And in (additional) honor of the Giants' World Series win...

Paul Frank paulfrank at POST.HARVARD.EDU
Thu Nov 4 17:31:34 UTC 2010

I ought to learn to shut up. Having spent much of my adult life
reading and thinking about Western, and particularly American,
attitudes toward the Chinese people and Chinese culture, I would say
that American attitudes towards the Chinese haven't been as racist as
they are now in many decades. In the 1930s, a great many Americans had
a very positive (albeit in many respects ignorantly paternalistic)
attitude toward China and the Chinese. Pearl S. Buck, a rather
mediocre writer from a literary point of view, won the Pulitzer in
1931 and the Nobel in 1938 mainly because she loved China and the
Chinese. Henry Luce, the publisher of Time Magazine, had a very soft
spot in his heart for China and the Chinese (although he knew little
about the place) and devoted a great many pages in his rag to positive
reporting on China and the Chinese, particularly when contrasted with
Japan and the Japanese.

Today, on the other hand, Yellow Peril is alive and well in the
American psyche and in American political (or populist, if you will)
discourse. Check out these ads:

We are going to see a lot more of this nonsense in the coming years.

(As an aside, some 30 years ago, when I first read the Qianlong
emperor's letter to George III, written in the summer of 1793, in
which he wrote "As your Ambassador can see for himself, we possess all
things. I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no
use for your country's manufactures. This then is my answer to your
request to appoint a representative at my Court, a request contrary to
our dynastic usage, which would only result in inconvenience to
yourself..." [],
I read the letter more than a little condescendingly. What I didn't
realize 30 years ago was that in 1793, China was by far the richest
country in the world, in fact the center of the world economy, Chinese
literacy rates were much higher than Europe's, and China had published
more books over the previous 1000 years, to say nothing of the
previous 2000, than the rest of the world put together.)

Neighbours, my daily soap, is starting, so I won't even reread these
ramblings before hitting the send button...


Paul Frank
Chinese, German, French, Italian > English
Espace de l'Europe 16
Neuch√Ętel, Switzerland
paulfrank at
paulfrank at

The American Dialect Society -

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