China-U.S. Relations Deteriorate Because of Internet

Posted by: Frederik Balfour on September 17, 2009

The latest trade dispute between China and the U.S. over tire tariffs has inevitably given way to a flurry of angry rants by Chinese netizens on internet chat forums against Washington. It has also unleashed a string of anti-American sentiments in the comments section of news stories carried by the international press. While the America-bashing [and international media-bashing] hasn’t reached the feverish levels seen during the Tibet riots last year and the Olympic torch relay, and more recently during the Urumqi unrest, the growing level of vitriol from both international and Chinese bloggers and commentators is a disturbing trend.

This notion was argued very persuasively by Kaiser Kuo, the former digital guru of Ogilvy China guru whom I heard speak at the CLSA China Forum in Shanghai on Wednesday. He said the internet is leading to increasing polarization of views between China and the U.S. in what he describes as “Red necks vs Red Guards.” Ironically, he notes that Sino-U.S. relations since Obama took office have been better than in any time in recent memory. But while things look smooth offline, online “things have deteriorated really, really badly.”

This matters because the Chinese leadership is becoming increasingly sensitive to views disseminated in chat rooms and blogs within China, and popular opinion is, for the first time in the Middle Kingdom becoming something Beijing is wary of. “It is not just in western democracies where populism is percolating up to national policies,” he said. “Unchecked this will strain the political relationship [between the U.S. and China] and constrain policy choices.” The internet is making us “more tribal, more fractured, more polarized…..people are touching noses but not seeing eye-to-eye in Cyberspace.”

He proposed several ways that western readers might help close this chasm of opinions.
First, they should drop their condescending attitudes that assume because the Chinese are caught beyond the Great Firewall that they are to be pitied. Second, try to learn what the Chinese think when they aren’t on the defensive. Third, learn some Chinese history, especially from the last 150 years. And finally, take advantage of bridge bloggers who monitor the Chinese internet and provide a summary for non-Chinese speaking readers. His recommendations include Hong Kong-based Roland Soong’s EastSouthNorthWest blog, Danwei.org Chinageeks and for a more salacious take on the zeitgeist of China, Chinahush.

Reader Comments

littlescherzo

September 17, 2009 9:28 AM

The root cause of this polarization is indeed the internet --- the Chinese people suddenly woke up to a world full of prejudice and condescension. The condescension is nothing new since hollywood's depiction of chinese in the early 20th century, and the prjudice is nothing new since the era of the Chinese Exclusion Act. The west's attitude toward China hasn't changed, but China has, and through the internet the Chinese people began realized how they are really viewed and treated by the west. And the momentun of this realization has never gathered such awesome momentum until between China's accession to WTO and the Beijing Olympic.

The Great Chinese Firewall has blocked some of the more prejudiced and the more twisted, but the sheer volume of netizen throughout every corner of the Chinese society, and the sheer volume of made available to them, has brought about this groundswell.

When I first arrived at China almost a decade ago, Chinese people I met were overwhelmingly friendly biased toward the westerners. They believe practically everything in the west is right and better, inspite of the official position. But today that friendly bias was gone and replaced with a sense of mistrust. Although the degree of suspicision by the Chinese toward the westerners has not reached the same level as the prejudice the westerners harbors toward the Chinese, I fear soon the polarization would become sharply symmetrical.

Personally I do not believe the internet would also offer and promote the antidote, rather the clout and the respect brought along by China's ascension on the world stage would in time cure the perception deficit syndrome the westerners suffer as a result of ignorance and prejudice. It's not up to the Chinese to fix this deficit, besides they too have been ignorant of it for long enough, until the age of the internet that is.

littlescherzo

September 17, 2009 9:46 AM

(corrected from the previous posting)
The root cause of this polarization is indeed the internet --- the Chinese people suddenly woke up to a world full of prejudice and condescension. The condescension is nothing new since hollywood's depiction of chinese in the early 20th century, and the prjudice is also nothing new since the era of the Chinese Exclusion Act. The west's attitude toward China hasn't changed much, but China and the Chinese have, and through the internet the Chinese people began to realize how they are really viewed and treated by the west. And this realization has never gathered such awesome momentum until between China's accession to WTO and the Beijing Olympic.

