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Stereotypes are considered as the pictures formed in the mind of individuals looking into their social worlds. Individuals hold different views concerning other people’s way of life and what the society expects of them.
They also exist from the point of view of the person who is being stereotyped. The society is made up of different social groups living in diverse geographical areas. Each group perceives itself as being superior and all other groups are regarded to be inferior to it. For example the Americans white perceive the black Americans to be lazy and ignorant thereby denying them employment opportunities.
The effects of stereotypes are much more than the simple perceptions in peoples mind. Certainly, the discriminating individuals have negative beliefs about the targets of their discrimination. The stereotyped individual’s self esteem and worth are lowered as they struggle to fit in the society. When stereotypes are consensually shared within a society, their consequences become much more destructive, because they affect entire groups of people in a common way.
The individual approach to stereotyping has primarily been associated with the prevailing social cognitive tradition. The basic assumption of this approach is that, over time, people develop beliefs about the characteristics of the important social groups in their environment, and this knowledge influences their responses toward subsequently encountered individual members of those groups.
We can therefore say the stereotypes develop as the individual perceives his or her environment. The perceived information about social groups is interpreted, programmed in memory, and then retrieved for use in directing responses. This paper looks into some of the stereotypes held about the Chinese people, how Chinese students respond to these stereotypes,
Several researches have been conducted on Chinese stereotypes and each of these studies comes up with different stereotypes. Most of these studies focus on the major stereotypes held about the Chinese but forget to address the effects of these stereotypes to the Chinese students especially the ones studying in other countries. It is not clear why people have so many stereotypes towards the Chinese but most people believe that, Chinese have a strong relationship to their culture.
This paper seeks to answer the following research questions
- What are the major stereotypes people have towards the Chinese?
- How do Chinese students feel about being stereotypes?
- Do these stereotypes affect the social lives of the Chinese students?
- What is the relationship between culture and Chinese stereotypes?
There are so many perspectives held about the Chinese. According to Rand, et al (2007), “The Chinese are quiet, peaceable tractable, free from drunkedness, and they are industrious as the day is long. A disorderly Chinaman is rare, and a lazy one does not exist.” However, there are some American students who hold that, Chinese are cold, distrustful, and cunning.
They perceive Chinese as people who are like taking advantage. These stereotypes seem to be based more on hatred than the general perspective of many people (Walkey, 2010). Other people believe that, the Chinese are smart people and are born to be leaders. In the classroom, they are perceived to be good in mathematics and science subjects and like helping other students although they rarely participate in group discussions.
Most of the Chinese hold some of these stereotypes to be true although they strongly disagree with others. For instance, they do not believe they are terrible drivers, or that they are bananas as some people call them. There is a strong relationship between the stereotypes held towards the Chinese and their cultural heritage (Nikolas, 2006).
It may look absurd that, cultural teachings are still going on in China consideration the rapid changes that are taking place in the global world. Many radicals have tried to give China new ideologies although they have not succeeded. It was because many Chinese strongly hold to their cultural tradition to a point that it has become almost impossible for them to shake it off completely (Ward, et al. 2001). This shows how significant the Chinese culture is to the Chinese people.
It has managed to persist in the world of western civilization and seems to persist until the end of time. However, the significant of culture and cultural identity in the age of globalization remains a question that is yet to be answered. Some radicals hold that, culture will soon become a museum piece to which they are only ironic references possible, while others claim that, it looks absurd to talk about national cultures in this age of globalization. Walzer (1994), observes that,
Societies are necessarily particular because they have members and memories, members with memories not only of their own but also of their common life. Humanity, by contrast, has members, but no memory, and so it has no history and no culture, no customary practices, no familiar life-ways, no festivals, no shared understanding of social good (p25).
Then, another question emerges, does culture and cultural identity apply to other parts of the globe or is it only applied in China? Do people in other communities share the modern or post-modern Western perspective and anxieties about culture? Walzer only address the issue of shared understanding of the social good but does not address the shared understanding of art and or aesthetics (Witzell & Lee. 1990).
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At the begging of 1990s, there was an assertive floods of studies related to Chinese culture including arts, aesthetics, and ethics. These new trend was triggered by the changes in western thoughts and postmodernism. Scholars were determined to know the truth from the western perspective in order to save china and its cultural beliefs. Gsene (2002) notes that, “The main stream of Chinese modernity discourse has always been enchanted by the magical spell of the Western colonial discourse.”
He was one of the earliest Chinese post colonial critics, who worked with the western postcolonial thought to analyze Chinese modernity which has been influenced by the western enlightenment paradigm to recovering a Chinese subjectivity. This subjectivity as is now believed had been buried by a politically correct western modernity discourse and was almost becoming forgotten.
This research paper will analyze data from surveys that provide primary data on how the students perceive their fellow Chinese students. They give a clear picture of what is happening in schools especially where the Chinese population is low. Both surveys were delivered to students in the University of Southern California by e-mail. One of the survey was conducted among the non Chinese students from a sample size of 35 students (n=35).
