Tag Archives: Stereotypes

Discussion Section: Illegal China Metaphors

The China Digital Times pointed us in the direction of this BBC article: “African view: China’s New Long March“. Sigh. Is commercial practice and Chinese diplomacy in Africa really that similar to the actual Long March? No, it isn’t, but we can’t blame the BBC. They’re not exactly alone. Have a look:

Etc. (Keep in mind that’s just articles with that metaphor in the title). To be fair, this is not a Western-media thing; Chinese sources also use the phrase quite frequently and it was even an official policy title in the 1970s. Still, it’s tired, and often wildly inappropriate. Just because something is challenging, time-consuming, or happens over great distances doesn’t make it a “new Long March”. We move that the phrase be made illegal, and journalists who use it be fined 50,000 RMB.

Worse, still, is any combination of the words “Red”, “Dragon” and the verb “to rise”, often combined to refer to China’s recent economic development, i.e. books like Red Dragon Rising, Red Dragon Rising, games like Red Dragon Rising, and articles like “Red Dragon Rising“, “Red Dragon Rising“, and “Red Dragon Rising“, among many, many others.

This combination of words is popular because it combines the (only) three things John Q. Public knows about China: it’s communist (“red”), its culture is full of dragons and/or we’re scared of its military (“dragon”), and its economy has improved dramatically (“rising”). It was probably clever the first time it was written — which I assume was probably some time in the 19th century* — but it hasn’t been since then. I suggest that journalists found using this metaphor be punished with a fine of 500,000 RMB. All these fines can be deposited directly into my bank account, by the way.

Anyway, the question we put to you is this: What other tired China tropes would you add to our list? What punishments would you recommend for the offenders? Or alternatively, do you think these overused metaphors are not such a bad thing?

UPDATE: Can’t believe I forgot about this, but a great China blog recently ran a similar rant. Check out Bendi Laowai’s take on the changing-China trope.

*If nothing else, Napoleon Bonaparte famously said, “China is like a sleeping giant, and when she awakes, she will astonish the world,” in 1803. Not the exact same metaphor, but a similar idea.