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

Paul Frank paulfrank at POST.HARVARD.EDU
Fri Nov 5 05:19:22 UTC 2010

Hi David,

The Chinese do have pollution. They also have a dictatorial and
corrupt government. And most of them still live in poverty. But they
also have much else. Your reading of the Qianlong emperor's letter was
precisely my reading thirty years ago: its shortsightedness. And
shortsighted it was. But China then was a richer country than the UK
and its people were better off and more literate than Britons and
Frenchmen then. That's where that ignorance was coming from.


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

On Thu, Nov 4, 2010 at 10:13 PM, David A. Daniel <dad at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  "David A. Daniel" <dad at POKERWIZ.COM>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â Re: And in (additional) honor of the Giants' World Series win...
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I have, well, had - it's a long story - a little pamphlet that was issued to
> GI's in WWII with cultural tips on how to get along with our "Gallant
> Chinese Allies". Typical army/government stuff, but there it was. War ended,
> came Mao, Communists, Korea, and all of a sudden China was the feared enemy,
> and rightly so in my opinion: their rhetoric was indeed scary and without
> quarter there were a whole lot of them. But that, and attitudes from, say,
> the 50's to the 90's, and current attitudes have nothing to do with the
> traditional view of the Chinese stereotype as has been outlined here in many
> posts. That came from before. That came from, essentially, the hordes of
> railroad workers in the 19th century and their post-railroad-worker antics
> which we all know involved living in tents on the outskirts of town and
> running the opium den (and then moving to China Town and running the opium
> den in the back room of the laundry). I.e., as with 80% of what Americans
> think of history/the world it came from popular fiction and then, from
> Hollywood. So, I don't exactly know what one would call "current attitudes
> about the Chinese" and I don't know that their history is any more
> respectable than anyone else's. The letter from that Emperor fellow telling
> the Brits that China already had everything and didn't need them was just
> about as short sighted as anything can get. Like that 18th century guy who
> said we didn't need a patent office because everything under the Sun had
> been invented already. Yeah, well. So then the wily Emperor tells the Brits,
> not only do we not need/want anything from you, we don't really even want to
> know about you, so just go away. And 50 years or so later his neck is being
> firmly stepped on by British boots. He should have paid more attention to
> the guy who said "keep your enemies close". Who was that guy anyway, was he
> Chinese? So, yeah, yeah, the Chinese had printing 1,000 years before
> Guttenberg and steelmaking and compasses and gunpowder way back when, but
> now, whatta they got? Executives who adulterate baby milk to keep up their
> production numbers, more pollution than anyone can live with and,
> summarizing, a high concentration of all the evils of modern industrial
> capitalism. I will say it's pretty forward thinking to take your
> milk-adulterating (and plastics, and whatever else you got) executives and
> execute them. The US would have done well to execute a few score Wall Street
> execs, but that is another story. Pretty funny though, we of my age and
> older all grew up with our parents telling us to eat all our food because
> there were children starving in China, and now China exports food. Heh -
> maybe there is something to be said for being lean and hungry, like Cassius.
> And, I don't think the current emperors of China would be writing any
> letters saying "keep your technology". More likely sending spies to get
> more.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
> Jonathan Lighter
> Sent: Thursday, November 04, 2010 5:42 PM
> Subject: Re: And in (additional) honor of the Giants' World Series win...
> : Â  Â  Â Re: And in (additional) honor of the Giants' World Series win...
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---
> Attitudes toward China changed radically in the '30s when the Chinese were
> correctly seen as victims of the Japanese. On the right, Chiang Kai-shek
> became highly regarded for his resistance to the Communists. Â During the
> war, movies depicted the Chinese as determined allies against Japan. Â This
> was especially notable in  the fact-based (well, fact-inspired) _Thirty
> Seconds over Tokyo_ (1944). Â (Other enduring stereotypes I forgot to mentio=
> n
> was that most Chinese were superstitious and given to hysteria; since they
> were "yellow," they were also cowardly.)
> After the Communist victory in 1949 and the Chinese involvement in the
> Korean War, Red China became a feared adversary. They didn't have the Bomb,
> but they had a whole lot of supposedly angry people. Mao Zedong declared he
> wasn't afraid of nuclear weapons because the imperialists could kill
> 300,000,000 Chinese and he'd still have plenty left. Â Red Chinese
> rhetoric sounded even crazier than Soviet rhetoric ("imperialist jackals"
> and "running dogs [i.e., jackals] of Wall Street" were favorite phrases.)
> And hadn't the Chinese "persuaded" captured American pilots to confess to
> imaginary atrocities during the Korean War? Â (Answer: Yes.) Â There was loud
> saber-rattling against Taiwan for years. And then there was the Great Leap
> Forward.
> Nixon's visit to China was an astounding development, as was Carter's
> establishment of diplomatic recognition.
> At any rate, ISTM that fears of a Yellow Peril since the '40s have been
> based far more on geopolitical concerns, justified or not, than on race.
> JL
> On Thu, Nov 4, 2010 at 2:27 PM, Paul Frank <paulfrank at>wrot=
> e:
>> Subject: Â  Â  Â Re: And in (additional) honor of the Giants' World Series
>> win...
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------=
> ------
>> I should have reread what I wrote in a rush earlier (because my soap
>> was about to start). I now see several grammatical and stylistic
>> blunders. By way of an apology, and a lagniappe, I offer a  tentative
>> antedating of Yellow Peril, the first OED quotation of which is from
>> 1900:
>> "It does not follow that this will always be so, and there are those
>> who believe in the 'Yellow Peril,' or the possible danger to the world
>> at large if China were to wake up and make full use of her boundless
>> resources."
>> Â  Robert Mayo, A view of ancient geography and ancient history:
>> Accompanied with an atlas, 1813, p. 145. See Google Books,
>> Yellow Peril is a very important term that ought to be antedated.
>> China has just rolled out the world's fastest supercomputer (with
>> Chinese software, incidentally). The Yellow Peril meme (now I'm using
>> that clich=E9) is only just getting started.
>> Paul
>> On Thu, Nov 4, 2010 at 6:31 PM, Paul Frank <paulfrank at>
>> wrote:
>> > 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
>> >
>> > Paul Frank
>> > Translator
>> > Chinese, German, French, Italian > English
>> > Espace de l'Europe 16
>> > Neuch=E2tel, Switzerland
>> > paulfrank at
>> > paulfrank at
>> >
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -
> --=20
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list