On 6 November, Sina.com published an article entitled “Foreign media attacked for smearing Chinese: Chinese in Germany plan to sue Spiegel.” The article describes three incidents. First, the influential news magazine Spiegel published a 14-page report entitled “Die gelben Spione” (The yellow spies) on Chinese industrial espionage in Germany, accompanied by a cover showing two Asian eyes peeking out from behind a Chinese flag. Second, a “not made in China” movement directed against Chinese goods in the U.S. is supposedly trying to “demonize” China. Third, a New Zealand paper published an article associating Chinese students with cheating on exams.
The article is interesting for a number of reasons. On the one hand, it does broadly reflect a growing anti-Chinese discourse. On the other hand, by lining up these three stories into a seamless “bullying” narrative (and not caring to provide any details), it mixes up events that probably have very different motivations, unequal significance, and come out of quite divergent local discourses. It seems that the reporter is not really interested in what is happening, but prefers to furnish generalized evidence of efforts to “contain” China.
We get no information on the content of the Spiegel article, only that the Chinese are planning to sue the magazine. (But for what?) Nonetheless, the title does have a racist flavour, and the fact that it is published in Spiegel suggests that it may reflect a trend. The U.S. “not made in China” movement, on which we find out nothing except that a Los Angeles housewife named Wang defends Chinese goods by loyally buying them, is probably a marginal phenomenon that can have little impact on “demonizing” China. The New Zealand story — where the Christchurch paper, identified as “Evening News,” described Chinese students as “the biggest cheats,” showing a photo of Chinese students copying exam papers and asserting that “cheating is part of Chinese culture.” Nineteen Chinese organizations in Christchurch issued a protest and the paper apologized.
But this last story, ironically, may reflect less a demonization of China than anxiety about what is perceived to be dropping university standards and their association with the rapid growth of Chinese students (the same in Australia). No doubt, the quality of Chinese students who come to these universities (they are mostly the ones who couldn’t get into a good school in China) leads people to erroneous conclusions, but they are often well-intentioned. I remember a professor at Heidelberg, Germany’s most famous university, asking me whether it was true that in China, copying another person’s text was not considered wrong. This seems more an example of the well-intentioned “intercultural communication” orientalism than an act of political demonization.
As for the Chinese organizations described in the paper, they seem more interested to show their “patriotism” to the media back home than anything else. A spokesman for the New Zealand Chinese organizations said it was important to ‘closely rely on the embassy’ in dealing with the case, and to prevent students from taking uncontrolled action — very much mirroring the rhetoric of Chinese officials when dealing with nationalism.
The original story is here.