Today’s China: Don’t Believe the Hype

When people think about Chinese people, many things come to mind — and a lot of those thoughts are stereotypes. Some stereotypes are based in truth, however I am here to debunk those that are not and some of the ideals that people assume about the people of China. As an American living in China married to a local Chinese man, I classify myself as some sort of self-appointed expert on some of the things regarding the locals  here.

One thing that people assume about Chinese people is that they marry only their own. Most people think that the Chinese, as with many other Asian groups, will marry only other Chinese or Asians. Even my family questioned why my husband married me. I am here to tell you that this is not true. Chinese men and women are open to marry other nationalities. I have found that not only are they open to other nationalities, some even dream of marrying other nationalities. Many Chinese marrying other Chinese stems from the fact that they are not exposed to many different nationalities and their strong, traditional beliefs in family are usually not accepted by people of other nationalities. However, if you are willing to open your mind to another way of thinking you would be surprised how many Asians you will attract.

Another stereotype is that most Chinese people who live in China would jump at the chance to move to America or any other country. Actually, the majority of Chinese locals want to stay in China. They do not want to live in another country; they would prefer to just vacation elsewhere and then return home. So, no, they are not dying to marry for a green card nor are they devising ways to escape their country; they love China and do not wish to live in any other place. Some actually think that China is the better country and that others should consider moving here.

Many people believe that all Chinese people are living on $10 a day or less or are very, very poor.  You will be surprised to learn that there are many very wealthy Chinese in China. They are driving Audis, BMWs, and even Mercedes Benzs. They have large, profitable companies and factories and are several times more wealthy than many Americans.  Yes, there is a sector that is very poor, and even lack water, that represents about 70% of China’s population. However, those who are wealthy are very wealthy. With the mindset of saving money as a way of life, they are usually able to have much more money than the average American and to send their children to the best universities and purchase homes for their children’s future.

Many from various countries believe that Chinese people are like sheep, simply following and copying without any individualism or creative thoughts. Yes, the Chinese are great at copying products from other countries and even copying ideals from others. However, as a teacher here, I have seen the creativity first-hand in my students’ thinking and the creative thought of the locals when they are devising ways to make their work or life easier. Unfortunately, the public school system does not place a high value on creativity or individual thought; it is usually smothered in the middle- and high school years.

I think the most common thing I hear about Chinese people is that they hate Black people. As with every country, there are people in China who are prejudiced or discriminatory towards another race or nationality. However, as a Black American woman who has been living in China for a little over 4 years, I have found that many locals are very kind and accepting of different races. They are curious about other cultures and beliefs but are open to communicate with and even befriend people who are dark skinned. They are obsessed with NBA players, Black singers and movie stars. They even emulate these people in Chinese movies and television shows. There is still the underlying belief that they would prefer a white-skinned foreigner to teach their children English but, due to the election of President Obama and the symbol of peace he represents, Black people are becoming more and more accepted.

The final thing I will clarify about Chinese people is that they are rude. Yes, in China you will see people spitting on floors, urinating in the street and even pointing and staring at you. As Americans we find they “lack manners” and are barbaric in their actions. You will be surprised to hear that many Chinese locals also feel the same regarding these actions. They find it disgusting that their people throw trash everywhere and eat with their mouths open. They find it disgusting that the public toilets are a mess and that people spit everywhere. Educated Chinese nationals do not participate in this kind of behavior, and with the increase in education in China and the focus on making a better, more humane China, in future years this will improve.

So, as with all nationalities, stereotypes apply only to a small minority of China — and if you are worried about visiting China or communicating with Chinese people because of these stereotypes, do not be; you will be surprised by the kindness, politeness and the acceptance they will give you.
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Jo Gan

Jo Gan, is a Black American woman married to a local Chinese man living in China. She spends her time as a Director of Foreign Teachers, freelance writer and blogger and just trying to figure out the Chinese wife thing. You can follow her personal blog at www.lifebehindthewall.wordpress.com