China Perspective

Americans creative but arrogant, say Chinese

By Cui Jia (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-01-17 09:35
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BEIJING - Lu Xinyu has been soaking up American culture all his life: his favorite music is hip-hop, he is an avid NBA fan, he regularly eats at McDonald's and his "look" is baggy pants and hooded tops.

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Since returning to Beijing in 2009 from studying in the United States, he even answers calls to his cell phone with "What's up?" instead of the usual Chinese greeting, "Wei".

"I think Americans are confident," said the 26-year-old animation designer, who spent two years living in California. "They are not afraid of challenges. They are extremely creative, too. Look at the movie Avatar. Only Americans could create such a thing. We Chinese have a lot to learn."

According to a survey entitled "The US in the Eyes on Chinese", 20 percent of the respondents who had never visited the US said the first word they thought of to describe Americans was "independent". For those who had visited the US, the most common word was "confident".

Other words and phrases that came to mind included "creative", "humorous" and "always trying hard".

Lu said that, before he went to the US in 2007, his main resources for learning about the US were Hollywood movies and hit television shows like Friends, Crime Scene Investigation and The Simpsons.

Once in California, however, he noticed "there is little information in the US media about China, and even when there is it's often negative and not objective".

When asked what Chinese like least about Americans, the vast majority of respondents to the joint poll answered "arrogance". Some said they believed Americans are "less humane" and "lack attention to detail".

"I think arrogance is extreme confidence. It's hard to judge sometimes," said Lu. "Also, Americans really need to deal with their weight issues."

As heads of state for the US, the impressions left by presidents have also helped shape Chinese feelings about Americans.

The survey found that Bill Clinton is the most recognizable US president, followed by Abraham Lincoln, who led the country during the American Civil War, and Richard Nixon, whose visit to China in 1972 helped establish diplomatic relations between the two nations.

Nixon is the most recognized president for those aged 51 and above, according to the poll.

"I like Clinton the most because he was the first president to make Xi'an the first stop on his state visit in 1998," said Xu Weilun, 26, who hails from the Shaanxi provincial capital. "I can still remember how exciting it was for everyone."

Although Barack Obama, the 44th US president, only ranked seventh in general, he was the No 1 choice for many respondents under 30 years old. Roughly one-third of 125 students aged 16 to 17 at Beijing No 80 Middle School said that Obama, the country's first black president, gave them the best impression.

"Obama proves that no matter what your background is, as long as you try hard success will come," said 16-year-old student Zhang Yu.