This sample is not big because the Chinese constitute about 6% of the total population in the school. A big sample size would give biased results. The other survey was conducted among 21 Chinese students. The participants were requested to fill out questionnaires in which they gauged Chinese students beside some characteristics for instance, are they polite, hard working, and timid, among others. Participants were given five options, to strongly agree, agree, not sure, disagree, or strongly disagree.
According to the survey, the non- Chinese students had very few Chinese students and some did not have any. Other students either do not like associating with the Chinese or are afraid of them. When asked why they did not have many Chinese friends, some students said that, the Chinese often stick together and do not like mixing with other students.
Like seen earlier, the Chinese seem to be connected to a certain culture and do not like making friends with people who are not Chinese. However, the Chinese have been attributed to many positive stereotypes, for instance many students perceive the Chinese to be nice, respectful, calm and polite.
They are also perceived to be hardworking and aggressive and would not stop until they achieve what they want. 54% of the students agreed and 17% strongly agreed that the Chinese perform better in mathematics and science subjects than other students while. In class they are attentive to lectures and are only concerned about their grades and do not care what others students do or say about them as long as they meet their goals.
They are seen to be smart people although very timid and it becomes hard to understand what they really want. Many people are not very sure where Chinese are wealthy or if they are creative, some people believe that, their hard work and aggressive is related to their culture and not because of their creativity. Other stereotypes include terrible drivers, and talented dancers (Tan, et al. 2009).
When the Chinese were interviewed on what they think about the stereotypes held towards them, more than 50% agreed to them. For instances, some believe that, they are polite, shy, hard-working, and timid, while a big number are not sure whether the stereotypes are true or not. 38% of the Chinese students believe that, they are good at mathematics while 48% agreed to that fact that they are good at science subjects than other students.
Most of them agreed that, they like sticking together and have very few Americans friends and are not even willing to make friends with other races. They are tied to their culture which they have been brought up in and are not ready to let go.
One Chinese student responded that, “I have heard Americans say that Chinese can be little weird sometimes in terms of how they try to make friends with Americans or simply just to say hi, but since I am a Chinese, I understand that the reason for this weirdness is just cultural difference and sometimes Chinese do not know what is the best way to approach Americans even though they really want to”.
These stereotypes hinder the Chinese when it comes to making friends with the Americans, most of them would prefer to have a Chinese as a roommate than have an American. Most of the Chinese students agreed that, the stereotypes held towards then affect their social relationship and that’s why they like sticking with other Chinese friends (McCunn, 1988).
They have developed a kind of hatred towards other students and do not like associating with them. However, most of the students are contented with their life in America and believe they are there for a reason; to introduce the Chinese culture, assist other students in class especially in science subjects, and to be leaders.
From the above analysis and literature review, it is clear that, even today people have many stereotypes towards the Chinese. They are perceived as polite and nice people although they are very reluctant when it comes to making friends who are not Chinese.
They are reserved and prefer to associate with other Chinese instead of other races. Scholars have been bothered with this situation and are carrying out researches to understand the source of these stereotypes. It is clear that, China can be considered as one of the countries that still respect its culture even in the midst of globalization (Zinzius, 2005).
It has managed to reap most of the benefits that come with globalization although it is not ready to detach itself from its culture. Its culture has evolved from generation to generation and it is instilled in children from a very early age. These children carry on with this culture even when out of their mother country. Most of the students that were interviewed at USC, observed that, the Chinese students like to stick together and do not like associating with other children.
They seem to be tied to something which the other students do not understand. However, these surveys only covered the stereotypes that are related to the education institutions. They did not cover some of the general stereotypes held towards the Chinese for instance; they are believed to be awful drivers. Also the number of Chinese students that were interviewed was a bit smaller than the non-Chinese and this can give biased results.
The surveys should also have included other people for instance teachers, or other employees so as to give a clearer picture. I would recommend that, further research should include as many people as possible from different sectors so as to avoid biased results. It should also seek to understand some aspects of the Chinese culture which make the Chinese to stick together.
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McCunn, R. L. (1988). Chinese Americans: A personal view. School library journal, Vol. 34, Issue 10 p50
Nikolas, H. (2006). Chinese: American History through literature 1820-1870. Vol. 1 p220-224
Randall, P. (2007). China Modernizes: threat to the West, or model for the rest? New York: Oxford University Press
Tan, A. et al. (2009). Stereotypes of African American and media use among Chinese high school students. Howard journal of communications, Vol. 20 Issue 3, p 260-275
Walkey, F. H. (2010). An examination of stereotypes of Chinese and Europeans held by some New Zealand Secondary schools pupils. Ritacchi-Ying Chung, University of California, Los Angeles.
Walzer, M. (1994). Thick and Thin. Moral argument at home and abroad, Notre DAME, Ind/London,
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