The Great Chinese Firewall has blocked some of the more prejudiced and the more twisted along with some of the more neutral and unbiased information, but the sheer volume of netizens throughout every corner of the Chinese society, as well as the sheer volume of the information made available to them, have brought about this groundswell.

When I first arrived at China almost a decade ago, Chinese people I met everywhere were overwhelmingly friendly biased toward the westerners. They believe practically everything in the west is right and better, inspite of the official position. But today that friendly bias was gone and despised, and replaced with a sense of mistrust. Although the degree of suspicision by the Chinese toward the westerners has not reached the same level as the prejudice the westerners harbor toward the Chinese, I fear soon the polarization may become sharply symmetrical.

Personally I do not believe the internet could somehow also offer and promote the antidote, rather the clout and the respect brought about by China's ascension on the world stage would in time cure this perception deficit syndrome the westerners suffer as a result of ignorance and prejudice. It's not up to the Chinese to fix this deficit, besides they too have been ignorant of it for long enough, until the age of the internet that is.

Squeezebox

September 17, 2009 9:51 AM

So the Yankees should bend over and smile and say the Chicoms are always right? What if we don't happen to agree?

Marco

September 17, 2009 1:22 PM

I believe most of American prejudice and resentment against China lies in their trading practices and not the people or the practices themselves. No one pities or cares about their "Great Fire Wall" and Hollywood and Western society has become much less harsh and much more accepting of foreign cultures. If not accepting, we have are far deeper into indifference than condescension.

The Chinese have a lot to be angry over. It mostly revolves around Western imperialism.

I don't think the internet will be a reliable indicator of Chinese governmental policy as some think because even in most democratic nations, government rhetoric is much different from public opinion. This is especially true in China when the government is always trying to water down the political impact of the internet.

western readers should learn about Chinese history

September 17, 2009 3:53 PM

Epic film The Founding of a Republic marks 60 years of Chinese Communism
The Founding of a Republic, an epic film marking the 60th anniversary of China's Communist revolution and starring almost 200 of its best-known stars, opens in cinemas across the country today.

With hundreds of stars from China and Hong Kong, including the kung-fu hero Jackie Chan and Jet Li, telling the story of the Communist rise to power in 1949, the film is being tipped as one of the biggest box office hits in the country for years.

The film's producers say they hope the cast-list - as well as the subject matter - will attract in a younger, internet-obsessed generation back to the big screen

CMS

September 17, 2009 4:06 PM

This is bound to happen and will get worse over time. There is no workable solution, the damage was too massive and done a long time ago. Even without the internet, the Chinese population will discover the prejudice against them via other forms of media. The internet has simply hastened this knowledge and enhanced the negative reaction.

DanTe

September 17, 2009 4:26 PM

To Squeezebox, if you don't agree, than you're a racist and a capitalist tool. Simple. Much like if you disagree with the liberals in the U.S. Freedom of speech only applies if you agree with them. Otherwise, you should be silenced.

Cal Bear

September 17, 2009 4:58 PM

@ littlescherzo;

As a San Francisco Bay Area resident, I often encounter seething anger over the 19th century "Chinese Exclusion Act". Often, the thinking seems to be that since Chinese were excluded in the 19th century, the US "owes" Chinese immigration privileges in the 21st century - essentially an affirmative action program in immigration benefiting Chinese to make up for past injustices.

This leaves me wondering; if immigration restriction is "racist", then what does that say about China?

Jeff

September 17, 2009 9:11 PM

That very true, just look at comments like our good girl squeezebox here then u will know why internet have shown alot of floolish and childish attitude with inflated emo and ego coming from both sides which promotes hatred, jealously, and fear.

racism is everywhere, we are all born racist one way or the other. only becoz of education, family values, society morality and religion that we know racism is the cancer of humantity that we try not to be so racist and control our feelin and emotion.

on the other hand, internet is neccassary as it is the only way the world need to know the sad truth of our society. our prejudice and our racism and our fear. ppl cannot afford to be ignorant anymore.

