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U.S. lifestyles yes, policies no

DISCUSSIONS | May 31, 2006

Jie Lin, Beijing

2004 Nieman fellow; president, China TV People & Media (Beijing), an independent media company

Based on my knowledge, Chinese people have a mixed feeling about America. They hold a generally positive view of American system and people as a whole, believing that America is the most powerful and advanced nation in today’s world. Although the Chinese government still conducts censorship of foreign movies, thanks to those pirate DVDs, about 80% of the city population watch Hollywood hits, which have great impact on the young generation.

A somewhat envious tone is usually heard among peer talks whenever the topic is related to American lifestyle. The young Chinese today drink Coca Cola and Pepsi, eat KFC and McDonalds, kill time at Starbucks and Hard Rock. They hold a friendly attitude toward almost all American individuals, who they think are outgoing, optimistic, enthusiastic and easy to make friends with.

Like any two-edged sword, however, America is too powerful to keep its hands off other nations’ domestic affairs. Always considering itself right, America many times in fact bullies rather than helps others. Who has the guts to question and even challenge America?  Bin Laden. This figure is no doubt a super terrorist, but at the same time enjoys some heroical fame in China. I still remember vividly that the first reaction from people around me in my organization to the tragic news of 9/11 was – I hate to say this, but it’s true – schadenfreude (except for those including myself who were educated in the States). 

Although also feeling sorry for those lost lives, many don’t think that Bin Ladin definitely was unjustified. Their view is that it is America itself that should be blamed for the 9/11 tragedy and the innocent lives lost on that dark morning.

As America took ¡ts revenge on “innocent” Iraq, many Chinese people see the essence of American power: to find an excuse – no matter how unreasonable it is – to occupy others’ resources, say, oil. 

To simplify the overall Chinese perception of America after 9/11, it goes like this: The American system is still good and American people are still likable; democracy and justice within the United States are always exemplars to other nations, but when it comes to international democracy and justice, hmmm – please shut up. We don’t trust you any more.

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