / 1949. from baby-emperor PUYI to red-emperor mao.

    google: sick man of asia.
    century of shame.
    century of humiliation.

    google: china writing system. 50,000 block characters.

    google: sick man of asia century of shame. century of humiliation.

    china in 300-500 year decline till 1978. china is farm-based society opened to world for the first time since. 1978

  22. No99 Says:

    HKer,

    I’m aware of what you are saying. It’s just on the internet, I always run into those claiming to be of Hong Kong and constantly saying they wish they were British subjects again. Maybe it’s something else like not wanting authority from Beijing. However, some went a little further by looking down on all things Asian /Chinese. I replied my perspectives and get hit with the usual “you don’t know what you’re talking about because you never lived there”. Granted, I know that travelling and living is different. On the other hand, I can only reflect on what I’ve been exposed to;never met any in real life but always see them online. Sometimes, I get curious. Also, you’re right that we can’t get away from all snobs, whatever their skin color.

    Jxie,

    Pearl S. Buck wasn’t the only one saying that. Many others, mostly missionaries but not all, were saying the same thing. I understand what you mean about the desire for foreign/western items would have been limited to the elites/upper classes and coastal urban centers. There also were several individuals who were technically worshiping the West. A few intellectuals wanted full emulation of Western ways (though I”m not sure if they mean it 100%). I’m just not sure that it was as ingrained as we think of it today. Not in the same level. Nowadays, many people generalized and group all foreigners together. People did that before, of course, but since we’re talking about the urban areas, those foreigners at that time would have distinguish themselves quite profoundly from each other…enough to say that any average person without exposure to the outside world might have been able to distinguish an Englishman, Russian or German. Renting a white face might not have worked back then. White faces might have looked the same to the average Chinese person, and the foreigners can changed their clothing or language, but since we’re talking about the elite/intellectuals, they probably would know the differences. Other than that, attitudes to non-Chinese from the common person (urban or rural) were more or less the same.

    http://www.amazon.com/Return-Middle-Kingdom-Family-Revolutionaries/dp/1402756976

    This is a very good book, in my opinion, talking about the Republican era after the fall of the Imperial system. It spans 3 generations from the Taiping Rebellion to Culture Revolution, but spends a considerable amount of it during Sun-Yat Sen’s time. Not just this book, from many others as well…the impression I’m getting is after fall of Manchu and before Communist rule, a lot of intellectuals/elites were quite aware of China’s weaknesses but had a ton of hope it can do better and was still “inherently great” to others.

  23. Foxy Man Says:

    The use of white models in homogenous Asian societies is not unique to China by any stretch, nor is the reverence for features (not just skin color) of “Europeans”. However, I haven’t heard similar use of white faces in Japan or SK business dealings. I wonder why the difference in business but not in matters of “taste and sophistication”?

  24. foobar Says:

    I tend to agree with several others that underlying all this, there has to be a collective inferiority complex. Otherwise the market simply does not exist for this kind of corporate behaviour.

    As to how and when the inferiority complex came to be, I would guess it’s mostly a combination of the cultural revolution and the subsequent openning up, which together broke a belief system based on communism and established a new one based on wealth, or maybe equivalently, have yet to establish a new one. Economic and military superiority of the ‘white’ world is obviously there, and without a deep-rooted belief system, it’s easy for the feeling of inferiority to evolve from the above two areas into that of a cultural, political, historical or even moral variety. White is also not uniform. There’s different shades of ‘white’, according to my experience, where an American white is valued more than say an eastern european white, a Russian white, or a mideastern white. In some way, it is not entirely unlike the urban/rural divide in China, and the superiority that grows with the scale/wealth of the city you reside in.

    Hiring a white face is a relatively recent practice. My impression can only trace it back to the 2000′s, maybe the late 1990s. On the other hand, I would argue that the inferiority complex is much severe in the late 1980s. Western, or white, superiority had much more purchase in China, at least among the better educated. There’s simply more chances and channels for it to show itself nowadays.

  25. Rhan Says:

    Some minor observation and question:

    1) If the thread is about Chinese inferiority complex, how could labeling The Atlantic a white supremacist magazine surprise anyone?
    2) Past Communism / Russia / Russian not equal to today Capitalism / West / White?
    3) Black American doesn’t enjoy the same status as White? Nationality does plays a role, i believe.
    4) Bruce / Jet Lee movies from time to time did “renting a white guy”, can’t tell it is a bad strategy.

  26. No99 Says:

    Not just the Atlantic but any similar journal, I will say this. It’s not so much a white supremacist notion, but more like American-white centric views. More like certain American-white centric views. Not all white-Americans or light Caucasians everywhere will think like that. Race is a little bit complicated in each society, and Rhan is accurate in saying the nationality/region matters. I would include that status also matters to a certain point.

    If people were closed off from the world for sometime, then resurface, it wouldn’t be a surprise that they want to move towards whatever is new, mind-boggling and flashy. From the mid-20th century onwards, if a frog open up their eyes to see outside the well, it will most likely see that Westerners have largely supplanted the world with its versions of the good life. For those with little exposure to world history or societies (because modern marvels have never been 100% Western or even 50%, it’s always been an accumulation of work from all peoples/cultures), people will of course take that road to feeling lower than those from the West. Media is partially to blame, since it all started and flourish within Western societies….the image of whiteness becomes heavily associated with modernity and wealth, even though that may not be the case in reality. Maybe for some individuals, but realistically not every white person is like that. Not to mentioned all the institutions, systems, etc. Everywhere people go in this world, there’s a European language is almost always available. Also, inferiority complex to light Caucasian features is also evident almost everywhere too.

    It’s hard to blame Chinese for feeling this way. However, more interaction, exposure and information (about others and themselves) usually balanced these feelings really quick. If Chinese do travel outside Asia, I think it’s best they don’t stay in their ethnic enclaves but go out and be with the locals. Or get stuck learning about the outside world from media and foreign expats. I think a lot of them, the Chinese nationals, will be positively surprised at how people truly think of them and their heritage.

    In the end, it doesn’t really matter what others think of you, but then for anyone coming from a culture that values face, it’s understandable if they care about it in some form. Oh, trust me on this, some version of face exists in non-Chinese cultures. So, yes non-Chinese can relate.

    The only issue is that often people with strong inferiority complexes do tend to go extreme. They can swing from feeling very low to arrogantly high. Overtime though, these feelings will eventually mature. Sometimes.

  27. No99 Says:

    Let me correct myself, I should say it’s hard to blame SOME Chinese for feeling this way. Some people in China were sometimes very, how do you say….they just live in their own world. It’s all about them individually so I don’t think they might actually have a strong inferiority complex or any at all. Those Chinese who actually own the business of renting out the white faces probably don’t believe in this phenomenon strongly either.

  28. foobar Says:

    #25

    3) Black American doesn’t enjoy the same status as White? Nationality does plays a role, i believe.

