Straightforward, honest & principled? Or just naive, simple & silly? How Americans appear to Chinese

In Dumb Americans, Yaxue Cao explains how some valued American character traits and ideals appear to many Chinese:

“he had spent a significant portion of his formative years in the US. But instead of shaping his values, America was this wonderful place filled with dumb people for him to take advantage of! And he is by no means a singularity among Chinese living in America.

“To many Chinese, Americans don’t have xīn-yǎn (心眼, meaning, literally, eyes of the mind; or figuratively, calculating, wily), they trust what you say, and they believe you are doing what you say you are doing. For that, they are dumb.
[…]
“To many Chinese, the guilelessness on a face, the heartiness of a voice, or/and the confidence with which a person carries herself/himself can all seem rather shǎ (傻,foolish, simple-minded).” [Link: Dumb Americans]

9 thoughts on “Straightforward, honest & principled? Or just naive, simple & silly? How Americans appear to Chinese”

  1. MONEY QUOTE: “The Chinese ‘wisdom’ they cherish so much and feel so smart about is really just habits they have developed in a totalitarian, oppressive, and in many ways odious society.”

    Really interesting post. I went and made comments on the original post and came back here to get your perspective. It really gets you thinking. Only a Chinese could give us this fascinating perspective. I would agree… but this information is not something that you can get into a conversation over a Qingdao at the bar with some friends. Usually when someone thinks you are dumb they are either taking advantage of you or they want nothing to do with you. But still, good info.

  2. I have found that Chinese have great trouble treating people as equals. People are either better or worse than you but never equal and, lest we forget, equality is the basis of democracy.

    As an Australian who has lived in China for more than 5 years I can see why many if not most Chinese think Americans are dumb. By the way, Americans and Canadians are no different to most Chinese but we Australians can tell an American from a Canadian within 5 minutes of meeting either.

    This is an important point because when I said to a Chinese friend that a certain CCTV announcer was Canadian not American they seem surprised that I should make such a distinction. For me, this indicates straight away that the Chinese don’t understand Canadians or Americans.

    Yes, I can agree with the Chinese that Americans seem brash and over-zealous about human rights, democracy, individualism and, sometimes, Christianity. I also agree that Americans aren’t usually very subtle as they prefer to tell it like they think it is.

    However, if the Chinese think the Americans suffer from hubris because of their military power and global influence then they should recognize by treating the Americans with contempt they are doing the same thing.

    The point the Chinese conveniently overlook is that America has put a lot of time, money and talent into forging alliances that will support them in war time. In other words, the Americans, for all their faults, have built and can count on real allies. How many allies has China got?
    Russia, Pakistan and that is really it. Further, neither country could be counted on to help them in a war. China has no allies because nobody really trusts China. So is it so stupid to tell it like it is?

    In conclusion, the Americans must be strategically smarter than the Chinese, at least, because the behavior of China’s leaders alienates nearly everyone else. Is it smart to be so self-centred and cunning that you can’t see the big picture?

    It was hubris, overweening pride, that brought China to its collective knees in the late Qing Dynasty and it will be hubris that almost certainly will bring it down again. The Ancient Greeks viewed hubris (it’s a Greek word) as the greatest of all man’s follies as it is certain to destroy a people and a nation. China, you have been warned!

  3. The author puts it finer than I’ve come across before, but we were warned when we first came to China during orientation sessions that speaking your mind and being blunt aren’t just seen as rude, but stupid, too. And that makes all the sense in the world given the general nature of Chinese society.

  4. For some Chinese people who are open-minded and intelligent, Americans do not really have much knowledge. Americans know nothing about the world and they do not even give a to what happened in other countries. American people are racists, obviously. And, many Chinese students actually think, americans are stupid. Chinese people like elegant and sensitive people a lot, that’s why we people from Europe are always welcomed in China. Ooh I forget mention that my chinese friends suppose americans are rednecks yankees.

    1. Wow, you’re a simple-minded idiot. By the way, China is also full of people who know nothing about the world and do not even care about what happens in other countries.

          1. I wonder if the “devout Christian” guy you mentioned on the other thread — who bailed on that ‘rent-a-foreigner’ job once he realized what it was and caused a headache for the recruiter — was seen by those involved in the way the article describes.

            whoa… too early for grammar…

          2. I think that guy would have been seen more as troublesome and even immoral, because he was leaving the girl who had recruited us in trouble, and she was a friend of mine, and so was he. Not helping out your friends is seen as immoral in China. In fact I had told him about the job in the first place, so perhaps I was also seen as immoral for not trying to talk him into staying.

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