STaal

September 17, 2009 9:16 PM

How about just reading a bit about Chinese culture and then join the discussion again? There's no winners or losers bending over, there's only getting to know each other, and that goes for both sides.

Igrance

September 17, 2009 10:42 PM

As a well educated Chinese living in America,I can tell you that American's view and attitude towards China and Chinese people by large are very prejudiced, igrorant and twisted.Media and education are to blame.

2009 National Intelligence Strategy

September 18, 2009 9:04 AM

The problem is these angry rants by Chinese netizens aren't limited to the comments section, but also include cyberattacks. The US National Intelligence Strategy views cybersecurity as a priority in the years ahead.

Intelligence director Dennis Blair said his guidelines for the next four years elevate "the importance of the challenges we face in the cyber domain," and singled out China as "very aggressive in the cyberworld."

Most of the attacks against American cyber systems
originate in the United States – sheer volume. Not all of those originate, because as many of you
know, you go from one computer to another in order to attempt to disguise, and the final IP from
which you make your attack on a circuit will generally be several hops from where you were.
When you trace it all back, we find a huge amount of activity coming out of China.

"China shares many interests with the United States, but its increasing natural resource-focused diplomacy and military modernization are among the factors making it a complex global challenge."

Henry L.

September 19, 2009 8:34 PM

@Igrance. It was atleast 4 years ago I recalled watching a CNN report covering the Shanghai Auto Show and the Chinese auto manufacturers. It was only a 3 minute report and atleast 6 simes the reporter used the word "junk" when describing Chinese cars while interviewing foreign manufacturers at the show. We all know that Chinese cars at this point is not comparable to European/Japanese/American but just the shear arrogance of the reporter that makes you say hmmmm.

Jan

September 20, 2009 2:37 AM

Americans' holier than thou attitude is so disgusting. y can see it from every little thing they do and every little comment they make
Funny things is before I was able to directly read from the foreign media, I always admired and firmly beleived they were impartial and inspiring as depicted by the stupid Chinese media. Now the more I read, the more racist, twisted and biased I see. I can't believe these people actully went to journalistic school of any kind. If they did, the brainwash capibilty of Ameircan schools exceeds way over the Communist party school. The Communists should definitely learn from their American counterpart, when y can produce media and people like this automatically, who needs censorship

DanTe

September 20, 2009 11:41 AM

To "Jan". Of course America has a "holier than thou" attitude. Everyone else' economic well-being depends on America, even today. And a lot of other people's sovereignty depends on American assistance as well. Stop depending on America, and Americans will have their "holier than thou" attitudes knocked out of them. As it is, it ain't gonna stop soon.

The Chinese also fuel this. Many a times have I roam the streets in China, just to see Chinese deferring to a Guai Lo (ghost boy) because the Guai Lo must know what he's talking about and the Chinese doesn't. That's just plain disgusting. And when I point that out, the idiots there actually come to the defense of the Guai Lo.

global media

September 20, 2009 12:20 PM

Thanks for your comment, Jan.

I agree the Chinese would be wise to follow America's lead in adopting the potential of modern media. Media censorship in the information age is a ridiculous and archaic policy.

This isn't only an issue about China-U.S. relations. The larger issue is allowing citizens worldwide to use the technology available to discuss and debate global issues.

voiceofachinese

September 20, 2009 4:20 PM

glad to find quite many comments from the west world are objective toward the chinese and chinese issues. yes, china and the chinese communist may have many problems, but if you happen to know a little hsitory of china, you'll see how much and rapid progress china and the chinese communist leadership has made and is still making! compared to many over-college degreed chinese, how many of you care what china is? in china, as far as i know, over 90 percent school students choose english as their foreign language choice. through the english language learning and history learning at school, to say nothing of hollywood films, many of us know much about your world and culture, from george washingto to george (w) bush, and, alas, obama's tariff on chinese tires. ..... if possible, i recommend: come and experience china. you will have a diffent picture in your mind about china.