    It does. Remember this and the statements?
    a. my dad is american, NOT african
    b. those that attack me because of my skin color are racists

    4) Bruce / Jet Lee movies from time to time did “renting a white guy”, can’t tell it is a bad strategy.

    It’s a bit different from hiring a white “face” who has no/inadequate qualification for the job, whereas the rented white guy in the movies are often the antagonist with quite some skills.

  29. jxie Says:

    @No99 #26/27 @foobar #24

    Don’t have a firm belief on this one way or the other, you guys plus Berlin are winning me over. It’s quite possible that the west worshipping was started at its earnest more recently than I thought. I grew up in Guangzhou, and half of my family is from the Yangtze River Delta area, so I knew what the 2 river delta areas were like circa 1979. It seemed to me after Deng’s opening up, a lot of the elderly around us somehow conveyed that sense of west worshipping to us who were surprised to learn something new with the backdrop of still rigid communist education. My impression was always that the elderly learned that prior to the founding of PRC.

    For those who can read Chinese, 巴金’s 愿化泥土 (written in 1983) left a strong impression on my youthful mind. There was Ba Jin’s 1979 trip back to Paris 50 years later as an old man. Sandwiched in that 50 years were the WW2 (2nd Sino-Japanese War), Civil War, Founding of PRC, GLF, CR… He sat by the 4-star hotel window next to a quiet Paris alley, yet all he thought about was the scenes back home in China, and found his spiritual center. In 1979 most Chinese hotels were furnished with spittoons, so I can only imagine what a hugh drop-off in materialistic well-being between Paris and China then was. If those generations still have their core value compass centered, it’s kind of embarrassing of today’s China, especially given —

    An old friend of mine recently took his first trip to the UK, the country where everything is late and nothing works, the diametrical opposite of China today. He went to see the Palace of Westminster. After the trip we got to talk. We both agreed that what a dingy outfit the Westminster is, and that amazingly was the place where they decided to start the First Opium War — and we should burn it down one day (joking).

    This better be a phase thing…

  30. No99 Says:

    Yeah, considering what a lot of Chinese went through, it wouldn’t be a surprise at how high they look to other places which were more stable. There were quite a few places many went to, not just Western countries. However, you almost always want to go to the best of the batch, which at the moment was the West. Back then, they really appreciated the amount of opportunities available outside China. Right now, a lot of people seem kind of disappointed when they see these new places, especially the post 80′s generations. Then again, it would depend on how their lives were like back home. A person who was poor or disadvantage isn’t going to care too much how glorious and successful about his/her ancestral land, fellow countrymen or anyone who shares a similar heritage. Some Chinese do want to go back home, while some do want to live elsewhere. There’s not much people can debate about since its mostly personal.

    Jxie,

    The main reason why a lot of us are calling this a recent phenomenon is because we’re thinking in a time span of a few thousand years. There’s no doubt China has had a lot of interactions, exposures, exchanges with a lot of foreigners, including many who would be considered as White or Black today. From my knowledge, there has never been any level of idolizing people because of those features to the level we have now. Not even during the humiliation period and Republican era. There was bits and pieces but no one thought low of themselves. Other countries had to go through colonialism, many wars, forced conversions, occupations, slavery, a lot of issues that created their own type of inferiority complex. In a sense, it’s not that deep within Chinese psyche as many people assume, if they want to compare with other places.

    Of course, all we can think about is what happen recently and the present. A lot can change within one generation. It’s not going to be long before China becomes the wealthiest country of the plane’ts history. However, it will most likely be quite a while before the average person can benefit and feel those effects deep within the soul (metaphorically speaking). It’s impossible to not think long term, past or future, with this country.

  31. foobar Says:

    jxie,

    I wasn’t trying to say the ‘west worshipping’ is recent. In fact a lot of what you said in 19 and 29 fits well with my impression: it’s been there for a long time. Especially among the ‘intellectual’, the ‘elite’, the better educated, the wealthier — whatever we want to call them. But they were a small group in the whole populace, most of whom had little to no interactions with the west, heard little to nothing about the west and, whose life wasn’t affected by the west (to their knowledge). So there was little commercial (literally) market for ‘renting a white face’. It would be a lost investment.

    That I think changed near the end of the millenium. One may say that the ‘west worshippers’ reached a critical mass. In the late 1980s it reached a politically critical mass. In the late 1990s commercially. The Chinese businesses have enough money to throw for such advertising trickeries, the living standards white faces can maintain in Chinese cities became more than acceptable, and deals like that get consummated.

    On the other hand, as more and more Chinese study and work in the West, some will be disillusioned from their own ‘west worshipping’. With China’s economic boom continuing, more will come back to work in China. The disillusioned may one day reach a critical mass too. That’s when we’ll be able to see whether it’s a just phase thing.

  32. No99 Says:

    Part of my family might have been similar to Jxie’s around Guangdong. Many of them left before Communist takeover but I have a few that stay behind. I think some of them might have actually been members of Guomindang too. A few of them would be considered part of the elite, but most were of the commoner (my family’s history is a little complicated but I can explain only in a personal message). From what I can recalled, my elders (they left before PRC) interacted quite a bit with foreigners. I didn’t sense any hint of Western worship there. There was bits and pieces of admiring certain foreign aspects but it seem kind of similar to how most Chinese thought of outsiders. The only thing I can add is they knew just enough about Western ways, the architecture, technology and geography (some traveled there, like France) to have this mentality of “learning the best there is out there but some of our ways worked just as well or aren’t that different”. They could also tell the differences between foreign groups, such as the French, British and Russian. All of them have slightly different attitudes as well. Feelings about foreigners was kind of complicated too. It wasn’t one-dimensional. Which is kind of why I believe, but could be wrong of course, that the renting the white face business might not have worked at that time.

    It’s ok to admire and learn from other countries. Everyone else does it. There’s a lot of opportunities that exist elsewhere that people don’t have such as access to education.

    On another note, some people who have such an inferiority complex may be due to something more personal, like depression. They probably have enough issues in their own lives but added with the notion that someone is automatically greater because he/she is nothing like you adds more insult to injury. Some foreigners have very good command of Chinese language and history. Along with some wealth and connections, it can make a native feel very self-defeated. It might add more feelings of worthless of someone doesn’t have those qualities but is still taken to be a greater person just because of his/her non-native features. If there was extensive help or real “not fake” self-confidence instructions available for the average person, I think it will go a long way in healing this problem. This is a human being issue, not just for Chinese.

  33. Steve Says:

    Berlin, thank you for writing up an excellent post!

    I don’t know how pervasive it is these days, but I ran into quite a lot of this when I lived in China. Personally, I thought it was ridiculous. A friend of mine (from Taiwan) has a factory in Beijing and told me that if he sat me in front of a customer and I recited whatever I wanted while he “translated” whatever he wanted to say, the Chinese customer would be impressed far more than if I wasn’t there. When I asked why, he just said that’s the way it is and that having a white American brings credibility and prestige to the meeting. Of course I had no desire to do this. I certainly hope jxie is correct and that this is the beginning of the end of this nonsense.

