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Stereotyping The World, Chinese-Style

China in Chicago
China in Chicago
Liu Yunfeng


BEIJING - The world is big, and has all kinds of people. Given their various historical, cultural and environmental backgrounds, people from each country are naturally very different.

Each nation is proud of its national character. And indeed, some people have a lot to be proud of, like those who pioneered science and democracy. Others don’t have much to be proud of, like those who are still in the mire of tyranny and ignorance.

The French are impatient. They are full of revolutionary spirit and romanticism. They act before thinking. As a consequence, they make mistakes, which they are then forced to repair. The French Revolution is such an outcome.

The British attach importance to procedure, and tend to be gentlemen. They always consider both sides of an issue. The result is they are never left behind, but also are less likely to find the limelight. If there are benefits, they will seize them, if there are disadvantages, they can always turn back. This is very similar to the Chinese idiom: Riding a mule while looking for a horse.

The Germans are good at reflecting. They never do anything without having carefully thought about it beforehand. Their rule is to think before acting. If they don’t understand something, they think some more. Hence, Germans spend more time thinking than doing. This is a bit like a glass of beer with more foam than beer. However, this doesn't mean the Germans progress more slowly. Once they have given something enough thought, they are very skilled and agile.

The Americans embody pragmatism. Before they make something, they build a prototype and validate it. If the first result is wrong, they modify the prototype and start all over again.

The Italians live in a country of art. Half of the people are artists while the other half are art critics. This is how Italy progresses.

The Spanish are lazy. Since they finished plundering the treasures of gold and silver from South America, they have nothing left to do. In this country one-third works, one-third watches those who work, and the last third just complains.

The Russians were once great. But now they are back to square one. The reason is that in this country, half of the people do things while the other half are busy carrying out sabotage. The doers and the saboteurs cancel each other out, and the result comes to zero.

Drawing a cat when copying a tiger

Muslims are content. Allah has thought about everything and also arranged all things. Hence, let's just sit in the Arab tent and take our time to enjoy our meals.

The people of Israel consider that if everyone is doing the same thing, then they are all either crazy or stupid. Many say that the Chinese and the Israelis are the smartest people on earth. Nevertheless, the Israelis have never fulfilled one task collectively, such as reading the same book and all feeling amused.

The Japanese observe others very closely. Once they have discovered something, they make the same thing a size smaller and at the same time more elaborate, refined, and less costly than the original. Whereas the Chinese like to draw a tiger while copying a cat, the Japanese on the contrary draw a cat when copying a tiger. They know that the small Japanese archipelago is not made for big animals such as tigers so they find the right products, technologies and systems to adapt them to Japanese conditions.

The Chinese don't think about what they are doing, nor do they think about what they have done. If things are done wrong, they start all over again and repeat the same mistakes as before. Chinese history is forever repeating itself. There are 5,000 years of written Chinese history. But that’s not as long as it seems. After the Qin and Han dynasties, all the others were just repeats and copies. When you understand the past, you also understand the present. When you understand the present, you also understand the future.

I was very proud of being Chinese when I was little. Today, I'm still proud, because I see all the shortcomings and mistakes.

The Chinese are proud, and see their pride as a virtue. I sincerely hope that China will not repeat the same errors again. I am cautiously optimistic.

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