voiceofachinese

September 20, 2009 4:20 PM

glad to find quite many comments from the west world are objective toward the chinese and chinese issues. yes, china and the chinese communist may have many problems, but if you happen to know a little hsitory of china, you'll see how much and rapid progress china and the chinese communist leadership has made and is still making! compared to many over-college degreed chinese, how many of you care what china is? in china, as far as i know, over 90 percent school students choose english as their foreign language choice. through the english language learning and history learning at school, to say nothing of hollywood films, many of us know much about your world and culture, from george washingto to george (w) bush, and, alas, obama's tariff on chinese tires. ..... if possible, i recommend: come and experience china. you will have a diffent picture in your mind about china.

Taishan

September 20, 2009 4:49 PM

As a American of Chinese descent and having grown up in a small town (our family was the only minority), gone to college that is 90% white, and worked in a manufacturing setting (very blue collar), I have come to the conclusion that the tensions between the US and China, is, as the author have said, "Rednecks vs Red Guards". I have known many Americans to be very good family people, open minded about the global picture, and seldom are critical of the outside world. Many go to church and support charities and missions to alleviate overseas poverty. Those represent, I would say, a little over half of America (my own guestimation). I can't speak about the "Red Guards", but I can speak about the "Red Necks". And yes, there is a contingent of Americans that cannot in anyway, accept anything positive about a non-Western society. Its hard for them to believe, that mom, apple pie, God and country can exist in a place like China. I suppose the "Red Guards" are just as narrow minded, but I haven't had any experience with them. But there is a contingent of Americans, that gnash their teeth at China's rise. It is that straight forward and they can see nothing good come out of of China's industrialization. The only thing I could say, to those "Red Guards" is don't give in to this other half of America. Instead, ensure that the anger you feel towards the "Red Necks" don't harm good relations with the more productive half. The half that comes over to China, teaches English, brings technology, industry, etc. to China. If the "Red Guards" spend their energies giving in to the likes of Pat Buchanan, Duncan Hunter, etc., instead of focusing on the Bill Gates, Rick Wagoner, George W. Bush, etc., then China will end up proving the "Red Necks" right.

rob

September 20, 2009 6:44 PM

oh, boo-hoo-hoo and waah-wah-wah. I tell you the Chinese are the biggest bunch of whiners. They feel they should be allowed to slaughter Tibetans, posion the entire world with pollution and cheap soffy products, perpetrate horrendous human rights abuses... and no one should complain?
LISTEN, if China had advanced industries, was the world's largets democracy, and had a sterling human rights record .. then they would be called INDIA and there would be no such problems.
CHINA is an evil empire and deserves to be bashed.Their Empire should be broken apart.

jaybo

September 20, 2009 6:46 PM

Hemry L, it's not just that Chinese quality is not upto European/Japanese/American .. it is also quite inferior to Indian and Korean car standards as well.

Haha

September 20, 2009 8:07 PM

Rob, you are a sick person with alots of hate. check with a doctor.

apupowa

September 20, 2009 8:55 PM

Incredible India!

India behind schedule preparing for Commonwealth game.

http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2045&Itemid=404

Antonycao

September 20, 2009 9:28 PM

@Rob
Up to date, you don't have any hard evidence of Chinese slaughtering Tibetans, you just used that as an example for your convenience. A very interesting side story, when in Urumuqi riot Uigurs killed hundreds of Han Chinese, at the first few days, many many Western media heard about tanks and presence of armies, they just automatically assumed that Han Chinese are slaughtering Uigurs. Later on, they found most of the victims are Han Chinese, and they shut up and said nothing.

I didn't receive any education about how to write a balanced article, but the facts told me journalists in Western media might have failed that class.

people first

September 20, 2009 9:44 PM

I think the Chinese people should just keeps on doing what they doing. Hundred of millions Children and woman are going to bed with the full stomas and have the roof over their heads when it rain compare to a decade ago……..it is dam good enough for me……I guess some time you just have to say…..who gives the dam…….

keith

September 20, 2009 10:08 PM

Chinese products are very poor in quality when compared to other products that make from other asian countries.
Like they said "you get what you paid for"... low in prices is not always better.