    Once I called on a university professor in Beijing who was in charge of developing a semiconductor tool. Our local salesman had tried for months to set up this call but had been rebuffed, but when he mentioned I’d be in town, the professor immediately agreed to the meeting. We all had tea, pleasant social conversation, then discussed the products. The guy was very hospitable and knowledgeable but after the call, our salesman said he would have had zero chance, no matter how much he knew about the product. It was all based on my being a white American. I add the word “white” because for some reason, the Chinese I knew had the perception that Americans were white and the other nationalities were somehow not quite as “American”. I also heard this in Taiwan.

    If I had to speculate, I’d guess that American movies are the primary cause of most people’s perceptions of what “America” is really like, and that leaks into the treatment we receive over there. I also think that Chinese respect #1 and currently the USA is #1 politically, economically and culturally. China aspires to those rankings so might it be a case of wanting to learn by the person ahead of you? I don’t know, just conjecture on my part.

    While there, I tried to point out when I could that Americans, regardless of race, creed or color, fall into every category just like Chinese, Japanese or anyone else does. You have winner and losers, cultured and low class, mannered and ill mannered, polite and disrespectful. I’m not sure how much of it took, though.

    Rhan, I think you’re kinda pushing it on The Atlantic being a white supremacist magazine. It’s actually quite liberal and well staffed with minority writers. I believe from an American perspective, being treated special just because you are a white American is more befuddling or puzzling than a supremacist statement. Some take advantage of that attitude but many do not. I remember I kept telling everyone that outside of culture and slightly different looks, I was no different than any of them and in fact, to this day I feel Chinese and American culture share many similarities and that was why it was so easy for me to fit into the culture. Now in Japan, I sometimes felt like an alien from outer space. :P

    One perception I was quite surprised to learn about was that Chinese thought all Americans own guns, MANY guns and that our culture was very, very violent. They were SHOCKED to learn I didn’t own a gun and that many of my friends didn’t own guns. That’s why I think Hollywood contributes in a big way to these ideas.

    Berlin, in my experience, having an Asian boyfriend or girlfriend is simply accepted these days if you live on either coast as not being any big deal. When I was a kid, it was a big deal. So the perception of Asian Americans, from what I’ve seen and experienced, has really improved. On the other hand, we live in San Diego which is one of the most culturally integrated cities in America if not the world. I’m sure that clouds my perception.

    I’m familiar with English teachers in Taiwan through friends’ daughters who have done it, and being a white American gives you a huge advantage. It comes from the parents, who want their kids to be taught specifically by white westerners and will make their decision on which school to enroll in based on who is teaching the class. The schools know it and recruit the teachers based on the profile they know sells to their clients.

    I can’t speak to the historical precedent of when this all started to happen, just to my own experience and observations. I’ll let the sociologists figure that one out.

    Foxy Man, I also noticed the use of white models on products in China, especially woman’s cosmetics. I have a feeling the reason for doing so is that “western” brands had a higher cache than locally produced products, and by using foreign models the “status” increased, which also allowed the manufacturer to charge more for the product. It seemed really weird to me since Asian complexions and figures are completely different from western ones so modeling the product on a western model had no bearing on what it would look like or fit on most Chinese. I suppose the manufacturers had figured out that they sold more product by using western models than Chinese ones, and so moved to that type of advertising. I’m curious if this only worked in the big cities that were more exposed to the world, or was just as effective in the Chinese countryside.

    Sometimes I thought, “Well, maybe Chinese people are just more susceptible to trends” but then I realized that all cultures are susceptible to trends. I’m sure that eventually this trend will expire and a new one take its place. When I was in Taiwan, everything Japanese was hot but just before I left, Korean cultural stuff became hot, even in Japan.

    Do Chinese have an inferiority complex? As individuals, not that I ever noticed. Maybe as a society? Could be, but what I saw more was a “can do” attitude and a confidence in a better future. Though individuals tended to feel pessimistic about their individual futures, they felt confident in China having a bright future.

  34. No99 Says:

    Hi Steve,

    Definitely American entertainment is very influential. Since you live in Southern California, there’s probably a good chance you’ve seen quite a lot of people and activities that protest against media images of non-white Americans. Things were slightly better, but some issues tend to persist. One advantage these non-white groups have today is access to foreign media, where stories and characters look and can relate to them in some way. However, I see what you mean when people have a hard time picturing Americans who aren’t white, Christian or speaking English.

    I have a Taiwanese friend from Hsinchu who teaches English. He went to the States to get a Masters. He taught English before that but when he went back was teaching again. Interestingly enough, his sister was an English instructor too but she got her degree back in Taiwan. I’m aware of the desire for Western instructors with white faces. However, from what I noticed, it seems some places gave preferences to those with connections. They used to be students of the school they were teaching at. Guan xi or Ren Qing wei, your choice. Don’t get me wrong here, my friend and his sister are quite competent in the language and have proven more than enough to be able to teach. Getting a job position through networking is also quite natural anywhere in this world. Just want to say that there’s hope within the hype and some people in Asia don’t buy the white-face credentials, not all the time.

  35. Steve Says:

    Hi No99: I’ve actually not run into any protests out here when it comes to stereotypes, though I’m sure they exist. I’d guess they’re more prevalent in Los Angeles. San Diego is very different from LA in that we don’t have very many ethnic neighborhoods but everyone tends to mix together. In LA you have Westminster (Little Saigon), Monterey Park (Little Taipei), Chinatown, Thai Town, ad nauseum. In San Diego we have Little Italy but it’s not really an ethnic neighborhood as much as an Italian centered theme in terms of restaurants and stores. Same with our old Chinatown, which isn’t really very Chinese these days. It’s more of an historical landmark than an actual ethnic neighborhood, though you still see a few Chinese stores and organizations. There are a bunch of Asian restaurants and stores along Convoy St, but they’re a mix of everything you can think of and many aren’t Asian at all. To be honest, ethnicity just isn’t a big deal down here.

    My wife’s cousin’s son Xiaodi (he’s the youngest in the family so I never actually learned his real name) is an English teacher in Taiwan. He studied there and in Germany. I believe if you have foreign education, it really helps if you’re looking for a job teaching English over there. Funny thing is that I could get a job teaching English there in a heartbeat, and I have absolutely no idea how to teach English to non-native speakers. Meanwhile, people who have studied how to do so all their lives would have a lesser chance of getting the job if they’re Chinese. You’re absolutely correct about the guanxi thing, connections are always very important.

  36. No99 Says:

    Yeah, I think it is more prevalent in Los Angeles, where the big studios are. A lot of people there are aiming for their 15 minutes of fame, so it’s probably not too much of a surprise to see more of those complaints there. Plus the ethnic enclaves.

