US embassy's insincere, unofficial apology for comparing Chinese students to dogs fails to appease public critics
Published: May 09, 2021 11:16 PM
US Embassy in China  Photo: cnsphoto

US Embassy in China Photo: cnsphoto

The US embassy in Beijing apologized in response to a post comparing Chinese students visiting the US with dogs, a Hong Kong-based media reported on Thursday. However, Chinese netizens refused to accept the apology for being insincere and unofficial, saying that the US embassy should behave and offer an open apology. 

The controversial post was published on Wednesday by the embassy's visa office on Sina Weibo. The post, published before the announcement of the reopening of visa applications said that "as spring blossoms, are you the same as the puppy, eager to go out and play?" 

The post shows a video of a dog struggling to jump over a fence from a tiny balcony and trying to get out, which soon ignited the anger of Chinese netizens as many feel the US embassy compared Chinese students with dogs. 

In the Chinese context, comparing people with dogs is insulting. A large number of Chinese netizens expressed their anger at the post with some even accusing it of "blatant racism."

Some netizens pointed out that there are cultural differences between China and the US, and that in American culture, comparing a human being to a dog is not insulting. However, many more pointed out that they should be aware of cultural differences as diplomatic representatives.

Having backfired, the post was silently removed from the account's homepage a few hours later but an open apology, or even an explanation, never arrived. 

The embassy said the post was meant to be lighthearted and humorous but it was taken down immediately when they saw it had not been received in that spirit, Hong Kong-based media outlet, South China Morning Post (SCMP), reported on Thursday.

"We have the utmost respect for all Chinese people, certainly including Chinese students. We apologize if anyone was offended. That was certainly not our intention," a spokesperson from the embassy said according to the SCMP. 

But Chinese netizens were not satisfied with the apology and demanded that the US embassy publicly provide an explanation and an apology on Sina Weibo, rather than responding only to media outside the Chinese mainland.

"Knowing that you have done something wrong but not daring to formally and publicly apologize, and only daring to secretly respond to some of the media, this is not the attitude of admitting wrongdoing," one netizen wrote on Sina Weibo. 

"Take less of the so-called light-hearted humor to excuse for the US' arrogance and arbitrariness, and even less of the cultural differences," another netizen wrote.

The mistake made by the US embassy is probably just a low-level gaffe caused by negligence but it is the American arrogance towards China and its lack of understanding of the country that is worthy of caution, Shen Yi, professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

"Throughout the entire process of conceiving, writing and finally sending out the post, none of the embassy's diplomats pointed out the negative impact the words and video might cause," Shen said. "That's hard to understand from the US embassy which claims to know China."

In the current diplomatic situation between China and the US, there is a great need for mutual understanding; yet it is evident through this incident that the people working at the US Embassy in Beijing do not even understand Chinese culture, Shen noted.

"So how many people who are only pretending to understand China are conveying China's voice to the US and how many US decisions on China are influenced by this distorted information?" Shen said, pointing out that the issue is a real cause for reflection.