Red Necks...really?

September 21, 2009 2:15 AM

“Red necks vs Red Guards.” Catchy slogan Kaiser, but "Rednecks" is a rather misleading and derisive word for this topic.

I don't believe "Red Necks" are representative of U.S. internet users views on China. Is this is your way of making light of the situation?

You say the internet is making us “more tribal, more fractured, more polarized…..people are touching noses but not seeing eye-to-eye in Cyberspace.” It appears you are indirectly contributing to this cultural divide.

I am neither Chinese or American

September 21, 2009 10:11 AM

I have read alot of stuff on Chinese and American relation in modern times. America have always had relative friendly realtion with China. Today the 2 country is practically joined by the hip. The two must work together because they will be the 2 most important nation on earth.

There's bound to be conflicts when 2 powers collide. This has always been the case through out history.

As for a people to people relations I belive the majority on both side like each other. I have several relatives and know many people who has adopted children from China. China is the 1 by far for American's adoption.

Chinese writing is by far the most popular tattoes. Every other football, basketball, teenager who get tattoes have Chinese writting on their bodies.

Chinese food is on the menu in every American household.

Chinese people must understand that US have been losing a lot of jobs these days. They have the right to protect do things that is their own interest just like China's policies are gear to help out Chinese.

The people of the West want China to develop and to become DEMOCRATIC. Democracy will lessen the distrust between goverments.

soenvy

September 21, 2009 11:31 AM

you r wrong the most important country in this world is india, the world largest democracy!

the rest are just wannabes...

Taishan

September 21, 2009 3:58 PM

Just reading the postings, I can continue to see resentment towards China's rise as I mentioned earlier. Many issues, environment, governance, minority issues, etc. It's not like China is the only country in the world to have them. Yet, there are many Americans and in the West who sees nothing good come out of the rise of a non-Western nation and use these other arguments as an avenue to attack China. People really need to see that as the primary source of tension. Once that resentment is put aside, then all other issues, such as trade friction, etc., is not so volotile. The US has had trade friction with Europe for decades. Yet, no one talks of war, etc. with the EU. Mom and apple pie, God and country, those sentiments exist in China too. Except maybe another food besides apple pie :) If Americans can put aside their resentment towards China's rise, that will elminate half the friction. Some will accuse me of over simplifying the problem, but that really is the 800 lb gorilla in any bad feelings in US/China relations.

Indians anger

September 21, 2009 5:54 PM

One must understand why Indians are so angry. Google "India" and all you see is 1/2 the times Indian writing about themselves, how great they are, how important they are. The other half they are bashing China.

Why the bashing? well let see...India are jelous because China's economy is the 3rd biggest and India is 12th.

Although Indians will tell you what great influence they have in the world they have absolutely no influence With Iran, N. Korea hence they are not at the table when dealing with these countries.
Indians barely have any influence in their own back yard.

Indians are clamoring and begging the US to be their best buddy but that aint going too well.

The US will always chose Pakistan over India that is why American are giving Pakistn money and weapon to keep the Indians check.

Another Divide in China

September 22, 2009 8:56 AM

mike

September 22, 2009 3:01 PM

i don't know why we are talking about India , God please some one tell them this dicussion is about US and China.

Vince

September 23, 2009 11:09 PM

The real issue that should be at the top of people's minds is the impact that US-China relations is ruining both countries and benifiting a very tiny percentage of people.

The US economy is nose diving because they have outsourced their manufacturing sector that feeds their middle class. If you go to a store everything is made in China. China makes its products cheap and pays people cents an hour and takes huge environmental risks. The economic rise of China is at the expense of the deterioration of culture and environment. The sad part is that its unsustainable. Natural resources will run out and people that don't have jobs can't buy goods (and can't pay off Chinese loans).

Just to illustrate, 10% of the US federal budget is spent on interest. How long can you live off a credit card?

So while the tariffs are painful to both countries, it beats the alternative.