    I ran into something similar with the language instructor thing. In Quebec and in France, some of the relatives and friends homes I stayed at ask me where I learn French. I told them it was from my local school. They asked where the teacher is from. I just said American, but they wanted more details. I couldn’t think of how specific to get, but I know that my French instructor was from the American south, near Georgia with an Irish surname but married to an Argentinean. The looks on their faces when I mentioned that seem perplexed. They did ask how could someone who isn’t a native French speaker or with that non-French speaking heritage teach the language. They didn’t care too much about how they look or ethnicity per se, more like do they come from native French speaking culture. My friends are Middle Eastern but their French is sort of their native tongue. I didn’t have much to respond back other than that was all there was available.

    It really isn’t as a big deal as I’m making it sound but just something I want point out.

    I guess you can say it’s sort of an international phenomenon with language. Preference for native speakers over those who learn it, expressed in different ways. However, with English, it really is tied in with race.

  37. Nimrod Says:

    It’s about image and advertising, in other words, illusion – that’s all that advertising is, convincing you that something has some quality which it really doesn’t. If you look at brochures for US companies, you’ll notice the inevitable token minorities and women in “employee” photos. Is that fraud? I think what color is the face of somebody cutting ribbons or ostensibly working for a company is not material information.

  38. HongKonger Says:

    I totally agree with Nimrod (#37)

    Mass education was designed to turn independent farmers into docile, passive tools of production and myrmidon consumers of goods and ideas. That was its primary purpose in the old Chinese empire as well as in the imperial West. The onslaught of Westernization worldwide has brilliantly produced and reproducing sheeple (sheep people) in every culture. And regardless of the embellished claims of the West, it is only too clear that the comparatively more subtle propaganda techniques employed has worked very well. There are indeed very few cerebral individualists, just as there is hardly any free society.

    Emerson alluded to the idea that the power that be were educating them, the commoners, in order to keep them from the throats of the ruling class. (If you don’t educate them, what we call “education,” they’re going to take control ) Alexander Hamilton even called the people the “great beast.”

    Noam Chomsky said, “The anti-democratic thrust of opinion in what are called democratic societies is really ferocious. And for good reason. Because the freer the society gets, the more dangerous the great beast becomes and the more you have to be careful to cage it somehow. Because they don’t teach the truth about the world, schools have to rely on beating students over the head with propaganda about democracy. If schools were, in reality, democratic, there would be no need to bombard students with platitudes about democracy. They would simply act and behave democratically, and we know this does not happen. The more there is a need to talk about the ideals of democracy, the less democratic the system usually is. ”

    Lao Zi talked about this 2,500 years ago. But of course for some Lao Zi was either a Libertarian or an Anarchist: Anti-authoritarian movements have embraced the Laozi teachings on the power of the weak. The economist Murray N. Rothbard suggests that Laozi was the first libertarian, likening Laozi’s ideas on government to F.A. Hayek’s theory of spontaneous order. Similarly, the Cato Institute’s David Boaz includes passages from the Daodejing in his 1997 book The Libertarian Reader. But I think I have grossly digressed. Apology.

  39. Steve Says:

    @ Nimrod & HongKonger: Good points from both of you. I’d use the word “perception” to describe what is happening. Illusion, image, advertising… these are all used to try and influence perception. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, sometimes they matter and sometimes they are irrelevant. I’ll give you an example.

    If you go to a restaurant and look at the wine list, which bottle do you think has the highest markup? And the answer is… the second cheapest bottle has the highest markup. Why? Because the perception among consumers is that they don’t want to spend too much money on wine at dinner, yet they don’t want to be perceived as cheap. Therefore, they ignore the cheapest bottle on the menu and buy the second cheapest. Restaurateurs know this so they mark that bottle up the most.

    Did the restaurants use illusion, image or advertising to convince people to buy the second cheapest bottle the most often? They did no such thing. They simply recognized that it happened and figured out why, then took advantage by making the greatest profit on that particular bottle. Can advertising influence perception? Sure, look at Geico. Can image influence perception? Sure, just look at the endorsement career of Tiger Woods. Can illusion? For that answer, just look at any infomercial on TV.

    So why do Chinese have the perception of white foreigners that causes them to place greater value on what they advertise or sell? It can’t be from Chinese TV, which is controlled by the Chinese government. It can’t be from Chinese history books, which do no such thing. In fact, for forty plus years, the Chinese people had been treated to a constant smattering of anti-western propaganda, so the effect should have been just the opposite. Foreign media have very little influence in China proper, with the one exception of videos. And why are these videos so popular? Because for the most part, Chinese TV sucks and with occasional exceptions, the movies aren’t much better.

    So when some Chinese company hires a white westerner to help sell their product, they do so because they know the perception exists among their customers (no different than that bottle of wine) that this person has some intrinsic value not found in anyone else. Is this an illusion? Absolutely, but it’s an illusion created by the Chinese people themselves. The real question is why and how. I can’t really answer that since I’m not Chinese.

    I don’t buy much into the “great conspiracy” theories because I don’t think the world or at least the powerful in the world are that organized. It’s human nature; take a bunch of Type A dominant personalities and put them together in a room. They are all trying to be alpha males (or females) and have this constant battle to see who can be #1. Some people embrace change but most people avoid change like the plague. Conformity in teaching and ideas goes back to that notion, at least in my mind.

    I don’t think Lao Zi was a libertarian or an anarchist, I think he was a philosopher in the truest sense. Based on what I read, he seemed to believe the answer was to live in harmony with your surroundings and not become involved with politics. A libertarian has a political POV and an anarchist is obsessed with overthrowing governments. My guess is that Rothbard and Boaz saw what they wanted to see and already had their minds made up when they read him.

  40. HKer Says:

    Steve,

    Thanks for the wine pricing illumination :-)

    Re Conformity. I remember I resisted owning the annoying cellphone for many years. I also tend to buy the cheaper models of new gadgets. But then, eventually I would invariably get sucked into the hype. As someone once wrote: “If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist, it’s another nonconformist who doesn’t conform to the prevailing standard of nonconformity.”

    ” ..it’s an illusion created by the Chinese people themselves. The real question is why and how. I can’t really answer that since I’m not Chinese.”

    Agreed. People of every race, creed and education system fall victim to hype and illusion. Once upon a time, Made in Japan Fender or Gibson electric guitars for example were cheap replicas and thought to be inferior. Nowadays, the same brands and models are mass produced in China and sold for one tenth the price of the same Japanese or US mass produced retail models. Ha !

    Indeed, if anything, Lao Zi was a naturalist. No, I take that back because by saying that I am making the mistake of labeling someone who insisted that the act of naming things limits the revelation of their essence – or something like that. – Cheers.

  41. Arsent Says:

    I agree with pug_ster. The narrative about Asians “idolizing” whites is exaggerated by nationalists seeking conflict between races. I live in Canada, where there is a large Asian population. It is not uncommon for Chinese businesses to hire white spokesmen or counter personnel to represent the company. Are the Chinese-Canadians living here “romanticizing” whites because they’re “not familiar” with them? No, they’ve lived here for decades. It is strictly a business ploy to appear more accessible to the majority of the population.

