This week on Ask the Yangxifu, I’m preempting the usual Q&A to share with you an article published a few weeks ago, in Chinese, discussing a China study about what Western women think of Chinese men — a topic on the minds of many readers.
No surprises here — especially if you’ve read or followed the comments on my post On the Rarity of Foreign Women and Chinese Boyfriends/Chinese Husbands. Still, it’s nice to see a more empirical take on something we have understood more intuitively, or through our own experiences.
My translation comes from the original article, first published on the Xinhua website.
In our daily lives, we are always on the stage. Average Chinese are already accustomed to seeing more and more golden haired, blue-eyed foreign faces on the streets. But even though we no longer stare at them, the eyes of these foreigners are now sizing up our every action.
But, while stars such as Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi have built an international image of Chinese femininity, Chinese men, however, don’t enjoy such a positive reputation in the eyes of Western women. Starting from March of last year, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Sociology Professor Dr. Zhang Jiehai guided his team to carry out a survey for a project titled “The Image of Chinese Men in the Eyes of Western Women.” The current research group introduced their final results to us.
The survey shows, according to Western women, the most praiseworthy strengths of Chinese men were categorized as “looking after one’s family,” “willing to spend money on women,” “relatively serious about relationships between men and women;” weaknesses included “not so gentlemanly,” “poor physique, not enough exercise,” “no personality, lacking unique opinions.” Additionally, almost every participant mentioned how many Chinese men have nasty habits such as “spitting anywhere,” “growing long nails to pick their ears and nose,” “not brushing their teeth well enough,” giving these women a first impression of Chinese men as being very dirty.
During an interview, Zhang Jiehai explained that this survey included a questionnaire and focus groups, with more than 100 Western women finishing the questionnaire and more than 20 women participating in the detailed focus group discussions. All of the participants were adult Caucasian women with experience living and working in China.
Positive: Chinese men are good family men
French participant A: I think Chinese men, especially Shanghai men, really care for their families, are really like a father, and really care about their wives. For example, one time, I was with a Chinese male colleague shopping at the supermarket. From his behavior at the supermarket, I couldn’t help but praise him like this: you’re definitely an outstanding husband! That’s because this male colleague, from the beginning to end, participated in every detail of the shopping, such as choosing fruit, choosing drinks etc. However, in France, going to the supermarket to shop is often only women’s work, and many women go shopping alone. Even if a man accompanies you, he would not be like Chinese men, helping you choose everything. Many French men don’t do housework at all, don’t wash dishes — even if they have free time on the weekend, they won’t help out around the house.
American participant: I think to discuss this question, first you need to understand the background. That is, China has never experienced a complete feminist movement like the West. However, Chinese men still automatically understand you need to respect women — open the door for women, carry their bags. Only when I return to the US do I realize how I’ve been spoiled by Chinese men.
Last year during National Week vacation, a Chinese male friend of mine took me out shopping and bought me 1,000 RMB worth of clothing. When I protested about it to him, he said “if I had a girlfriend, I would definitely not just buy a few things for her.” I’ve never encountered a Western man who is generous like this, so willing to spend so much money on me. Maybe there are Western men like this, but I haven’t been lucky enough to run into them.
Negative – Some Chinese men don’t pay attention at all to their appearance
American participant: Most Chinese men have some male chauvinist ideas. I often hear my Chinese male colleagues say something like “This matter was bungled? I knew early on it would be a mess — could a woman really do a good job?” In America, if someone dares to say something like this in the workplace, they could get sued. What’s interesting is, my Chinese female friends told us the way they handle male chauvinism in Chinese men is this — first they appease them, then they use sweet words to control them, all to get the men to do work.
French participant A: The impression that Chinese men, especially Shanghainese, give me is that they are really, really curious. Many times, I’ve realized that many of my Chinese male colleagues are actually very conceited, and have some male chauvinist ideas. You can feel they really don’t want to listen to the suggestions of their female colleagues.
German participant: Overall, only 8 to 9 percent of Chinese men are successful in pursuing Western woman (but the success rate for Western men in pursuing Chinese women is far higher compared to that). The reason is Chinese men are not confident. Who would like to be with an insecure man? Another manifestation of Chinese men and their lack of confidence is more indirect. Those men with Western girlfriends or wives will brag about them, as if these women were a BMW.
