By Alec Ash
The Anthill occasionally loans its soul to the devil and does listicles. So far we’ve done China books and China blogs. Now we turn our eye to that richest of terrains – bad articles about China – in the form of a top ten hall of infamy.
These are mostly bad articles of the harmless variety – i.e. fresh off the boat and clueless, or smarmy and self-aggrandising, rather than nasty propaganda or misleadingly ignorant journalism – although there’s also some casual racism and no. 6 is just horrible.
Here’s the list, do add to it in comments!
The original sin that inspired this list. MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews comes to China for the first time, with wife. Is amazed that the cities are really big and have McDonald’s. Calls Hangzhou a “resort town”. Feels need to share his insights with the world.
Sampler: “The Chinese love it … Their notions of style are European and continental, just like us.”
This guy made it a whole 10 months in China, and delivers a classic variation on the Why I’m Leaving China theme. Begins with warning about generalisations, proceeds with litany of generalisations, ends with “old proverb” that applies to “everyone in China”.
Sampler: “The Chinese have their own system of hygiene, and they consider many of the things we Westerners do to be disgusting.”
Nikki Aaron calls herself “beautiful, smart, successful and hilarious” by the second sentence, then wonders why she hasn’t found Mr Right. Congratulates herself on daring approach of dating Chinese men in China, then calls them effeminate and mollycoddled.
Sampler: “I also understand what really makes Chinese people tick.”
He’s “a shy little man”, “spoilt”, “traditional”, “stingy”, “racially insecure” (illustrated for some reason by an Asian man spinning around a tree) – oh wait, and he’s also “a kungfu master”. Thank God he can’t understand English either, or he might read his wife’s post.
Sampler: “So, you see, he actually is the perfect Chinese stereotypical man.”
For gender balance we’d now be remiss not to include something by a creepy white man with yellow fever. Here, Isham Cook visits various “full body” massage parlours in Beijing and Bangkok, then asks to massage the girls. Beaut of a NSFW image up top, you can’t unsee that.
Sampler: “I also have a vaginal inflammation.” “A yeast infection?” “Yeah.”
Sampler: “For those who want the authentic sinful Chinese experience, the ultimate late night debauchery Chinese style has to be the KTV bar.”
“Professional educator” Michael serves the people by going to English corner on Sundays. His story “has been documented in more than 40 television broadcasts”. It’s such crap there’s even the disclaimer, “Opinions of the writer in this blog don’t represent those of China Daily.”
Sampler: “I came here to serve people with the talents, experience and knowledge that I’ve gained in over 5 decades of living.”
We’re getting to the really good stuff now. Business Insider reporter in town on a visit goes out “to see the “real” China”. Has lunch, pays a lot for it, writes blog post. Contains the poetic photo caption “Beijing from the window of my cab”, which pretty much sums it up.
Sampler: “I didn’t know there was such a thing as Chinese sake. But there is, and it’s strong.”
2. Silver medal: Enough Laowai Living: It’s Time to Go Local in Shanghai
A classic in second place. White journalist in Shanghai decides to live like a Chinese. Eschews bakery for “unidentifiable things on sticks”, takes the bus (because no Chinese ever use taxis), fails, has weird internal monologue throughout. Goes to Hong Kong.
Sampler: “Yes that’s right, I’m a foreigner,” I think proudly. “And I’m taking the bus.”
1. Grand prize winner: Business Flight Across China Leaves Man Stranded
I can’t decide why I like this article so much. Maybe it’s the Dan Brown prose. Maybe it’s the presentation of Taiyuan as the heart of darkness (“literally 200 miles south of the Mongolian border”). No, I think it’s just the whiny douchebag who booked the wrong flight. (Hat tip: Dorian Cavé)
Sampler: “Nelson said he faced danger and indignity, injuring his legs and back leaping out of the way of a reckless car and enduring the spit that some Chinese hurled his way.”
There you have it. It was hard whittling this down to just ten. There are so many to choose from in the “I Love China” genre of wide-eyed blog posts alone, Why I’m Leaving China is the gift that keeps giving, and then of course there’s Thomas Friedman. If you have any more gems to recommend, please do put the link in the comments below! And to preempt the haters, yes, I guess it’s kind of smug to name and shame these articles. I don’t mean any personal offence to the writers, it’s just a bit of fun.