  42. Steve Says:

    @ Arsent #41: Your comment makes no sense. If what you said was true, companies in China would hire Chinese spokesmen since they would be selling to Chinese who form an even vaster proportion of the population than Caucasians in Canada so that would be their best business ploy, according to your reasoning. Beyond that, what happens in Canada has nothing to do with what is happening in China. To understand China, you have to be in China.

  43. No99 Says:

    People around the world behave kind of similar. I’m kind of seeing that brand association is what this issue is more about rather than the inferiority complex. There is this documentary about Chinese restaurants around the world I watched a bit. In Israel for example, some locals can cook Chinese food well and wanted to start a restaurant. However, they end up hiring a Chinese person with no cooking skills, taught that person how to cook, and the Chinese person ended up being the owner. The business did well and the local’s belief that more people would trust Chinese food from a Chinese person pay them well.

    It works in many situations where people aren’t fit for the job or have the appropriate credentials, where they end up getting these gigs simply because of their background. Like preference for Males over Females in some jobs or projects. This is part of sexism. Or how in some sports, a black athlete is favored more than athletes of other backgrounds, even though the skills may not be as decent as the non-black persons. This is part of racism. Some Academic circles will not trust people below 30 so they end getting someone of older age or appears to be older age for some public events. This you could say is reverse ageism. Everyone knows about the desire for white teachers instructing English in Asia. It works similar to other places. Some French speaking people I know don’t trust anyone teaching French who doesn’t come from a French speaking country.

  44. Arsent Says:

    @ 42 Steve: The point is that race is a secondary issue, if even an issue at all. Companies hire white spokesmen in China to appear more global and successful. If any other race of people were perceived to be successful, then they’d hire members of that race. In the end, profit is what drives these actions. It is unfortunate that the West must turn everything into race.

  45. Wukailong Says:

    “It is unfortunate that the West must turn everything into race.”

    So: white guys are hired for this purpose in China because they’re seen as a successful race. “If any other race of people were perceived to be successful, then they’d hire members of that race.” And this is not racial prejudice, it’s just the West having a go at it again?

    Over a decade ago, when I was just a student in China, I remember a group of people at the school asking around for a host for the school’s karaoke contest. They specifically asked for an American and turned to me. I said I wasn’t American, but they replied it didn’t matter because I was blond and blue-eyed. This is no big deal, but to always blame these things on the West seems a bit far-fetched to me.

  46. S.K. Cheung Says:

    “It is not uncommon for Chinese businesses to hire white spokesmen or counter personnel to represent the company.”
    —and yet it’s the fault of the “west” for turning “everything into race”? How is the west culpable for the hiring practices of Chinese businesses?

  47. No99 Says:

    Not taking any sides here, just adding a middle ground hopefully.

    A lot of Chinese people are pretty guilty of playing on these stereotypes and once in a while taking inappropriateness to another level. That’s some people. However, some of these issues were frankly speaking started in western societies, and to some extent, still persists. The idea and image of White (or light Caucasian) peoples being dominant or associated with wealth and prestige in the Chinese psyche is probably at the most one and half centuries old. There has also been a very strong belief in social hierarchy in Chinese society, so if not for race than something else would be use. This race problem is something everyone needs to take care of, but only what is the core issue. For Chinese, they kind of have to go over this social hierarchy mentality and truly take hold of the message of human equality. For the West, there’s been a lot of progress and it does depend on which country we’re talking about. Some countries still have long held prejudices, and some have issues with relating to people with different backgrounds. If there is a main core issue with western societies, it would probably be trying to live with peoples and societies where their self-images, ideas and values aren’t dominant. Just guessing here.

    I think it’s more important to take care of these core issues than just pretending to be nice. Just saying here.

  48. pug_ster Says:

    @Wukailong, 45.

    “white guys are hired for this purpose in China because they’re seen as a successful race.”

    Actually, I sort of agree with you, thanks to Hollywood. However, I think most non-Chinese living in China never actually assimilated into the Chinese culture because of Sinophobia and the fear of dealing with Chinese. While many Westerners living in China are not perceptive of Chinese culture and life, many Chinese are more perceptive of Western culture.

  49. Wukailong Says:

    @pug_ster: You’re quoting my quote from Arsent. :) I never thought that way myself but obviously such an idea is common.

    And while I agree that a lot of non-Chinese never take pains to actually get into local society and culture, this is actually a different problem than the one discussed here.

  50. Wukailong Says:

    Er, not quoting, but that’s what Arsent meant.

  51. pug_ster Says:

    @Wukailing,

    Arsent never said that, you said it. I think he said that some white people living in China have a ‘superior complex’ over the local Chinese thus that’s why you said it. (Thus the race issue.) I believe Arsent agreed with me on the Chinese runned companies need of white people not because of that Chinese inferiority. Rather white people won’t deal with Chinese people, so they need to hire white ones.

  52. Wukailong Says:

    Sigh…

    Arsent said: “Companies hire white spokesmen in China to appear more global and successful. If any other race of people were perceived to be successful, then they’d hire members of that race.”

    And I said: “So: white guys are hired for this purpose in China because they’re seen as a successful race.” That was my interpretation of what he said, and I later corrected the claim that it was a quote from it (I made another quote later on).

    pug_ster, this happens in China. I live in China. I’ve seen this in China. Why do you think Chinese companies would do this in China, because they otherwise wouldn’t attract white people? Are you aware that most customers in China aren’t actually white, and that this is done to attract local customers?

    Btw, can’t help it, but… How many people commenting here actually live in China, rather than visit every once in a while?

  53. No99 Says:

    I’m not entirely sure but I think Wukailong you might be the only “regular” commentator living in China. The rest are occasional visitors or live in Hong Kong. This site isn’t really that popular from what I can tell, so if people want to make residence as a requirement to comment than it’s going to be a very lonely blog. I understand though seeing things on the ground is different than just passing by or knowing issues second hand.

  54. Wukailong Says:

    @No99: Actually I regret writing that and I think I might have been a bit too aggressive to pug_ster. Btw, I liked your comments #43 and #47 and I hope they get more attention. Actually, this site used to be really big in terms of number of visitors, but lately it seems the numbers have dwindled.

    Btw, I thought some more about the issue this morning and I don’t think it’s only a question of racial stereotyping even if that certainly plays a role. This makes the problem interesting because everyone can find their favorite angle to it, and there is more than one truth to the whole thing. What you wrote about ageism made me think about what it was like for Bill Gates and Steve Jobs back in the early 80s: Steve changed from his hippie look to a suit to better get on with other companies (although he managed to change the fashion to jeans and turtle-neck in the end) and a CEO of another company who visited Microsoft thought Gates was the janitor.

  55. No99 Says:

    @Wukailong, I too regret a lot of comments I make on this site and others. I guess we just have to move on from here.

    I too think the same that it’s not only racial stereotyping. I and possibly many other readers of this site, know quite a bit of people who have lived in Republican era China, before Communist government. White/Western=Prestige/Wealth was kind of already there (makes sense given the times), but not to the level of today.