GIjoe

September 24, 2009 1:15 PM

To Don Americanos:
If there is any non-satisfaction related to Sino-America relationship, please check with CNN and all possible medias you may get from American sources. And, please, could you just make those people invited in TV news shows stop yelling at each other? I can't hear a single words before my ears were jammed. Also, some of those commentators are really really really SIDUPEIDE. Americans don't care what's going on outside the 48 states, they just need know they are the future of the planet. Plus, all online comments published by those Chinese kids may reach your mind just because they have spent years learning your language. It's hard to believe that, on average, a bilingual person is less objective than a person who may only speak his mother tongue. From my personal experience, American elites know how to practically deal with Chinese, but unfortunately, the commons are far behind that point.


To the Dragon's Sons and Grandsons:
Don't be blinded by those exaggerated feeling about so called China Miracle. More importantly, there is no need to argue. If discussions and arguments may solve any significant problem, cops may stay at home and play the balls. Just Learn and try your best on your study and works. Time may solve all puzzles for you.

Taishan

September 24, 2009 2:17 PM

To Vince: When you say trade is ruining both countries, that couldn't be further from the truth. Despite the problems brought about by trade like environmental damage, seeing the rich prosper, etc., many in China do not want to return to the bad old days when China was truely an impovervished 3rd world country. And as far as US debts, China owns $800 billion in government T-bills. Yet, the total US government debt is $12 trillion. So, there is something going on within the US that is beyond China's willingness to extend credit and beyond China's influence.

C. H. Ng

September 25, 2009 9:45 PM

@Soenvy

Haha..you are wrong; the most important country is not your country, India, but your silly illusive dream. You can continue to dream on but India will still remain as where she is...down the ladder as far the world's list of the most important countries are concerned.

Billboard

October 7, 2009 6:50 PM

Actually not only the American netizens, even their Congressman was blatantly lied when said one-child policy oppression on Uighur. Anyone has some sense of China knows that one-child policy is only for Han Chinese and not applicable to minorities in China. Such overly false accusation would only serve to educate Chinese what the West Media really are.

@ Chinese

October 8, 2009 8:59 AM

"China has become the third country to have a man walk in space. But as yet, no Chinese citizen has won a Nobel Prize. This puzzles the Chinese. Frank Yang and Lee Tsung-Dao, two Chinese Americans, won the physics Nobel in 1957, followed by Ting Chao-Chun, Lee Yuan-Tseh, Steven Chu, and Daniel C. Tsui, winners in physics or chemistry. All Chinese Americans."

I just read this article. Why do you think no Chinese from China have won a Nobel Prize? When American-Chinese living outside of China can?
Please don't take this as an attack - I'm just curious as to Chinese opinion?

balfour

October 8, 2009 11:10 AM

Don't forget another Chinese-born Nobel Laureate:
Gao Xingjian from Guangzhou and now living in France won the Literature Prize in 2000

Billboard

October 8, 2009 2:21 PM

"""I just read this article. Why do you think no Chinese from China have won a Nobel Prize? When American-Chinese living outside of China can?"""
Nobel Prize are for the most distinguishing ones. China is still on catching up phase. Also, the best Chinese students are here in States due to the much advanced research environment and better off. In any case, one step a time. As of current generation Chinese, we should focus on feeding our people and play catching up. All Chinese know that China is still far away from USA. As Confucius saying, human being are born with responsibility. We are sons of our fathers and fathers of our sons. Each generation should carefully assess what are their responsibility and fulfill as much as possible to provide a better base for the future generations. Some day, there will be Nobel Prize winner from China itself.

C. H. Ng

October 11, 2009 10:50 PM

"Why do you think no Chinese from China ever won a Nobel Prize?"............??

Please see for yourself who are those people who have the power to dictate who are going to win those Nobel Prizes each year. Then you will know why.

JohnL

December 9, 2009 1:05 AM

@Rob
I think your brain is wired with a microchip looping on "incredible india" Oh wait! I think you are incredibly ignorant, dumb indian. Stop barking everywhere.

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