Hooray For Arrogance!

ChinaSMACK readers have probably already seen this post of theirs, purportedly a transcript of a BeiDa student laying into a Japanese reporter. Much of the discussion on ChinaSMACK is centered around whether or not it’s fake — it seems awfully likely it is, given the lack of video, photos, or attribution — but what I find more concerning is that many netizens (ChinaSMACK translates some comments; there are many more on the original post) feel that the student did a good job. Really? Seemed to me like he came off rather like an arrogant prick.

The reporter, as far as we can tell from the questions he asks, is just looking for student opinions on Sino-Japanese relations. He doesn’t say anything offensive, or deny that the Nanjing Massacre occurred, or anything like that, yet the Chinese student takes a crack at Japan in answering nearly every question. His presentation of history is a bit terrifying, but Jeremiah over at Granite Studio has already written a great response to that, which I recommend everyone read.

What struck me as the most obnoxious, though, was this:

Q: In China’s university campuses, student suicides happen frequently, again and again, why is this?

A: Actually, the country with the most student suicides is your country. Many bizarre methods of suicide were invented by you guys. In a UN report, Japan’s suicide rate was ranked number one. I don’t know what sufficient evidence you have to prove the suicide incidents in my country’s the university campuses. Chairman Mao Zedong had a famous saying: “If you haven’t investigated, you don’t have a right to talk”. I hope you write an objective and true report. With regard to the words that you just used in your question I must correct you, in Chinese Mandarin, “frequently” and “again and again” is redundant, a mistake. Moreover, what you said does not match the reality! (Applause)

How terrifyingly American it is to correct the grammar of someone who has gone to the trouble of coming to your country and learning your language to communicate with you. Moreover, the Chinese student’s intent here seems to be to belittle the reporter even further, which serves no constructive purpose. It seems like a pretty fair bet that that reporter’s Chinese is better than the BeiDa student’s Japanese, no?

Read the interview for yourself and see if you don’t come to the same conclusion. Is this really the way China wants to present itself to the world? Arrogant and ignorant?

And while we’re on the subject of harsh condemnations, check out this brutal smackdown of Han Han in the China Daily. Ouch!

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0 thoughts on “Hooray For Arrogance!”

  1. Japan has a high suicide rate, but it’s not the world’s highest. Eastern European countries have significantly higher rates, and there is zero chance that a UN report put Japan at number one.

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  2. @ JL: Japan has the 9th highest rate internationally, but to be fair, the “student” was talking about student suicide rates, not suicide rates generally. I can’t find statistics on that, but I’d be surprised if the country leading student suicides wasn’t Asian.

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  3. “terrifyingly American”?

    Why “terrifyingly”? And why “American”? It seems to me that such linguistic pettifoggery is much more common in France and Great Britain than in America. After all, aren’t Americans frequently dismissed by the British for having butchered the Queen’s good English? Or by the French for having mispronounced a word or two? Indeed, don’t most Americans view the rules of grammar as more like guidelines than actual rules? I immigrated to the U.S. with my parents when I was 15 and have learned to speak English quite well. In all my years in the U.S., I don’t recall a single instance in which a “terrifying American” (aside from my high school and university English teachers, that is) took particular exception to my abuse of the English language. In fact, I have frequently encountered just the opposite – i.e., Americans who praise my English while marveling that I also speak Cantonese and Mandarin. Hardly terrifying, if you ask me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met my fair share of American idiots over the years, but unlike you I don’t think Americans have a particular talent for arrogance, pretentiousness, pedantry, etc. Quite the opposite, I generally find Americans to be every bit as open minded and tolerant as their European counterparts and lightyears (parsecs!) ahead of the Chinese.

    Regarding student suicides in China – I don’t recall hearing much about the subject during the three years I spent at Peking University some ten years ago. However, I DO recall reading that Chinese women commit suicide at much higher rates than women in other countries. I also recall hearing of one or two Chinese graduate students at Harvard who killed themselves. (Too many encounters with terrifying Americans, perhaps?) And then there’s the PKU student named 卢刚 who went to America in the early 1990s to study physics at the University of Iowa and wound up killing his advisor, his academic rival, two or three other professors, and then himself.

    Like most people, I believe that the interview with the Japanese reporter is most likely fake – the sort of perverse, nationalistic fantasy that appeals to ignorant, angry, self-deluded patriots the world over.

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  4. One more thing. The Chinese student’s responses to the Japanese reporter’s questions remind me of something that 梁文道 wrote in a recent column: “我们中国人学历史就像小孩看戏,任何人物一出场,首先要问:“他是忠臣还是奸贼?”除此之外,再无第三条路。”

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  5. @ Stinky: I was more referring to American tourists abroad who routinely mock their hosts because their English isn’t perfect. If you haven’t experienced this firsthand, take a tour group of Americans to China. You’ll have plenty of examples in the first 24 hours. And Americans in some parts of this country have a reputation for being easily frustrated with anyone who can’t “talk American” (they are unaware of the inherent irony in that, of course).

    Of course, you’re right in that it isn’t exclusively an American thing, I was just saying that because I’m American and just took a group of Americans on a tour of China.

    Also, I hadn’t seen that column, but I like the comment. For those who can’t read it, it’s something like “When we Chinese people study history it’s like when children watch a play, as soon as anyone comes onstage we ask ‘is he a loyal official or a traitor?’….aside from those, there is no third option.”

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  6. “Indeed, don’t most Americans view the rules of grammar as more like guidelines than actual rules?”

    It’s true, we often like to put prepositions at the end of the sentences on topics we’re speaking about. Haha! Pun intended.

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  7. This is fake though.. I’m 99% sure. For some reason fabricating sensationalist stories and essays is really popular on the Chinese internet right now. The more sensible of us know they’re not real, but like you said, there’s never a lack of people who believe/support them.

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  8. @ wooddoo: For my purposes, whether it’s real or not is pretty irrelevant. What interests me is not whether or not there really is such an arrogant prick out there, but rather that so many netizens read this interview and felt the “student” did a great job. It’s their reaction that makes the interview itself worth looking at, even if it didn’t actually ever happen.

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