What do Chinese people misunderstand about America?

  • Americans != White people

almost 30% of Americans are not white. But whenever Chinese (or other Asians) think of ‘American’ they think of a ‘white’ person. You cannot generalize all Americans as this or that, since America is one of the most diverse countries in the world, even more so than China is.

  • Americans do not directly elect the President and they do not elect by popular vote. They elect their President using an archaic system called the United States Electoral College – Wikipedia which is quite different from any other democratic country. The Electoral College can in fact be quite undemocratic in that a minority of people (NOT the majority as in a democracy) can actually elect the President and this has indeed happened in 2016 with Clinton getting more votes but Trump becoming President. Furthermore, the votes for President are cast by electors, not by the people. The people merely decide who the electors *should* vote for, but in many cases like in 2016 the electors don’t actually vote for who they are supposed to vote for. It is more about who wins more states, not who wins more votes. So next time Chinese people want to talk about Trump being a result of the ‘failure of democracy’, it is incorrect because Americans did not directly elect Trump by popular vote, like in other countries.
  • Americans are not as nationalistic as Chinese think. In fact, more than half of Americans disapprove of the job President Trump is doing. How Popular Is Donald Trump? 54% disapprove of the President. Every mainstream news channel (except Fox News) and late night talk show constantly derides and mocks the President. This is in my opinion, one of the major differences between America and China. You will never hear about Chinese state media or a Chinese talk show mocking the President of China, Xi Jinping.
  • Americans are not ‘brainwashed’ by the media. In fact, the vast majority of Americans don’t even believe their own media. ‘Fake News’ Fears: 95% of Americans ‘Troubled’ by Current State of Media, Poll Finds
  • Not all Americans have an unfavorable view of China. Yes the number is higher now than before due to the trade war, but many Chinese believe that all Americans are brainwashed to hate China, and that’s just not true. In fact at one point (2006) the majority of Americans had favorable views of China. It is due to the recent trade war + increasing nationalism and hostility towards America from Chinese people themselves, that has caused this unfavorability to grow

  • Not all Americans own guns. There are a lot of guns in the US, but this is due to a large number of people owning multiple guns. What Percentage of Americans Own Guns? 30% of American adults own a gun. This is not a small number – but it also means 70% of American adults do not own a gun.
  • America != Western countries. Chinese people like to use America as a proxy for ALL Western countries, but it’s not true. All the above I just mentioned makes America quite different from Europe, or Canada, or Australia. I really dislike it when as a Canadian, our country gets grouped together with America as the same type of country, what a broad label and brush to apply to millions of people.

I just want to clear these things up. I see many Chinese people on Quora (obviously either overseas or using VPNs since Quora is not accessible in China) claiming that ‘Americans are like ___’ ‘America is ___’ American news is biased and brainwashes Americans to hate China etc. You cannot generalize Americans as this or that.

Yes there are a lot of questions on Quora that are basically trolling Chinese people or insulting China. You know what you should do? Ignore those trolls and move on. Don’t be a hypocrite and start insulting or generalizing Americans/America back. America is a very diverse country, that particularly prides itself on individualism, which means that everyone is going to be very different from one another and have very different opinions from one another. I don’t think its fair to take some online trolls as an example and extend it ALL Americans + ALL Westerners. That’s over a billion people on 3 continents (Australia is considered a Western country and is its own continent). That’s just ridiculous.


What is wrong with a lot of Western media coverage of China?

First, let’s not make the sweeping generalization that American media is a proxy for Western media ok? The United States is a country that is considered by most Chinese to be a proxy for ALL Western countries, but its politics are actually quite different than the politics of Canada or Europe, and it tends to be a more right leaning conservative country that is run by corporations/military interests. Let’s get that out of the way, first ok? The question really should be rephrased to what is wrong with a lot of American media coverage of China?

American media titles often sensationalize – and this is not just talking about China but every topic in general – the media will often twist words around to make something seem more dramatic to get the viewers attention. Let’s not get the idea that American media is specifically out to get China – it’s out to get money. Money means you have to be sensationalist to get readers. PELOSI READY TO GET TRUMP IMPEACHED – might be a headline that you see amongst American media – even though that’s their own President!

