Not So Puerile Posts

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It’s been interesting to see the reaction to the post about Zhang Ziyi and her supposed new western boyfriend. There have of course been the usual number of silly and abusive comments, but on the whole it seems to me for a discussion about something as emotive as racism, it remained remarkably civilized. I think the subject was pretty well covered and will only add that I’d concur with Jiong and Yo that all countries are racist/suspicious of foreigners to some degree. It’s a pretty deeply ingrained human trait to be suspicious of strangers from outside your village or tribe and doesn’t take an anthropologist to figure out why. It’s also a truism that that habit of mind can be alleviated by education, contact with foreigners, exposure to foreign culture etc. I don’t think anyone was suggesting that there’s anything inherent in the Chinese character or genes or whatever that makes them particularly inclined to be racist or xenophobic. I don’t think there’s too much debate about whether long isolation, a combination of residual anger and insecurity over the way China was treated by foreigners in the past (don’t mention the Opium Wars) and an innate sense of superiority that goes with having the world’s oldest continuous civilization at your back make some Chinese inclined to look down on other peoples and countries. That brittle pride can manifest itself in some pretty frightening ways, the violent reaction to the 1999 U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade being a case in point. The really interesting question is how much those attitudes are changing as China opens up to the world. There’s no question that todays twenty somethings in the big cities are a complete different breed from their parents, connected through the internet to world, eager to learn more about it, travel to fawaway places etc. That openness can only spread.

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