    There’s this little story I have tell. Some Chinese nationals I’ve interacted with have different names of cities and towns in the West than the original translations. For example, take the town of Springfield. Literally, people take the Chinese characters for Spring and Field or use Chinese pronunciations like Shu Pu Lin Fei e di. Guess what they told me they use? Pu Si Lan. I asked why, it doesn’t make sense. Apparently there’s a long story that had nothing to do with the town’s history about some French traveler that went to a place with a similar environment that the particular Springfield town we were talking about had. Pu Si Lan was that French travelers name or place of origin. To this day, I have no idea if the story is true or not. My goodness, it’s pretty interesting how Hua Li the words are in China.

    Anyways, the point of that story was how the level of Western Romanticism had reached to some people’s minds. Some people have already absorbed it to a point where they can create tales about the West which is even more glorifying than what exists among Westerners. I’ve heard of a similar phenomenon with Japan though.

    Definitely there’s more than one truth to this topic. .

  56. No99 Says:

    Actually, following up my previous comment, creating tales is sort of a Chinese tradition. There’s so many stories I’ve heard that are pretty entertaining to be honest, but can be kind of rude or not very politically correct. These stories can be 100% fictional but so many details are added that it could be real. Or it’s 80% fiction, 50-50 truth and fiction, etc. Similar to the fictional world in Wuxia novels.

  57. HKer Says:

    No99: ” creating tales is sort of a Chinese tradition.”

    Fact is, everybody does it … ( History is written by the victors) :-)

    ” Fiction offers truth more than all the facts. Emerson said, “Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” After him, Stephen King said, “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” If you can’t lie, how can you write fiction and how can you tell that internal truth? “

  58. No99 Says:

    HKer: Definitely, everyone creates tales. I didn’t really mean to single out Chinese people as if only they are capable of making tales, but it’s just something that’s interesting to note. It doesn’t have to be negative. If it helps, translate my words into Cantonese and see how it sounds. I say the same about a lot of peoples like Americans joke so much that you can only take them seriously half the time, just mere generalizations with no intention to offend.

    Definitely true about history being written by the winners. Whether or not China takes over the world, as many media pundits like to claim, it’s presence will be large enough and significant to a point where world history will be revised, but not too far from the truth.

  59. HKer Says:

    No99,

    These are perhaps the best (maybe worst) examples of tales that spun out of control , so to speak :

    - Journey to West resulted in people worshiping a Monkey god ( What? How the hell …???)

    - One of Liu Bei’s 關羽, the Three kingdom warrior worshiped by the modern day HK police forces as well as the Chinese Organized Crime Associations (The Triads ) worldwide.

    - The creation of the world account in the book of Genesis

    - Dan Brown’s fictional novel: The Da Vinci ‘s code (Duh ! )

    The list goes on :-)

  60. Steve Says:

    @ arsent #44: I disagree. You see, I was one of those westerners in China that was taken around to meet various ‘hard to get appointments with’ customers, usually professors at prestigious universities. I wasn’t a spokesman, I was a business development manager. And my own salesmen told me it was because I was a white American they we got our foot in the door. I don’t see how the West turned this reaction into race. It seemed pretty obvious to me that it was a Chinese thing. Personally I thought it was silly, but it existed nevertheless.

    Frankly speaking, I’ve heard more than a few times that Chinese consider Americans to be white and if you’re not, you’re not really an American. I’ve also run into this in the States where if I asked a Chinese American who they voted for and they told me they didn’t vote, I’d ask why and they’d tell me they weren’t “real” Americans. I’d go into my lecture about if you buy into the idea of being American, you’re as American as anyone else including me and convinced a few to start voting, which was very satisfying to me. This has happened several times over the last 20 years. So it IS a race thing though it really should not be.

    @ Wukailong #45: My wife would kid around with her friends and say I wasn’t really American because I didn’t have blonde hair and blue eyes.

    @ No99 #47: I wonder about that. Why would something that happened before most of the current Chinese generation were born have such an effect? Since the revolution, the CCP has educated Chinese to be atheistic with considerable success, increased the status of women with considerable success, kept up a steady stream of propaganda criticizing the West with considerable success, so why would everyone hold on to ideas that are no longer valid? For the most part, there were no westerners in China for 40 years.

    If I had to guess, I would say that it is mostly a lifestyle issue. Chinese look at Americans and see a country (based on Hollywood movies and TV shows) that is rich, successful and exciting. Now realistically, Hollywood portrays a fantasy-land but they don’t understand this. That’s one thing I learned in China, that Chinese truly believe what they see in the movies is a realistic depiction of American life. So I’d have to strongly disagree with pug_ster #48′s remark and say that neither westerners nor Chinese have any understanding of the other’s actual lifestyle.

    @ Wukailong #52: Of course you’re correct. The market in China is for Chinese, not for westerners. The westerner’s appeal is to Chinese, not to other westerners. When you’re in a subway station in Shanghai and you see cosmetic poster ads in the stations, they usually feature white western models even though Chinese women have completely different complexions and skin shades. I couldn’t help noticing that when I lived there. So I asked the local women what they thought about those ads and they said that the western women were glamorous. To me, they were mostly tall, skinny and not as pretty as Chinese women. I was obviously in the minority.

    @ No99 #53: Wukailong and HKer are the two regular commentators living in China. I used to live there and so did FOARP at one time, who doesn’t stop by much these days. We’ve occasionally had a few others that stop by but most of the commentators live outside of China and have only visited there on occasion. The reason we have so few commentators from China is that the site is blocked by the GFW so you have to have a VPN or use proxy servers to get around it. That takes effort and is slow.

    When my parents visited me in China, they were blown away by the difference between what they thought they’d see and what they actually saw. My Mom is a teacher and my Dad has a degree in history, so you’d think they’d both have a pretty good idea. My Mom thought everyone would be running around in Mao jackets and bowing, and the villages would look like something out of the 1850s. My Dad said it was the best holiday he ever had and that the level of service was fantastic. They both thought the Chinese people made the trip wonderful. From that trip until my father passed away, he continued to tell all his friends about how nice the Chinese people were and encouraged them to visit if they had the chance.

    @ HKer #59: Are you saying that the HK police department worships Guan Gong? We had his statue in our Xingyiquan school since he is the patron saint of martial arts. :P

    It cracked me up when after the DaVinci Code was published, many of my friends actually believed some of what was written there. I kept telling them, “It’s fiction!” “Yes, but what about Mary Magdalene in DaVinci’s Last Supper?” “Err…. if that was Mary Magdalene, there’d be 13 of them besides Jesus.” “Oh, well what about the “V” shape of the painting, doesn’t that signify the female?” “Err no, that signifies a method to move your vision to the center of the painting which happens to be Jesus.” There’s a reason it’s in the fiction section. Outside of that, I thought it was a fun read!

    As for the creation story in Genesis, it’s far more interesting if you take it metaphorically, which very few do. ;)

  61. Wukailong Says:

    @Steve: “My wife would kid around with her friends and say I wasn’t really American because I didn’t have blonde hair and blue eyes.”