China is not treated much differently than Russia, to America those are their geopolitical enemies so they have to report on the negatives there more than the positives – and it grabs headlines better.

Wow China is expanding its military presence in SE Asia!

Wow China has secret internment camps! how awful!

Look at that, China is taking over Hong Kong!

Wow look what happens to Chinese when they speak out! they disappear!

Look at that China is trying to take over the world with its trade plans!

See all these sensationalist videos? They’re meant to grab your attention about what China is doing and they are biased towards the negative. Are they totally fake? No, there are truths in the video, but they are presented in a very negatively biased way.

But in China, you would see the same negative videos about America as well, that they have a plan to take over the world, that they are infringing Chinese interests etc, since government knows that the narrative the media pushes is a way of controlling the people, that’s why they represent specific biases.

In China’s case, the state directly controls the media. In USA’s case, lobbyists and special interests control the media. Both have similar objectives which are to control the people into believing a certain narrative.

So back to the main question – is there anything wrong with American media coverage of China – and the answer is no, not really – the media is doing exactly its job. Which is to sway the people towards a certain narrative. There is no such thing as unbiased news. Every news outlet is biased towards some objective.

That said – this doesn’t mean that everyone is brainwashed by the media. Me for example, I rarely look at the media, I get most of my information from Wikipedia, a website that is one of the few thats accessible and editable by anyone in China or anywhere else.

A lot of Americans have shifted away from traditional cable and newspapers now and get their news from Facebook or Youtube. A lot of the most top voted pro-Chinese answers you’ll find on Quora for example, are actually written by Westerners.

People who have traveled more are generally more less likely to be ‘brainwashed’ as they have experienced the different countries and cultures firsthand themselves. This goes for both Americans and Chinese people, btw. Americans believe all Chinese things are poor quality or that they spy and kidnap their citizens – I’ve traveled to China so I know that’s not true. Chinese people believe all Koreans had plastic surgery or appropriate Chinese culture as theirs – again, I lived in Korea before so I know that it’s not true. Traveling is a good way to dispel ignorant notions.


Why do some overseas Chinese really dislike the mainland Chinese?

A bunch of reasons. Me and my parents left mainland China 20 years ago to immigrate to Canada. My younger brother was born in Canada. So we are Western-educated. However, I wouldn’t say I’m “brainwashed” by Western media as Chinese people would say. I’ve visited China on several occasions, and have mainland Chinese friends.

Here’s my problems with most mainland Chinese (not all mainland Chinese because you can’t paint 1.3 billion people with a broad brush)

-they talk/argue too loudly. Mandarin isn’t a language that requires you to talk loud. Taiwanese people for example, speak Mandarin normally. I speak Mandarin normally at normal levels. My parents do as well. You don’t need to shout or argue all the time.

-they are too prideful and nationalistic. see my answer here: Tong Zou’s answer to Is the CCP encouraging the rise of Chinese nationalism?

-they talk down about other Asian countries (Korea, Japan) for no good reason, its as if they were educated and brainwashed to dislike other Asians or something without ever acquainting themselves with those people.

-they show off too much and care too much about money. expensive brands, expensive cars, jewelry, etc. too materialistic. This is ‘face culture’. If you look at all the richest people in the world (Bill Gates, Warren Buffet etc) you will notice one thing they have in common is that they don’t show off. Money is just a means. It’s not something to judge someone on. I mean, I had half a million dollars in net worth last year, but I lost it all this year in that QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency scam (see here: Software Engineer Loses Life Savings in Quadriga Imbroglio) . Will a Chinese person look at me differently now? because I haven’t changed as a person. just my net worth. Then again, this is more of a Western culture thing that you should pursue your happiness rather than money.

-they don’t care about their appearance enough. Ironically, despite spending money on expensive products, they actually don’t know how to dress well, or match clothing. Chinese women will wear those dorky glasses even knowing that they look much better without them, or go outside without makeup, it’s as if they give zero F’s about what they look like. Sometimes I think they dress ugly on purpose or something.

-they don’t care about others. I’ve noticed this whenever I go to China. It’s everybody out for themselves. People are not as closely tight knit as they are in Korea/Japan. It’s hard to trust people in China.

These are not only my thoughts but also my parents as well, as they generally agree with what I’ve mentioned so far.