Also, apparently it seems that all Chinese men have the same opinions. How is this possible? Every person definitely has their own different opinions, but the Chinese men I know have the same opinions, as if they were all cast from the same mold. So I think they are not being truthful, or privately they have first agreed on what they should say to foreigners. Otherwise how could everyone’s thinking be exactly the same? We Western women appreciate out of the ordinary men such as Wong Kar Wai.
American participant: In different cultures, the meaning of manhood and womanhood is different. Of course, generally speaking (and this is really, really general), in the West, people believe that Asian women are more feminine, but Asian men are not masculine enough. However, I have found there are some (although not many) Chinese men who are very masculine.
German participant: I often notice that some Chinese men make me feel they are not so tidy — for example, their fingernails are too long, they spit anywhere. Once I asked my Chinese female colleagues why Chinese men grow their fingernails so long. They said it was to pick their nose or pick their ears — I just could not understand this. Additionally, there are some Chinese men who like to squat in public, and I really cannot tolerate this either. In my country, only children do this; adults should sit on the ground or stand up straight. If you squat in public, it makes me feel like this person has no backbone — how can a person’s backbone be so bent?
French participant B: Now there are many foreigners in Shanghai, but some Chinese men make me feel they’re not as clean as we are — their fingernails are long, they have an unkempt appearance, and they spit on the street. In Europe, spitting is seen as a nasty habit, while cleanliness is a very essential, very important part of our culture. Chinese men just really don’t stress being meticulous about their appearance. Their physique, if not too thin is often a little fat.
Discussion: uncovering the hidden sense of inferiority
Reporter: Your survey is extremely interesting. I want to ask you, how did you first come up with this question?
Zhang Jiehai: “Chinese men in the eyes of Western women” is one of my starting points in research. In some places, it is common for Chinese to have an attitude that Western is better. This leads to a sense of inferiority before Westerners. I chose to look at Chinese men according to Western women, because, in terms of confidence and self-respect, we have higher expectations for men than women. For many Chinese men, when faced with international criticism, there are two themes that arise — one is inferiority; the other is concealed inferiority. For example, you might say to a person that something about him is not so good; his first reaction is to jump up and attack you, but really, this reaction is caused by a sense of inferiority. He’s angry because something someone else said touched something he is sensitive about. So, to solve the “inferiority” problem, the most essential first step is for you to admit inferiority. We did this survey because we wanted to look at the international world, to see if Western women already realized the inferiority of Chinese men. If so, I will once again turn around and tell everyone, your inferiority is already known, you don’t need to hide it.
Reporter: I noticed there are some Western women who said Chinese men aren’t willing to look for foreign girlfriends. Is their insecurity the basis for this judgment?
Zhang Jiehai: I believe definitely there is some of that. This lack of confidence, on one hand, comes from the economic conditions. Most Chinese men commonly believe men should be wealthier and more hardworking than women. But Western women’s salaries may be higher than theirs, and they don’t want to be a “social climber.” On the other hand, I should say, Chinese men have a pretty strong sexual anxiety. He might tell himself that Western women have a casual lifestyle when it comes to dating and sex, or that they have higher sexual expectations than Chinese women. So he has to judge himself to determine if he can meet her expectations. To the contrary, Chinese women looking for Western men have none of these issues. One Western participant told us that, if a Chinese man wants to find a Western girlfriend, he must have a very open mind and be flexible, because this really is not something a Chinese man is good at.
Suggestion – On the image of Chinese men in Hollywood movies
American participant: Currently, the image of Chinese men around the world is not so good, and Hollywood should take some responsibility. There are no great Chinese men in Hollywood movies. These few years, the image of Chinese men has improved some, with the help of Chow Yun Fat. Especially, after the 2000 movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” came out, many people changed their opinion of Chinese men. So for this, you should thank Ang Lee. I’d like to give you a suggestion — find one of the world’s finest directors, then find an extremely gorgeous Chinese man with a great body, and a beautiful Western actress — and make a movie. The movie has to be good, of course. Then, distribute it around the world. I guarantee this would immediately change the image of Chinese men to something completely different.
Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China (or in Chinese culture)? Every Friday, I answer questions on my blog. Send me your question today.