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The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.

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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

April 30, 2008

Written by C.N.

Chinese Students Lashing Back

In the wake of the recent increased attention and criticism against China as it prepares to host the Summer Olympics, the New York Times summarizes how there’s been a boisterous and growing backlash against western-style “Sinophobia” and all things perceived to be anti-Chinese by Chinese students studying in the U.S.:

Since the riots last month in Tibet, the disrupted Olympic torch relays and calls to boycott the opening ceremony of the Games in Beijing, Chinese students, traditionally silent on political issues, have begun to lash out at what they perceive as a pervasive anti-Chinese bias. . . .

At the University of Washington, students fought to limit the Dalai Lama’s address to nonpolitical topics. At Duke, pro-China students surrounded and drowned out a pro-Tibet vigil; a Chinese freshman who tried to mediate received death threats, and her family was forced into hiding.

And last Saturday, students from as far as Florida and Tennessee traveled to Atlanta to picket CNN after a commentator, Jack Cafferty, referred to the Chinese as “goons and thugs.” (CNN said he was referring to the government, not the people.)

The student anger, stoked through e-mail messages sent to large campus mailing lists, stems not so much from satisfaction with the Chinese government but from shock at the portrayal of its actions, as well as frustration over the West’s long-standing love affair with Tibet — a love these students see as willfully blind. . . .

Rather than blend in to the prevailing campus ethos of free debate, the more strident Chinese students seem to replicate the authoritarian framework of their homeland, photographing demonstration participants and sometimes drowning out dissent.

The NY Times article does a very good job at describing the recent international history that frames much of the current climate of criticism against China but also the students’ role in speaking up loudly and forcefully.

In my previous post that I linked to above, I wrote that, for good and for bad, I’m trying to maintain an objective and moderate stance on these issues. The boisterous backlash of Chinese students does not change my position, which is still that both sides have a democratic right to express themselves and to criticize the other side.

However, those rights also entail knowing the limits of such criticisms and counter-criticisms, namely implicit and explicit threats and displays of intimidation and violence against others.

The NY Times article described how some pro-Chinese protests have crossed that line, and it’s at that point where I agree with the reporter’s statement that “the more strident Chinese students seem to replicate the authoritarian framework of their homeland, photographing demonstration participants and sometimes drowning out dissent.”

In other words, for the Chinese students to make a difference and to change people’s negative impressions of their homeland, engaging in and perpetuating the same kind of repressive techniques aimed at silencing opponents that their government is criticized for is not the way to go.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” With that in mind, if the goal is to change the world’s perception of China from negative to positive, then China’s supporters need to act positively, not negatively.

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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Chinese Students Lashing Back" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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