4 Responses to “The China Syndrome” Subscribe

  1. Ben Ross January 21, 2011 at 11:56 AM #

    Excellent piece. I think Matt really hits it right on. Americans’ perceptions on China are completely out of wack in many regards. To expound on his argument, I would like to add 2 more points. Firstly, many of the stereotypes Americans have about the Chinese are constructed based on the Chinese people they know: namely, those living in the US. The average Chinese person living in America is not an accurate representation of the entire country. Generally speaking, most Chinese in the US come from either the very top or the very bottom of the Chinese status ladder. Those at the bottom are mostly undocumented immigrants, with rural origins and little education, who work primarily in the restaurant industry. They also have little contact with the American mainstream. The other group consists of those Chinese who attend American universities and work in the American professional sectors. These usually come from the creme de la creme of the Chinese social and educational ladder, and due to their work/educational positions, English abilities, and legal status in the country, have far more contact with the American mainstream than the former group.

    Coming to the US as a student or as a professional is a highly selective process (financially, socially, and educationally), and only the best of the best make it here. And due to their high visibility in American society, these are where many of our stereotypes about Chinese people come from. (Think of a Chinese person walking around Cambridge and describing “America” based on his observations of the Harvard and MIT student bodies)

    The second point is that China’s higher education system is still light years behind what we have in the US, and this applies to both academia and professional schools. While children of Chinese immigrants excel scholastically at higher levels than average American students, this is a product Chinese attitudes mixed with the American education system. In China, these attitudes towards education are often wasted on a system which encourages rote memorization and plagiarism, while neglecting creative thinking and problem solving. As a former university instructor in the Chinese education system, I was appalled at how many of my students were unable to conduct library research, read maps, or other basic skills which most American college students are already have a firm grip on. Get a master’s degree in China, and it may or may count in the US. Become a surgeon in China, and you are at best a nurse after coming to America. Yet even a bachelor’s degree from an American university is worth far more in China than an equivalent degree from a Chinese University.

    It’s easy to look at statistics and surface observations and assume “China will take us over” or some other doomsday prediction based on anecdotal evidence. But as Matt points out, most of it is just a matter of lazy journalists looking for a good story.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention The China Syndrome | The Morningside Post -- Topsy.com - January 21, 2011

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Morningside Post, Matt Schiavenza. Matt Schiavenza said: Hey all, have a look at a piece I just wrote for the SIPA blog: The China Syndrome | The Morningside Post: http://bit.ly/eRFBQR via @addthis [...]

  2. Legalizing Marijuana Does Not Mean the U.S. Would Lose Ground to China | Radio Free - January 5, 2014

    […] But Tina Brown’s tweet has less to do with marijuana than it does with a persistent belief that any sign of American “weakness” must necessarily translate into an advantage for China. In fairness, she’s hardly the only person guilty of this: Three years ago, when heavy snow in Pennsylvania forced the cancellation of an NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings, then-Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell objected in these terms: […]

  3. Legalizing Marijuana Does Not Mean the U.S. Would Lose Ground to China - January 6, 2014

    […] But Tina Brown’s tweet has less to do with marijuana than it does with a persistent belief that any sign of American “weakness” must necessarily translate into an advantage for China. In fairness, she’s hardly the only person guilty of this: Three years ago, when heavy snow in Pennsylvania forced the cancellation of an NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings, then-Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell objected in these terms: […]

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