American Moron Throws Money; Bring Out Your Misconceptions!

By now you have probably seen this story already. In case you missed it, there’s basically nothing more to it than this: An American basketball player, apparently the guy in the picture below, threw money out of the bus as his team was leaving a game in China on May 23. Many of the Chinese high school students around scrambled for the money. The story has since popped up on the Chinese internet, provoking heated debate, mostly about whether or not the Chinese students embarrassed themselves and their country by picking up the money.

What the story has also brought to light, though, is a bunch of ugly cultural misunderstandings. First and foremost, let’s address the American who threw the money to begin with. I’m assuming that he’s a high school student as they were playing in a high school gym and none of the articles have indicated otherwise. Anyway, what the hell was he thinking? I’ve taught enough high school students in my day to know that most of them have very poor decision making skills, but this is really a bit ridiculous, and whether or not the event has embarrassed the Chinese, there’s no doubt this guy’s behavior is an embarrassment to Americans (and a source of frustration for the American expats struggling every day to correct misconceptions about how Americans are all rich, arrogant pricks).

It’s impossible to say for sure what his motivations were, but I’d guess it was a combination of “my American money turned into so much Chinese money!” and a common American misconception that Chinese people are all dirt poor. Whatever his reasons, shame on him. (For the record: he is probably not “makin’ it rain”, as one ChinaSMACK commenter suggested, as that generally term refers to throwing a bunch of money at women, often strippers or other women who one expects might take their clothes off when presented with large sums of money falling from the sky).

Of course, the Chinese commenters on this issue brought some pretty good prejudices to bear as well. We’ve got xenophobia (“American devil” 美国鬼子), racism (“Fuck, American black donkey” 妈的,美国黑驴), classic misunderstandings about gun ownership (“If this incident happened in an American campus, maybe the students there would have a gun battle!”, via ChinaSMACK), and of course, inexplicable animated gifs. The original Chinese story translated by ESWN even used “Laowai” in the title, which is at best a term that’s controversial among expats, and at worst a derogatory slur.

The sad thing is, no one learns from this kind of incident. The Chinese commenters fume on their forums, westerners act bemused and/or troll on ours, and the idiot throwing the money probably won’t ever know it became such a big deal. There is still far too little interaction between Chinese people and Americans, and far too little cultural education in both countries (although America is much, much further behind). As long as things stay like this, things like this are going to keep happening. Was this a disaster? No, it wasn’t, but it has proved embarrassing for almost everyone involved, and brought out some pretty nasty prejudices (on both sides) too. I think this Chinese commenter’s animated gif sums the whole thing up pretty well:

0 thoughts on “American Moron Throws Money; Bring Out Your Misconceptions!”

  1. Pingback: Hao Hao Report
  2. You’re thinking too much.

    I wouldn’t go to my American friends tomorrow and ask them to throw money at me (but if they did wouldn’t that be great cuz I need a new pair of shoes), neither would 99.999% Chinese who read about the story.

    And what do you mean Americans are not rich? Look at Oprah, Bill Gates and Paris Hilton!!!


  3. The bit about guns is particularly annoying. I was having lunch with a student not too long ago and he told me he’d read that 80% of Americans own guns. Also, I remember when I first came to China, the very first thing my students asked me is if I had a gun.

    Although what the basketball player did is without foresight at best and condescending at worst, the fact remains that the responses of the Chinese people brings to light how insecure they really are. I sincerely doubt that if I threw money to the people who live in caves in Shaanxi or to the man living in a wall (yes, he actually lives inside the wall) near my dorm, he would get upset about me insulting his dignity. And also, if it was me in that situation, I would also try to pick up the money.


  4. Of course it’s insulting. Throwing money at people and then gleefully watching them crawl on the ground and fight for it is always insulting.


  5. “Of course it’s insulting. Throwing money at people and then gleefully watching them crawl on the ground and fight for it is always insulting. ”

    Narrating the story beyond the facts…was the guy gleefully watching the “poor” Chinese pick up the money? The fact is we have no idea what the guy was thinking when he did it, in fact the only thing we know right now is how people have reacted to a picture online of a black guy throwing money out of a bus. That’s it….all the rest is people online adding to the story with false impressions. This might all be fake for God’s sake!!!!

