Angry Asian Man reported on this Craigslist personal ad (which has since been removed):
Doing business and have a new relative that is Chinese. I’ve lived in Alhambra since 1993, and I totally don’t get them. Willing to take you to dinner, if you can give me a crash course on Chinese people. Please no men, just another woman and we’ll meet in a public place. I have a pretty open schedule except for Easter and Wednesday, all day.
Some of the noble peoples of Zhong Guo* were offended or at the very least thought unkind thoughts of our dear Puzzled Disabled Lady from Alhambra. Aw come on now. The Chinese people are quite difficult “to get,” especially since Westerners think the Chinese are one giant glob of human race homogeny when really they are comprised of many ethnic groups, have a crazy long history of changing borderlines, currently have two forms of the Chinese written language (simplified and traditional), and a daunting many more forms of spoken languages all of which are referred colloquially and confusingly as “Chinese.” To date, not everybody even agrees on what parts are “China” and what parts are not. So it’s natural to be puzzled. That’s lesson one of Professor Akrypti’s crash course: Chinese people themselves are puzzled by who they are, so do not worry if you are too.
Second, all Chinese people follow what Confucius said. You’re thinking this is kind of an easy one to refute, but hear me out. As you may have learned in seventh grade when your Social Studies class covered over 4,000 years of history of the largest country in Asia in one day (another possible reason why you “totally don’t get them”), Confucius is a bearded Chinese guy who lived a long, long time ago, and who for all intents and purposes is considered super-duper wise. Many dynasties based their legal systems and social customs off what Confucius said. Many subsequent philosophers dovetailed their philosophies off what Confucius said. Many Zhong Guo parents to this day attempt to indoctrinate their children based on what they think Confucius said. Note here “said.” It is all hearsay. Confucius himself never wrote a thing. Hence one common attribute among all Chinese people is they say whatever they want to say and then refer it back positively or negatively to what Confucius said.
Example 1: Confucius said that good children should play piano for one hour every night. (Note there is no hard evidence that Confucius ever said this, and yet it is an utterance that many a Chinese parent has made to a Chinese kid.)
Example 2: Confucius said women should be treated horribly, and therefore he is the root cause of the systematic oppression of Chinese women. Sexist misogynist pig. Reject all Confucianist teachings! (Again, note how, like piano playing, there is no hard evidence that Confucius ever said this.)
Lesson three: Chinese people are all over the place. Like an infestation, for reals. They were there between the Tigris and Euphrates trading, wheeling and dealing in the 7th and 8th centuries, have set up shops and Chinatowns in Latin America, across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Oceania, and resided at these places for way longer than you would think. For instance, most people think the Chinese came to America during the Gold Rush, in the mid 1800s, but sources date the first settlement of the Chinese back at least 200 years before that, to the 1600s. Still other bolder sources claim the Chinese arrived before Columbus, as early as 499 AD.
And wherever they go they do lots of business. Everyone has done business with a Zhong Guo person before. Even Puzzled Disabled Lady has!! Often the business practices of the peoples of Zhong Guo are perceived as shady. This is only because they’re smarter and always end up with the better deal over you. So you get pissed, and call it shady. They’re smarter because of tiger parenting; we’ll get to that later.
Notwithstanding their business wheeling and dealing in the West, Chinese emigrants have also done quite a number on the local economies of other parts of Asia, especially Southeast Asia, all to the point where they infuriate the crap out of the non-Chinese people they settle near. There was that whole Chinese Exclusion Act matter here in the States, for instance, the hostility toward Chinese minorities in the Philippines as discussed in Amy Chua’s World On Fire, and even places that are sort of China but not really, like Tibet, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, that do not welcome the Zhong Guo people. Zhong Guo people are the recipients of much hostility wherever they go.
Lesson four: Speaking of Chua, there’s tiger parenting. And it’s superior. Because it comes from Confucius. I do not really know how, but because I grew up in a Zhong Guo household, I have been indoctrinated to believe that this is so. Tiger parenting is another reason non-Chinese dislike Chinese people: because 10-year-old Chinese kids are freakishly good at things that 10-year-old kids generally should not be good at, like differential calculus, the violin, and spelling. By the way, I did not grow up in a Zhong Guo household. It was Taiwanese. I am Taiwanese. See what I mean by lesson one? (Oh and, dear non-Chinese people, do not be convinced by Chinese people who tell you they do not subscribe to tiger parenting or are no good at differential calculus, the violin, or spelling, because they are anomalies and therefore not to be trusted.)
Finally, last lesson: Chinese people become neurotically hypersensitive when presented in a negative light or when they are criticized. This is related to a concept called face, which is totally Confucianist, something Confucius said, and also related to tiger parenting, where any wrong move a Chinese kid makes will bring on the wrath of the Chinese parent therefore nurturing a kid who is obsessed with perfection or at the very least the facade of perfection. Remember tiger parenting, too, is Confucianist and sourced from something Confucius said. Also, because Chinese people are so used to encountering hostility wherever they go–recall lesson three–they learn to go immediately on the defensive. That is why the very utterance of the word Chinese by a non-Chinese will put the Chinese guy on edge, overreacting and overthinking the utterance, “Did I detect condescension when she said the word ‘Chinese?'”
Puzzled Disabled Lady is probably a sweet, kindred spirit. I would have loved to dine with her, at which time I could show her how to use chopsticks and teach her to say “ni hao.” If the dinner goes better than swell, I might even let her pet my long, shiny black hair. As someone who may or may not be Chinese, I found Puzzled Disabled Lady’s call to be poignantly sincere. It would have been great for the two of us to become friends. I could tell her all that I have said here, and she could then repeat to third parties any of these sweeping statements about Chinese people and, before the third party can get offended, Puzzled Disabled Lady can say, “No, don’t worry, it’s okay. Everything is okay. I am not racist or Sinophobic. My very good Chinese friend told me this and I am just telling you what she told me. She’s Chinese, you know, so therefore she automatically knows everything there is to know about China.”
* Zhong Guo = Middle Kingdom (in Mandarin Chinese) = China. Shucks, look how much you’re learning today!