It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the rest of the world sometimes doesn’t have the best impression of America (the fact that we even refer to ourselves as Americans when there are plenty of other nations in the Americas should be reason enough to hate us). And to hear that some in the international community think that America the United States is dumb shouldn’t come as a shock either. After all, we have unleashed these things on the world:
To many Chinese, Americans don’t have xin-yan…they trust what you say, and they believe you are doing what you say you are doing. For that, they are dumb.
So basically, what this is saying is that the Chinese believe that Americans are dumb because we’re too straightforward and trusting; that we’re not wily enough. Or as Cao learned from a Chinese writer friend of hers:
For him (again, he is not a singularity), to speak your mind straightforwardly, to defend your position forcefully, and to uphold what you believe without compromise, are all signs of childishness. A lot of Americans, alas, fill that bill.
Cao, who’s a Chinese living in America, gives other examples in her blog about how people she knows in China subscribe to this point-of-view and does her best to defend the good ole U.S. of A. as in this passage:
Whenever I hear a fellow Chinese say or hint that the Chinese are “smart” and the Americans are “simple,” I would quickly point out that wisdom is not universal. Instead, it is relative and product of a particular society. 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. It’s nothing but the mold that grows in a dark and wet place.
Now, I’ve never been to China and I don’t profess to be an expert on Chinese culture so I can’t say with any authority whether this is true or not. I do know that Asian culture, in general, does tend to be less direct, more passive-aggressive if you will, with a lot that stays hidden under the surface, so let’s assume Cao is right. And if she is, then essentially, aren’t the Chinese suggesting that in order to be considered “smart,” we have to be more like them—more inscrutable and sneaky–which means more like this:
Yup, just like Fu Manchu a.k.a. the ultimate stereotype of Asians as the enemy of the Caucasian people and embodiment of all that is evil and bad. Which makes sense because Fu Manchu may have been evil, but he’s also a genius/mastermind a.k.a. “smart.”
So what do people think? Is this an accurate assessment of how the Chinese view us? If so, should we take a lesson from them and “smarten” up? Chinky or not chinky?
And while you ponder that, I’ll be taking my first steps toward true intelligence by growing a Fu Manchu beard and kicking a Caucasian puppy. Man, I can already feel myself getting smarter.