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Sun Yafei: tell me what's wrong with China

Last week Danwei's Joel Martinsen translated an article from the New Century Weekly by Sun Yafei, a writer living in the USA, titled America through Chinese eyes - a columnist living abroad reports on ugly Americans. The post inspired many comments, some critical of the article, some sympathetic.

Your correspondent's favorite was this one, by Hong:

A bit annoying, huh? Now you might know how it feels to be a Chinese being told by expert like Kristof and Friedman about everything all the time.

Today, someone who appears to be Sun Yafei herself responded:

I am Yafei Sun, former journalist at Southern Weekend. My professor who is teaching at UC Berkeley sent me this link, so I just knew my article was translated. I was laughing out while reading every word you guys write. Well, I never figured out that you guys were so mad with me for writing some facts, but it seemed to have proved my points:

"Yes, this is another pride of American culture: Americans permit self-mockery - self-criticism - anti-war, anti-Bush, and anti-government statements are no problem; they also permit mockery of others - they take the moral high ground, sparing no effort to criticize all other nations of the world, and force you to "humbly accept it." But remember, you must never mock them, especially their fatal weaknesses, like the problem of a world outlook."

By the way, I would like to teach you guys a little bit of logic: even though most of Chinese people's geographical knowledge is much worse than Americans', well,I am also entitled to make a comment about your shortcoming as long as it is true.

Well, if anyone may be interested in criticizing the Chinese social abuses/vice/weakness/shortcoming/every bad thing, that would be very welcome. I'd like to know how awful my country can be through American eyes.

Come on you guys, please write down what you think about China and send it to me, I'd like to help you get it published in the Chinese media.


Some suggested reading to bone up on American and Anglophone complaints about China:

Talk Talk China
Peking Duck

Note: If you are going to comment on this issue at Danwei, please keep the comments civil -- insults and and ad homninem attacks will be ruthlessly censored.

There are currently 29 Comments for Sun Yafei: tell me what's wrong with China.

Comments on Sun Yafei: tell me what's wrong with China

we resent being classed "american". i'll have you know that we represent canadian, australian and american complaints about china.

okay, we don't exactly resent anything, except that time that guy stole my taxi.

Oh dear, I am sorry DD. Corrected above; hopefully the word Anglophone won't cause any resentment, one of you may just be a French Canadian.

Assumptions can get you into trouble...

Considering that the US and its culture is probably the most dicussed culture in the world right now, I would say that Americans let a lot of stuff about us slide by without comment. Although Hong's comment is good.

But i'd like to say that Ms. Sun seems happy to have caught us in a catch-22. Because she puts in the paragraph about Americans not taking criticism, and kindly quoting herself on it, we can't possibly then criticize her article. Doh! we fell in your trap!

The difference is that in last week's comments people feel that you did not write facts at parts. Where you did write facts, quite a few people agreed with you and admitted America's shortcomings.

Finally, I don't understand the paragraph about teaching us logic. seriously.

I think two other useful blogs for her would be China Confidential
and in the same vein as Talk Talk China, the Image Thief blog is always interesting and often funny.

Whilst some fun can be had watching chauvinists get their panties in a knot, these nationalist pissing matches only serve to obscure the actual issues. Criticism and self-criticism for all, without fear or favour.

Hong's got it right. And what's more, Kristof and Friedman are often as wrong in their analyses as is Sun Yafei.

I think we should remember that the original article by Sun Yafei was a newspaper opnion column.

Have you seen some of the trash that gets printed in the op ed sections of even great newspapers like the New York Times?

ah, that feels better. god bless the usa!

sun sun up there in her writing makes a lot of sense. i don't exactly disagree with her points, but she bases her arguments on politics, which is quite typical of any anti-american running dog dig dug donkey kong. unoriginal at best.

talk about yanks loving football and what a stupid game it is. talk about americans and their insatiable appetite for contests - like the hot dog eating one that the little japanese guy wins every year. talk about the nasaly american accent and how irritating it is. now those are "fatal" weaknesses.

hey sun sun - shut ye ol' american-as-apple-pie hole

I wrote what I thought was a mostly tongue-in-cheek, funny article on my Chinese blog about people here not being able to walk properly, and promptly got accused of being a racist on Tianya.

Sun says:
"Americans permit self-mockery - self-criticism - anti-war, anti-Bush, and anti-government statements are no problem."
"But remember, you must never mock them, especially their fatal weaknesses."

Am I the only one who sees her statements as wholly contradictory?

For the record, as an American, I've never had a problem with my national shortcomings being mocked. I often join the mockery.
So which is it? Tough to paint the continent with one big brush, isn't it?

cat> Her two statements are not contradictory. What she is saying is that Americans can mock etc. themselves, but Americans won't allow people from other countries to mock Americans.

I think China's gradually much more open to criticism now. Seeing you smart and intelligent foreigners puting so much attention to China makes me proud.
No country, or anything, is perfect. Please open up to other opinions, even if they are vicious, and do it just like ordinary Chinese have done over the years.....

as usual, stephen patrick got it right with the opening line of his one before last album release: "America, your head's too big"

Maybe I've missed something, but it would be nice to see some real foreigners portrayed in the Chinese media, instead of those performing monkeys like Da Shan. Would also be nice to see someone like Sun Yafei have real conversation on air with a varied group of Americans/foreigners, and let her challenge them with these Ugly American stereotypes and give them chance to respond. Instead all we get is insipid foreigners-can-recite Chinese programmes and Dialogue. Say no more.

