Chinese media must dispel Asian stereotypes

By Li Jun An Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/3 20:08:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

China has used its market clout and finances to build soft power through entertainment. Yet, many degrading racist stereotypes of Chinese people are still prevalent in China.

Although it seems that China doesn't care about the derogatory representation of its culture, a new law restricting harmful portrayals in films says otherwise. But why does China continue to allow humiliating anti-Chinese imagery to be shown in films such as The Great Wall, Forbidden Kingdom and Skiptrace?

The reason is that most Chinese people lack racial awareness - they do not fully grasp what is and what isn't racist imagery. In addition, they do not realize that all anti-Asian imagery harms the Chinese people because most foreigners, especially Westerners, think all Asians are the same.

In movies, white men are often portrayed as the perfect companion for all women while men of other races are smeared with stereotypes. Skewed representations of Asians encouraged racism in US society and later on, in the international film industry. China must understand that images in the media become perceived as reality. Therefore, China, not the West, must control these images.

Western media have constructed their own racial character traits. White men are associated with leadership, power, wealth, attractiveness, athleticism and so on. Chinese men are associated with negative characteristics such as small, strange, awkward, weak and sneaky.

With the repetition of these images being shown, they become ingrained as "common sense." Thus, people are being mentally enslaved by racist stereotypes all day and every day.

The clearest example is the sharp contrast between the Asians living in the West and whites living in China. In Anglo-American nations, there is unwarranted hostility against well-off, educated, productive, and law-abiding Chinese residents. In sharp contrast, there is undeserved white privilege enjoyed by relatively unskilled white immigrants in China such as ESL teachers, many of whom treat Chinese people with contempt.

Some examples of racist images and the harm inflicted upon Chinese people include decades of "Yellow Peril" roles, which depict China and Chinese people as a danger to the Western World, inform the belief that Chinese are "naturally untrustworthy;" the endless stream of sexually repulsive Asian men (effeminate, misogynistic, weak, goofy) contrasted against Asian women paired with white men creates so-called romantic preferences; the racial myths that glorify white masculinity and denigrate Asian masculinity can dissuade Asian American women, and women of all racial groups, from regarding Asian American men as desirable romantic partners; and images of submissive Asian women attract white sex predators, racists, and misogynists who see them as easy victims.

Most of the time, Asian women are rendered hyperfeminine: passive, weak, quiet, excessively submissive, slavishly dutiful, sexually exotic, and available for white men. Images of Asian women like these also make them especially vulnerable to mistreatment from men who view them as easy targets.

Almost all forms of anti-Chinese hatred were born and nurtured in mainstream Western media and then spread globally.

Some examples of anti-Chinese racism are misunderstood by Chinese people as "harmless fun" including when promoting Chinese women with white men, you are promoting your own humiliation and subjugation - not "harmony" or "cross cultural understanding;" when showing white men "saving" China or "saving" a Chinese woman, you are communicating white male dominance and subordination of Chinese people; and when displaying Chinese men as repulsive clowns or desexualized old wise men, you are emasculating Chinese men and socially engineering people to disrespect Chinese men as not masculine men, lovers, or leaders.

Will the world embrace the Chinese influence if China's own media glorifies whites in savior roles leading Chinese subordinates as seen in The Great Wall? Will Chinese media fill its people with well-deserved racial pride or continue perpetuating a misplaced sense of inferiority?

China must recognize anti-Chinese and anti-Asian racism in the media and then, most importantly, use its laws to preserve Chinese dignity, honor, and safety. Failure to master this means failure to master soft power.

The author is a writer associated with Kulture Media, a meida watchdog for Asian Americans.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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