This post has been translated into Chinese for our Chinese site. 请点此看中文译文。
WARNING: This post contains explicit language. Put the kids to bed first.
This video was being passed around on Twitter a week or two ago. It’s embedded below, but in case you can’t see it or it loads slowly because you’re outside China, it’s a drunk foreigner, apparently married to a Chinese woman, making an idiot of himself. The video title says he’s “beating” his father in law, but no “beating” really occurs, just a little grabbing and shoving as Captain Drunkface is flailing around on the ground. Here’s the video:
Let me get this out of the way first: the guy is clearly a moron, and deserves most of the abuse netizens can heap upon him. But the reason he deserves a bit of abuse isn’t because he’s foreign, or because he’s married to a Chinese girl, it’s because he is a moron. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I am not operating from a neutral position here, since I’m a foreigner who is engaged to a Chinese woman.
Another disclaimer: I am aware that this kind of stuff exists in all cultures, and the internet is a prime breeding ground for xenophobic misogynists. This, as ever, is a blog about China. I’m not suggesting Americans, or the Dutch, or anyone else, are any better, just suggesting that the phenomenon might be worth looking at in China.
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the comments netizens have posted on the video. I’ve selectively translated ((i.e., these comments are not representative of the whole community commenting on that video, just a part of it. That said, it did not take me much effort to find any of these quotations.)) those that I think connect to xenophobia and/or sexism and tried to categorize them, though many fall into both categories.
Most of these comments were chosen because they contain the term 洋鬼子, or “foreign devil”, which is probably the most derogatory Mandarin slur for foreigners.
“Worthless foreign devil.”
“The foreign devil should be detained; however, that police officer speaking some English isn’t bad.”
“Not all about foreign devils is good, many people who worship foreign things are just scared.”
“Foreign devils acting wild in China, it all comes from the Manchu period of backwardness and humiliation.”
“Foreign devils, bah!”
“In my life, I will not marry or even like a foreigner. And when I have kids, I will not allow them to marry foreigners.”
“Women who marry foreign devils are truly worthless. Women who marry this kind of guy are even worse.”
“Truly disgusting. When they’re drunk, the true evil in the hearts of foreigners is perfectly revealed.”
“Foreign garbage.” [A lot of people made this comment]
The fact that this video is even popular in the first place is evidence that foreigners are treated differently by many Chinese. After all, drunken idiots being hauled off by the police is something you can see on any street corner in China (or anywhere else in the world). And the fact that everyone feels the need to say “this foreign guy” instead of just “this guy” shows us that there’s a clear interest in keeping him separate from anything “Chinese.” He is the Other.
Fair enough. I must admit, I myself would be relieved if I had some proof this guy wasn’t American, because it’s embarrassing to be associated with his behavior. Furthermore, the situation is complicated by the fact that many commenters feel the man received special treatment because of his race and say he would have been dealt with more swiftly and violently had he been Chinese. We don’t, of course, know anything about the predilections of the police officer in question, so that assertion is impossible to evaluate conclusively, but it is certainly possible. No one would deny that on the whole, foreigners often receive special treatment from Chinese police.
But regardless, there’s a lot of anger directed at the man’s foreignness, rather than at his behavior or at his having received special treatment. The term 洋鬼子, a harsh enough bit of invective that very few Chinese people would say it to a foreigner’s face, is thrown around in these comment sections as though it were the proper term of “foreigner”. It’s a bit like reading comments on a news story about a black criminal that are full of the word “n****r”.
My concern here is not that the Chinese aren’t properly PC, because who cares. What concerns me is what’s behind the language choice, thousands of commenters taking one bad moment in the life of a single foreigner and using it to spread hundred-year-old stereotypes and apply them to the entirety of the non-Chinese world, i.e. around 5/6 of the planet. In using slurs to refer to the foreigner, many people seem to be implying what that one commenter made explicit: there is something explicitly different and evil about foreigners, and they hide it to trick us.
Comments Concerning Chinese Women with Foreigners
Many of these comments are inherently sexist and xenophobic.
“When you marry a foreigner, even your own father will get hurt.”
“How many Chinese girls are happy with foreigners? Chinese men are better.”
“Why would [she] want to marry a foreigner?”
“I don’t really get why so many women like being fucked by foreign guys.”
“In truth, it’s not [just] being obsessed with foreign things. I just don’t get women these days…”
“Our family has a coarse saying: don’t let foreigners fuck good cunts!”
“I once saw a group of Northeasterners beating up two foreigners, the foreigners were drunk and had been catcalling at a Chinese girl. Then three northeasterners came along and beat those foreigners till they were kneeling. One foreigner might have actually been unconscious, he was lying on the ground…”
“A loss of face? Chinese people have already lost all the face there is to lose. And this old guy? How could he marry his daughter to this foreigner? Is avoiding [another] loss of face enough? Just quickly divorce the guy, don’t lose any more face.”
“Don’t let the next generation of Chinese be mixed-race! This is not only tarnishing Chinese families, but it is a humiliation to the great traditions of the Chinese people!”
“Who raised this girl? All of her “benefits” flowing into the “fields” of a foreigner, it would be better to just have a dog instead of this kind of daughter.”
The issues here are complex. The concept of “face” being as important as it is in China, many of the commenters felt this woman had lost face for China by marrying such an idiot. Many more felt marrying foreigners in general was a loss of face, and wondered why she couldn’t just marry a Chinese guy. Love, or the personalities of the man and the woman, never entered into the equation. I didn’t see a single comment wondering what it was she saw in him in the first place, just a lot calling her “worthless” and comparing her unfavorably to a dog for having married a “garbage foreigner” and being someone who “worships foreign things”.
Of course, when a foreign girl offers Chinese men so much as a hug, Chinese men are clamoring over her. It’s not traitorous for Chinese men to drool over, have sex with, or marry foreign women. In fact, it is glorious, a conquest of sorts. But many of these comments imply Chinese women don’t have the same freedoms, even if the foreigner they’re with isn’t a drunken idiot, the fact that he’s a foreigner at all is enough to make them “worthless” in the eyes of their male countrymen.
Yes, I am aware the internet is an mostly-male, sexist place. I’m also aware that taking a stand against sexism and xenophobia isn’t exactly gutsy or cutting edge. But regardless, these comments are real, and judging by the number of people who’ve written things like them, people who actually believe this stuff aren’t rare at all, so I think they’re worth looking at and talking about, at least for a day.
What are your thoughts? (Hint: this is the part where you say I’m overreacting, trying to “force Western values on China”, or make conjectures about my personal life!)