Chinese Views on American Influence

Before coming to China, my brother, who had lived in Shanghai, China for five years, told me about Chinese people’s’ reluctance to discuss controversial topics, especially with foreigners. I hadn’t really thought much of it, but since my arrival to Beijing, it seems to be the only thing I think about.

Every single class, our teachers always seem to implement our views on controversial tropics, especially President Trump. With all the uproar in the news nowadays, I don’t blame them, but after a while, you start to wonder what their views are. Respecting cultural sensitivity towards my teachers, I never asked them, but instead, decided to ask Chinese people on the street of different ages and genders what their opinions were on today’s controversial topics.

First, on the train ride back from Xian, I asked a twenty-five year old college graduate wearing an oddly Waldo-esque t-shirt several questions. Starting off slow, I asked him whether he watched or read the news often. After fervently nodding yes, I was excited to hear what he thought about America, Russia, China’s economic boom and shift towards Western-style living over the years. To my dismay, whenever a question about government or economics came up, he repeated he wasn’t knowledgeable on the subject and would rather move on to another topic. It seemed as though every topic was too liberal! After much disappointment, I asked him whether he liked America and Western influence in China. He said he loved America, especially movies. He said his favorite movie was Harry Potter, which ironically, is made up of British actors.

Later, I asked a young woman working on the train what her opinions were of America and our president. Just like the young man, she refused to answer the questions and instead kept repeating she loved America. After my third question, she politely excused herself and moved to the opposite side of the train. In shock, all I could wonder was am I so frightening? I am a 5’4, nineteen year old American girl wearing a Notre Dame T-shirt and Nike sneakers. Why are they so scared to tell me their opinions?

Finally, I asked an old woman about her opinions of America. She was very against Western culture, and kept repeating that the reason for increasing childhood obesity in China was due to American food. Feel my anger rising, I tried to maintain my calm and explain to her that fast food is only a small portion of American culinary. Refusing to believe me, she walked away murmuring to herself in unintelligible Mandarin.

After these encounters, I still don’t really know what Chinese people think of Western culture. Most people are too polite to say their real opinions. Hopefully, their opinions are good, but seeing photos of Beijing before and after Western influence, I could understand why they wouldn’t be.