    That’s funny. :) I wonder where the idea comes from, though, because in my experience Americans seldom tend to be blonde, at least it’s not as common as in the Nordic countries. Back in 2005, when I was living in Sweden, I was visited by an American friend and his wife, and they found it almost exotic that there were so many blondes in the capital.

    I’ve always been impressed with the racial diversity in the US. When you land in San Francisco and just have a quick look at the people working in the airport, you might think you’re back in China. :P

  62. HKer Says:

    # 60 ” As for the creation story in Genesis, it’s far more interesting if you take it metaphorically, which very few do ”

    Steve,

    You are absolutely right ! We, Chinese have similar legend of creation, which we would tell our children, but would never take it literally. :-) Indeed, Joseph Campbell’s monomyth is one of the most enlightening work on any such matters.

  63. HKer Says:

    ” Are you saying that the HK police department worships Guan Gong? ”

    Yes, even during colonial times when they were called the Royal HK Police..

    General Guan Yu aka Guan Gong is the embodiment of loyalty, righteousness, bravery and benevolence (忠义勇仁) – something that are required in what we call 黑白两道 – the dual paths of black and white – The “Good” and “Bad” martial & social forces.

    http://www.chinatownology.com/guan_gong_culture.html

  64. Steve Says:

    @ Wukailong #61: Blondes in America tend to be localized. The Midwest, South, Southern California and Phoenix are full of them and there’s quite a few in Texas. The rest of the country has far fewer, so it tends to depend on where you live or visit. Apparently the stereotype in Taiwan is for Americans to be blonde and since my wife has only lived in Southern California and Phoenix, that’s been her experience. Of course, the rest of us who are not blonde are not real Americans so we must be illegals or visitors. ;)

    Yes, it’s true. The Swedish bikini team is entirely blonde.

    Outside of NYC, most Asian Americans live on the west coast. The other exceptions are Houston and Chicago, with pockets of certain ethnicities in certain towns. When I grew up in New Jersey, there were no Asians near us. Today, the town next to the one where I was raised has a huge number of Koreans. Why they picked that town, I have no idea. On the coasts, racial diversity is no big deal but as you get into the center and south, it tends to become more homogenized. Personally, I like racial diversity. It’s cool to learn about so many cultures and the food selection is fantastic!

    @ HKer #62: You mean Hou Yi really didn’t shoot nine suns???? Surely you jest! Next you’ll be telling me he didn’t hang around with Yao, Shun and Yu. :P

    @ HKer #63: When I read the Three Kingdoms, the one that most impressed me was Zhuge Liang. Guan Yu was one of the good guys but not as memorable as a few of the others. I wonder why he achieved such fame? I remember seeing Taoist temples in the middle of the mountains in Taiwan that were spectacular and so colorful, and inevitably they’d be temples dedicated to Guan Yu. He sure loved his guan dao.

  65. No99 Says:

    I didn’t know people took the Da Vinci Code seriously. Well, maybe a little bit but not to the level we took other stories to be. It’s true that so many religions and religious practices came from simple stories. And of course, understanding the allegories of those stories is much more interesting than literal interpretations.

    With Guan Yu, the reason people worship him is because he represents loyalty among brotherhood. Gangsters worship him for the sake of Righteousness or 義氣. For the sake of honor or simply hoping that divine virtue can strengthen the gangster’s bonds. Cops worship him for the same reason, but I did heard from some people there was an element of justice added for those in law enforcement. That’s pretty much what I know.

    I’m pretty interested in knowing more about these beliefs, if there is a post already or anyone starts one, let me know.

    @Steve # 60: I think you’re right regarding the lifestyles. When the Communist party took over, that was around the same period when the West, and US in particular, was developing at amazing speed and innovation exploded. That was when those terms developed and developing status made more sense. Although Hollywood is pretty much fiction, there was some element of truth to why Chinese would envy. Can’t blame them considering their conditions but also many poor and disadvantaged Westerners and Americans throughout those times also envy the glamorous lifestyles. Or the peaceful suburban atmosphere.

    Another thing about this phenomenon is it’s evidence at how isolated many Chinese from the outside. I’m pretty sure a lot of readers here know a little history regarding that issue. I mean, “relatively speaking” China did have one of the highest living standards in the world, possibly from the time of the Warring States to Emperor Qianlong. From then on, all those modern marvels came to be, where the living standards in China slowly wither away, either through stagnation, natural disasters, or internal and external conflicts. Throughout the ages, the average Chinese person may not know exactly how their lifestyles were compared to others, but there were a decent amount of travelers in and out of China where they got a clue how things were like in the world. These travelers included many merchants, soldiers, diplomats or the common person seeking out his fortunes in foreign lands. Even in the late Qing and Republican era, where there was a lot of turmoil, a lot of these travelers still provided just enough information where a lot of Chinese people weren’t totally isolated. They knew just enough of the strengths, weaknesses and bits of life that are similar among all humans, within their own society and others. However, I guess after the Nationalists lost the civil war, China again had one of those isolation modes, where the flow of travelers wasn’t as free as before. By the time they open up, what they saw was prestige and dominance in the form of whiteness.

    That’s probably why this issue wasn’t and couldn’t have been as strong as before. However, I’m just talking about the ones who never left China and get their information from the media and other questionable sources. For those who travel and or live abroad, reality kicks in and one will be force to see people as who they are not what we imagined or heard from others to be. As that flow of travelers increases, maybe people will loosen up a bit with those fantasies.

  66. No99 Says:

    I also like racial diversity. Well, more like ethnic diversity, because you do get to experience different things, like music, arts and especially food. I concur with Steve on this point. Sometimes, I do like those ethnic enclaves where people live with others within their own heritage because you do get more authenticity with their culture, especially food. However, it doesn’t quite matter in the long run because if people open up, there’s a good chance other people can be part of your culture and do a better job of keeping it alive than those who were simply born into it. I’m not talking about those who try to water it down or try to make it more flashy than what it’s suppose to be, but people who know and can keep the culture fresh without losing its originality. One doesn’t have to be French to be a good French chef or make good French food. But then again, French food is kind of overrated (I’m partially joking here).

  67. HKer Says:

    # 64

    Speaking of 后羿 Hou Yi, his wife, 嫦娥; Cháng’é – Is what Cantonese people call their long winded spouses, parents and the in laws etc. because “Cháng’é ” sounds like the phrase for “nagging,” in Cantonese.

    #65 “As that flow of travelers increases, maybe people will loosen up a bit with those fantasies.”

    No99, I don’t know, man. The many Sino-expat blogs by those who’d visited or worked in China seem to tell me that exposures, unfortunately, do not cure stupidity nor narrow mindedness ! :-)

  68. No99 Says:

    lol, I was trying to refer to the Chinese (nationals) people themselves, traveling abroad and returning. They’re the ones who could truly change the society from within substantially. Changing all these perceptions and fantasies. Maybe I worded it wrong.

