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I Am From China. Here’s What Americans Get Wrong About My Homeland.

China Culture
by Julie Cao Jan 7, 2017

Chinese people do not ‘speak up.’

When I attended university in the US, I always heard people say Chinese students are quiet in class, and we were always asked to speak up.  Having grown up in China, I can say that, in many circumstances, we just express our opinions differently.

Confucianism taught us a useful phrase “zhong yong”. Zhong means ‘no more, no less’; yong means ‘neither’ or ‘common’. We express ourselves rationally and courteously. We do not address problems directly, as it does not help to solve the issues in our social context. Yes, we seldom speak in class, talk in meetings, or protest in the streets; however, this does not mean we are afraid of ‘speaking up’.

Chinese women are second-class citizens.

Contrary to popular belief, Chinese women tend to be well-educated, have good jobs, and even have their own companies. We still receive gender discrimination, glass-ceilings, and marriage pressure from society and that is why we have to be more outstanding than men to get good jobs and live a good quality of life. We will not stand for being pushed around and no longer apply Three Obedience and Four VirtuesWe have our own ideas and we will tell you what we think.

Chinese people are good at math.

We may be good at math by your standard. This because the level of math we learned in middle school is on par with what third-year students learn at American universities. We have to take a college math entrance exam that is beyond our level; the only way we can pull it off is to remember lots of math formula and study very hard.

The one-child policy still applies to every household.

The one-child policy was lifted in November 2013. We realized that, over time, the one-child policy leads to an aging population, infanticide, forced sterilization, and selective gender abortion. The result is an increasing number of aging populations and a skewed ratio of men to women. Loosening one-child policy not only signals the positive steps towards freedom in China, but it also helps to counter aging problems and gender imbalance issues.

What Chinese food is.

We do not eat chicken balls, noodle cakes, sweet and sour chicken, wonton soup, and fortune cookies in China. If you find this food delicious, that is because it has been adapted for the Western appetite. Though fried rice and noodles are main dishes, we do not eat them simultaneously. For Chinese natives, seeing people order fried rice and noodle cakes together is strange.

Cantonese is widely spoken in China.

While Mandarin and Cantonese are the two most popular Chinese dialects, the Mandarin-speaking population (71.5%) is more than tenfold its Cantonese (5.0%) counterpart (InternChina, 2015). In fact, most Chinese do not understand Cantonese at all. Most Americans I meet think Cantonese is widely spoken in China because a large number of Cantonese – speakers from Guangdong and Hong Kong settle in the US.

Hong Kong and Macau are not part of China.

When studying in the US, I heard professors and students referring to Hong Kong and Macau as countries. Take it from me: we hate it when you separate Hong Kong and Macau from China. We just do not want to get into an argument about politics with you.

Hong Kong and Macau are special administrative regions of China. Although they both have their own culture and political systems, they have special economic ties with mainland China. In fact, it irritates us when we see Hong Kong and Macau listed as separate countries to China when we scroll down the country list on travel booking and university application websites.

The Chinese eat dogs.

Many Chinese people love dogs, and view eating dogs as downright cruel and dog meals as disgusting. In contrast, there are others who do not mind. It depends on their individual preference. When we suffer from chronic famine, war, or revolution, there is no choice but to eat anything to survive, even it means eating horse meat, grass, or even one’s belt.

Chinese people are rich and China has become a rich country.

In media broadcasting, China is increasingly growing its economy, international trade, and foreign investment, but that is only part of the story. A large number of the Chinese population still live in poverty, suffer from hunger, chronic disease and sickness, do not have access to health care, cannot afford school, and do not have 24-hour electricity and water.

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