By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

What annoys Chinese students

I recently had my once-a-quarter visit from a group – about 50 or so this time – of Chinese college students visiting the U.S. on a sort of mixed learning and tourism adventure. Since they (or more likely, their parents) pay for this trip, this is a sampler of students from comfortable homes. Nonetheless, it is really interesting to hear what is on their minds. Over half of them are visiting the U.S. for the first time.

Two questions I asked the students gave some insight on what kinds of things – on a relative scale – annoy Chinese students. I asked them how annoyed they were that Facebook was blocked in China, giving them the alternatives "very annoyed," "somewhat annoyed," "doesn't bother me," or "support the government's policy." On this question, about half the students said they were "very annoyed," and about one-quarter each said they were "somewhat annoyed" or that it didn't bother them. (One student raised his hand in support of the government's policy.) Those were numbers that I think most Americans would regard as good news: Young Chinese are not happy about restrictions on freedom the government imposes.

But I also asked them how annoyed they were by the recent U.S. government decision to retrofit the F-16 airplanes Taiwan uses to defend itself with additional equipment. (The decision was a compromise between China's opposition to any sales and Taiwan's wish to buy the latest generation of the F-16s.) Here, most Americans would be less happy with the responses. A larger group – probably closer to 60 percent or even two-thirds – said they were "very annoyed" by what the U.S. had done. And a smaller group – I would estimate about 15 percent – said it didn't bother them. None said they supported the U.S. government decision. Furthermore, when I asked them whether the Chinese government should remove the missiles pointed at Taiwan, only about a quarter said it should. So, as sometimes reported in the U.S. media, nationalism among Chinese students, even ones coming to visit the U.S., is high as well.

I asked the students a question I always ask them – whether they think the US government is on the whole friendly or unfriendly to China, and whether the Chinese government on the whole was friendly or unfriendly to the U.S. As always, students were inclined to think the U.S. was unfriendly toward China, but China was friendly toward the U.S. This time I asked them a new question as well – whether they thought that overall relations between the U.S. and China were relatively good or relatively bad. Interestingly, more students thought the relationship was on the whole good than who thought it was on the whole bad. I then asked them their prediction about what things would be like in 10 years. Somewhat to my surprise, the votes were basically identical: Students didn't think that the relationship would get either better or worse.

Posted on Oct 04, 2011 at 7:27 PM

Reader Comments

Sat, Oct 22, 2011 Ouyang Xi'an

I think almost all results are the same as I anticipated. About the facebook, you are gonna be annoyed only if you had used it.Most Chinese in fact never have access to it;therefore, it's natural to feel Ok to block. I am quite interesting to know the reason why that person said "support the government's policy". I think you should ask him\her more about his\her real motivation.
For taiwai problem, it's somehow tricky. As I told you before, lots of Chinese people tend to be nationalists, which will assert right of the courntry for no reason. So for that matter, they tend to be firm to speech but hesitant to act in fact.
For China-American relationship, I have to say I am a little surprise but soon everything makes sense. The reason why we always feel western countrie are unfriendly to us mostly is,I think, due to the incitement of Chinese media and eduction. Good example is about Gaddafi. At the beginning of the rebellion, mainstream media even reported how good Gaddafi was and how greedy and evil the Westerners, especially towards U.S.It is very common, including when US "invaded" Iraq or afghanistan. It's still ideological misleading, as far as I consider.

Fri, Oct 21, 2011

Whether or not you had one student in the cohort agree with the PRC government regarding Facebook, the likelihood that you could rely on the answer to the question on arms sales foreign policy is virtually nil, unless you asked the question privately, which doesn't appear to be the case. Any of them saying they like the idea of the USA selling arms to the ROC could be charged with treason. Being lukewarm about it may be okay, but even blogging about it after the fact may get them in trouble.

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 Steve Kelman

Chun, I know that many in China believe the US media only wants to publish negative things about China. I don't think that is completely fair for the most-influential US media such as The New York Times. They publish a lot about China -- positive things, negative things, neutral things. You should look at what they write about China on their website wwww.nytimes.com. You should also note that many say the US media publishes mostly negative things about the US as well! :)

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 Chun Li

Perhaps, I didn't deliver my idea clearly. Sorry. I just want to say that before some Americans read the news about China, they may in advance think that must be the negative information criticizing Chinese government. That's so-called color-glasses in Chinese. Of course, I have to say most common American are friendly to China, or at least keep an impartial attitude. However, I don't think the press and some politicians want to broadcast the news that is beneficial to China. There are many reasons restricting them do so subjectively or objectively. By the way, I am also interested with Yuanjun's report. I wish his investigation would be comprehensive with scientific method.

Tue, Oct 11, 2011 Steve Kelman

Thanks for all these interesting comments from Chinese and Taiwanese. Chun,I was not so surpried at the attitude of Chinese students regarding Taiwan; indeed, the US media report that there is a lot of "nationalism" among young people in China, criticizing the government for being too accommodating to the US. Chun, what do you mean by "pre-set attitude or emotions"? Yuanjun, I look forward to hearing from you.

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