    However, I thought about it again and think my flow of travelers theory may still not work. Other parts of Asia, like Taiwan and Malaysia, still have these long held questionable beliefs as well. They travel around and are semi well-informed about many places, but still can’t let go of these fantasies. Then again, it might just be the people I know. Of course, I can’t generalize everyone, and I do know a few who are the exception.

  69. HKer Says:

    No99:

    You worded it fine, I fully understood what you wrote. Ok, moving along. Speaking of exceptions, I have always had problem with these glamorized traveling salesmen euphemistically referred to as Life coaches or whatever. These name-it-and-claim-it pulpiteers and televangelists of all creeds, these MLM prophets of success with their hyped up seminars and top selling self-help books, dishing out examples of exceptional cases one after another to make you feel small for being so ordinary. Seriously, how many Col. Sanders, Amway Crown Ambassadors, Bill Gates and their lot are there in human history. What a crock of bovine excrement. Yet, the educated in the West are no less gullible to these nonsense than the villagers in India, China and tribal groups in Africa for example.

    As I’ve repeatedly stated over the years on this blog that all man though not born equal do, nevertheless, share similar intrinsic psychological and emotional responses to whatever. And speaking of exposure. You know how many Chinese tours are like: 走马看花 ! ( Appreciating flowers on a galloping horse, it’s all a blur ! ) Almost all of ‘em seem to be more interested in seeing themselves in photos than appreciating the real scenery ! And when these tourists are in some non Chinese country, invariably, by day two, many will be looking or asking their tour guides for Chinese restaurants ! Oh, wait a minute, did I just describe tourists of any nationality? LOL ! Besides, We all know that no ideological propaganda, scientific argument, logical deduction, degree of education et al, will eradicate superstitions. As a matter of fact, certain things have come full circle, as things do. Glamorous entertainers, politicians, wealthy materialists and the affluent populace of the world are known to seek spiritual respite, thus making millionaires of religious retreat gurus and feel-good Gospel sooth sayers.

    Remember this line from a wonderful movie? “My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.”

    Generally speaking, cultural baggages take a couple of generations to unpack. And even then, a lot are not chucked out. But why should they do so? I am ever so grateful to my dear mother who insisted that I learned to read, write and be proud of being Chinese even though my parents sent me to an English medium mission school. And whenever a Westerner say to me, ” OH, you are very Chinese,” I’d say thank you politely and feel good about myself.

    Ok, enough of that. Now, speaking of Forrest Gump; here’s a memorable hilarious dialog:

    Drill Sergeant: Gump! What’s your sole purpose in this army?
    Forrest Gump: To do whatever you tell me, drill sergeant!
    Drill Sergeant: God damn it, Gump! You’re a god damn genius! This is the most outstanding answer I have ever heard. You must have a goddamn I.Q. of 160. You are goddamn gifted, Private Gump !

    “When I get ready to talk to people, I spend two thirds of the time thinking what they want to hear and one third thinking about what I want to say.” Abraham Lincoln

    I believe that people of any race, creed or nationality will do well to learn from Forest Gump and emulate Abraham Lincoln.

  70. Wukailong Says:

    @HKer: I really like your description of certain practices, like only taking pictures instead of appreciating the scenery, as well as asking for Chinese restaurants… My wife likes to take pictures more than I do, but it’s fine because she only takes double the amount that I prefer. My mother-in-law, though, only takes pictures (nothing else) so when we were walking around in a nature area with an island separated from the coast, it must have taken more than 10 minutes just to cross the bridge because we had to stop all the time. The others got a bit annoyed but she replied that “we need a memory of this place!” I guess she’s right, it depends on what you mean by memory. I hardly remember the place itself, only posing for pictures. :D

    The thing about Chinese food is sort of strange. It seems either people are really curious about foreign food or just refuses to have it, because they’re not “used to it” (不习惯). Back in Sweden, the only people I know who were skeptical towards Chinese food (or other foreign cuisine) were some old relatives. So I guess when it comes to food, it’s mostly a question of exposure. Even the narrow-minded have the possibility for an open-minded palate.

    Also agree with “many Sino-expat blogs by those who’d visited or worked in China seem to tell me that exposures, unfortunately, do not cure stupidity nor narrow mindedness!” Yeah, I guess people need something more, like a certain openminded-ness. When I got to China the first time back in 1997 things were way more difficult than they are today. To take money out from an international debit card you would have to go down to the city center with your passport, fill out a form and wait in line. Sometimes ordinary requests were just denied for strange, bureaucratic reasons. Still, most of my memories from the time were positive. There was something very warm about the place. The people who didn’t like it mostly hang out on campus and formed groups among each other to complain about things. Actually, I think this situation is very similar to what many immigrants do in other countries.

  71. No99 Says:

    Yeah, according to a lot of people, a person’s preference for food tastes become set at young age. Whatever a person was fed before they were 10 or 12, that’s pretty much the flavors they carry throughout their lives. Doesn’t mean they can’t be open minded but it’s just harder because your tastes already has a definition of what is good and comforting.

    Speaking of food, one of my relatives went to China for the first time a couple of months ago. Visited the Shanghai expo and went to other places like Beijing and Nanjing. We had a family friend that from Dalian that took my relative out. I asked her about the food, and overall it was alright but one of the best food she had was KFC. KFC in China is so good. She was also pretty surprised at how in the dead heat of summer, people were still eating Mala Hot pot and Skillet BBQ (I don’t want to call it Korean BBQ because it was more than that) several times a week.

  72. HKer Says:

    I grew up mainly on Hakka, Cantonese and Fujianese food. It was always a treat when my Dad would allow me to order a hamburger and fries, or club Sandwiches at the old Colonial club house. I must’ve had no more than 20 of those before becoming an adult. And then Burger King came to HK in the late 1970s, followed by McDonald’s and bumped BK off the market. I have no idea why, though. The latter is definitely no comparison in taste and quality.
    Then there was a period in my life when for almost six years I had home style western cooking for almost every meal – You know things like the humble meat loaf, green salad, spinach quiche, peanut-butter jelly sandwiches, Vegemite on toasts (Oh, yes, I love vegemite), the simple hamburger and hot dog and muesli with milk and yogurt and all that. I had no complains though. And now here in China, I actually do miss those homely food. But most of all, I miss all those wonderful Indian curry dishes and authentic Malaysian and Thai gastronomical delights! I have friends from different places whom I would meet once in a blue moon especially for curry or Thai food in HK. Only last week, my Mainland Chinese friend and I had a wonderful kebab meal there. And of course, it is no less satisfying than, as S K Cheung would ecstatically write of a hearty meal complete with fine wine to go with some nice thick juicy steak !
    Speaking of Korean food. I had the most disappointing 3 day experience of blend Korean food in Seoul. One of my favorite Korean restaurants was near where I used to work in HK which I frequented for lunch – it was fabulous and not expensive at all. There was a time when I had to have sushi at least once a week. So, you see, I really don’t get folks with narrow- taste for food. LOL.

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