    People are retarded today, you give them a picture, or a little snippet of information and their imaginations run wild, but the problem is they don’t take their imagination for what it is: fantasy. Instead they conflate their wild interpretations of an event with reality, leading to dumb stories, and dumb reactions like this.


  6. I think that AndyR has a good point. I’m not sure where this picture and this story originated, and I’m not sure whether it’s genuine or doctored. But whether real or fake, the fact that the story DID stir up so much controversy makes it worthy of discussion.

    Josh mentioned Chinese “insecurity” in his post, and I think there’s something to that idea. Though I’m hardly an expert on contemporary Chinese media, I have noticed quite a few stories recently that seem focused on China’s degrading experiences at the hands of other countries. This story is one of the more mild examples. A month or so ago, one of my students told me about an internet video making the rounds among Chinese students- a video of Japanese university students burning the Chinese flag. Before that story, there was the issue of Korea trying to claim Confucius as a Korean.

    Where is this heightened sensitivity coming from? Why is the media focusing on it so intently?


  7. I’m going to ask every possible native american,particularly americans in black shrouds moving with 2 legs anywhere i get a chance to catch a sight upon if he is going to throw money and when so that i’ll summon my slave countrymen to give him a warm reception before the sideshow takes places


  8. @Jingying

    My guess (and probably the conclusion of so many others) is that the media focuses on it so intently as a method of stirring nationalism among the Chinese people, which the CCP then uses to channel loyalty. It’s simply a method for the CCP to guarantee its own power.

    Take for example the century of humiliation: 100 years of national humiliation that started with the Opium Wars and ended with the rise of Mao and the formation of the Communist Party. However, it’s never considered that the 100 Flowers was humiliating, or the Great Leap Forward, or the Cultural Revolution. Those events, which were all disasters, are never considered to be humiliating because it was the Chinese who did them. The century prior to that, however, is frequently invoked in Chinese schools as a tool for provoking xenophobia among Chinese youths, thereby, again, strengthening communist power.


  9. “there’s no doubt this guy’s behavior is an embarrassment to Americans”

    For me, that’s the most interesting thing here. Most Chinese commentators don’t seem to consider that at all- they’re only focused on their own country ‘losing face’ and most criticism seems reserved for the students. Why is that? I’ve got three ideas, but I’m not sure: (a) they think the American is deliberately trying to insult China- he doesn’t lose face because he had an evil plan and it worked; (b) ‘sinocentrism’: they won’t consider how Americans view this because they’re only interested in [and only understand] their own country; (c) the cliche of Chinese nationalists lacking self-confidence: at some level they only expect and see Chinese failure.

    Those might not make any sense, but I’m interested in anyone’s opinions.


  10. “there’s no doubt this guy’s behavior is an embarrassment to Americans (and a source of frustration for the American expats struggling every day to correct misconceptions about how Americans are all rich, arrogant pricks).”

    It shouldn’t be, after all, out of an entire bus filled with Americans, only one chose to throw his money out the window…


  11. You may want to avoid comments like “(although America is much, much further behind)” when you’re lecturing on cross-cultural dialogue and respect. Responding to that statement in particular, I’m sure you’re probably one of the few Chinese who have come to America and experienced the sting of American hegemony first hand.

    However given the vastness of China the degree with which any percentage of Chinese are exposed to or aware of American culture is most likely marginal compared to America (the melting pot) given the sheer difference in population alone.

    So, my point is we should all make a concerted effort to BRIDGE cultural understanding and resist the urge to bash each other or stir-up animosity, much like you have done throughout your article, when one makes a TABOO mistake.

    This guy in no way had ANY INTENTION to arrogantly insult your country. Many of the responses in that other article were extremely insulting.


  12. @ Unnecessary: I am AMERICAN. I said the US was further behind on cross-cultural education because we are. I work in education in the US; I see it firsthand every day.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s