Years ago, before I had finally met John (my husband), I recall spending an evening in one of Hangzhou’s many teahouses with my friend Xiao Yu, a male colleague I met in my company.
Xiao Yu always felt like a brother to me from the first day I entered that company. Maybe it was his near-flawless English, his easygoing smile that always seemed like an invitation to sit and chat, or his self-effacing personality. Whatever it was, he was the guy I felt like I could talk to about anything.
Well, as a young single woman in her twenties still new to dating in China – and still occasionally baffled by the way Chinese men behaved with me – I was desperate for a male perspective on it all. Or rather, a male perspective on one specific thing:
Would Chinese men really date a white Western woman like me?
After my recent bad luck, I was starting to believe this might be mission impossible. In the span of one month, a guy I hadn’t even been dating (but wanted to) rejected me by saying he could never marry a foreigner, while another fellow simply didn’t return my texts or phone me – even though every time I ran into him at the gym, he kept promising nights out that never came to be.
“Maybe I’ll never be welcomed with open arms by any guy in China,” I said to Xiao Yu with a sigh.
As usual, Xiao Yu served up one of his comforting smiles to ease my pain. “No, no, not at all! Of course many Chinese men would be proud to date you. Maybe their family would even be proud, that their son could understand foreigners. It’s just, well, you’re an American. You’re from one of the most powerful countries in the world. They just cannot believe you would ever want them.”
I cocked my head and raised an eyebrow at his surprising explanation. “Are you kidding me? They actually think a woman like me wouldn’t want them?”
He shrugged. “Some just cannot overcome their feeling of inferiority.”
I was stunned and had to take another sip of my tea to mull it all over. It sounded crazy to me. To think that some Chinese men thought I wouldn’t want to date them just because I’m an American woman!
If I had known about the interracial dating reality for Asian men the world over – including Chinese men – I wouldn’t have been surprised at all. (See my article in the Huffington Post on this titled “Why Won’t Western Women Date Chinese Men?”). But it would take me years before I learned the truth – and before I began to understand part of the reason why Chinese men might rather refuse a woman like me than face the possibility of being refused by a woman from, as Xiao Yu put it, “one of the most powerful countries in the world”.
Of course, I’m not the only one clued into this phenomenon in the interracial and international dating world in China, as my translation of a Xinhua News Story on Zhang Jiehai’s research on “Chinese men in the eyes of Western women” reminds me:
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.
As much as it pains me to read Zhang Jiehai’s translated words, I realize the truth in them. I’ve lived them through my own experiences in China. And while no Chinese man has ever admitted that they felt inferior before me and thus decided not to pursue me, I’m sure that’s exactly why some of them never did.
Since I’m now happily married to John, a native of the Hangzhou region (we just celebrated our 10th anniversary), those dating days are long behind me. But I have to wonder, what will it take before Chinese men no longer feel inferior before Westerners, including Western women? When will we finally meet each other as equals in the dating world in China?
What do you think?