OK, all my fellow big-nose 'Meriker compatriots...lets face it, if you are on this site, you fall pretty far outside the average 'Merikan profile, landing somewhere near psuedo-sophisticated, thus not in the best position to objectively comment on "what Americans are like" – you are probably abroad somewhere too, in a coffee shop with your laptop (likely a Mac), wearing retro sneakers, 7 jeans and thick-rimmed, black-framed glasses (as I am now – China World SBUX). Stereotypes are real (and largely true most of the time), and its perceptions that really matter. Fly back home and take a road trip around the U.S. talking to people - by and large, you will find yourself agreeing with Sun (albeit, cringing). Americans are like this, and we are rightfully perceived this way throughout most of the world. Just so happens, a road trip in the Ukraine, Uganda , Canada, Japan, Norway, South Africa, Chile, etc. will likely yield similar results – nothing unique or noteworthy about Sun’s observations – we are all sorta like this – can we please move on? In 50 years or so, it will be interesting to see how the world’s aspiring “abroad journalists” perceive China and local Chinese as this country ascends as THE world's "superpower," perhaps influencing pop culture, history, S&T, politics, art, film, etc. as the US is now and has been for nearly a century. Has anyone asked Sun what she thinks of China? Sun, feel free to share – PLEASE do (using Chinese is fine - we recognize the disadvantage you face with our crowd). If she posted a similarly critical piece about the middle kingdom, would we still all be as “stars and bars” about her Ugly American commentary? Would she suddenly become objective?

Damn, I need another latte…how do you say that in Chinese?

Chinese people spit everywhere, don't know how to wait in line, and they stare. If you get hit by a car or otherwise injured in a public place, they circle around and just gawk at you. Chinese people are willing to lay their lives on the line for their family and close friends, but if you're a stranger and you catch fire, they wouldn't piss on you to put you out.

There you go, you asked for it.

Whereas Americans will see you catch on fire, and piss on on until you drown.

That's what happened in Iraq.

Touché, Mr. Americans Anonymouse, touché.

I have a place for Ms Sun that is happy to criticise other countries AND yet also undeniably accept criticism of itself at the same time. In fact it likes to criticise itself too.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

There's no one better at taking the mickey out of us than ourselves - everyone else are amateurs. Until Chinese have us beat on that, I think we can pass comment as much as well like on the PRC's failings! ^_^

If Chinese were less so reflexively defensive, they would be able to isolate and properly solve their problems, rather than sweep them under the carpet and blame them as being "foreign ideology/interference/plots" or whatever. One of the reasons we're one of the most stable, affluent and free countries in the world is that we don't balk at accepting criticism.

China should learn from that.

It's encouraging that this discussion has not descended into name-calling and such, which on a lot of sites it would have done by now.
I would ask Ms Sun why she has chosen to be based in the US. I would guess that greater frreedom of thought and expression play a part.
Criticizing America/Americans is no big deal. We/they can take it. But making up facts (they all drive around with GPS systems on their dashboards?) really undermines her argument.

thanks, Hatch. I still disagree, as I really don't mind when others mock the US. There's a lot to mock, and it's just what people do.

I have to say though, I've not met many Chinese who will abide mockery of the middle kingdom so it seems like the pot calling the kettle black.

I have to run and check my GPS now. (as if I've EVER had one, in any of the six cars I've owned)

I agree that many of Sun's criticisms are fair and that he/she touches on some national shortcomings.

However, simply making up supporting "facts" (e.g. "practically everyone" in the US drives a GPS car), isn't what I'd expect from someone claiming to be studying journalism.

... unless Sun is interning at The Onion?

This is a splendid anonymous exchange, I do have one question....

when you say

Whereas Americans will see you catch on fire

is that indicating the american actually see to it that you catch fire or
merely observe the fact?

Remember, wo men Zhong Guo Ren have NO word for LOGIC... our word is a take of the English word... sniff sniff...


What is this nonsense? You are lapsing into prejudice, this BS about frontal lobes. Are you some kind of white supremacist?

Or do you think you are being funny?

Well, it's not funny. You come off like a redneck hick.

Ivan- I am an overseas Chinese or Malaysian of Chinese ethnicity. All I can say to you is this.'when we need constructive comments or anything remotely close to that, we will not ask you'

Back to the topic at hand. My grandfather fought with Sun Yat Sun against the Manchurians before he fell ill and he subsequently emigrated to this part of the world. So I am a Koumingtan symphatiser but not the Chiang Khai Sek type which I strongly believe are of the similar ilk to Mao Tze Dong had he won the civil war. Both are thugs of the highest order.
I believe the future of China lies with the under 35s generations. Those who are in power are the same that had stone their elders/teachers/parents etc on someone elses ideology. Subsequently with the ecomnomic liberisation ,they have also lost their moral compass which was the Communist Doctrine. Now we have a generation of people without law and God( direct Chinese translation without law and without Sky)

That is why doing business in China is extremely hazardous when contractual obligation is sometimes only fulfilled when it is to the Chinese advantage.

You want me to be serious? Then seriously, if the Chinese want to be respected, they ought to start looking in the mirror more. Seriously, I think thousands of years of degradation and superstitious obeisance and worship of raw power - culminating in the Cultural Revolution - has turned the majority of Chinese people into rude, childish clowns. If they want to be respected more than that, then they should start taking a good hard look at how idiotic they appear to others.

Ivan - your comments here are ridiculously outrageous! You say that the Chinese are "rude, childish clowns". I think you're a rude childish clown frankly - and a racist one at that.

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