Rec’d Read: “The Asian Complex – Or Why We Fear Iran More Than North Korea”

I’ve written a lot here about negative stereotypes about Asian men and how they may affect why fewer Western women seem interested in dating Asians. That’s why I was thrilled when, months ago, Kaitlin Solimine (a gifted writer whose work is also included in Unsavory Elements — many have considered her essay one of the standouts of the anthology) told me she was working on a topic about US-Asia military politics and how it might relate to the “Asian Mystique” as described in Sheridan Prasso’s book of the same name (a book I quoted from a number of times, including in my most popular post to date on the rarity of couples of Western women and Chinese men).

Just last week, she unveiled her post on HIPPOReads, a smart blog with a literary bent — and it’s definitely worth a read.

She covers the ideas of how Asian men are stereotyped — even pointing to PSY as an example — and also goes on to pose some questions that have crossed my mind:

How do such stereotypes impact foreign policy and furthermore, what is the lasting impact of those stereotypes? In this study on school adjustment of Asian-American children, for example, the idea of being a “model minority” can actually have harmful impacts on school-aged children. And with the Asian population said to grow from 5 percent to 9 percent of the U.S. population by 2050 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008), the ways in which stereotypes are perpetuated will have long-reaching consequences.

Equally important is the relationship between stereotypes and fear—Professor Petra Hesse argues in this Center for Media Literacy post that by stereotyping enemies it’s easier to morally justify violence against them.

Let me add to that a more personal question — how might these stereotypes affect a cross-cultural marriage or relationship like mine? While I didn’t see John through a harmful and distorted lens, I’ve come to learn over time that many others do, and that resulting prejudice has resulted in severe wrongdoing towards my husband. It echoes what Kaitlin referred to as “the long-reaching consequences” on a personal level. Again, I can’t share details, but I can tell you I’m hard at work on a paper (which may potentially morph into an academic publication and/or workshop, with the support of a local professor interested in issues of modern racism and prejudice) that might start a new conversation.

I’d love for you to read Kaitlin’s article, comment on it and let her know what you think. And if you like it, share it.

(Thanks to Kaitlin for crediting me on the post!)

18 Replies to “Rec’d Read: “The Asian Complex – Or Why We Fear Iran More Than North Korea””

  1. I think there’s this type of stereotype is because whites have a difficult time defeating Asians during wars, with the exception of Japan of course. Yes, China was semi colonized etc. but once they reunified under the Communists, they were formidable and deflected Americans from encroaching into China and North Korea. The fact that Americans were able to make most of the world submit to it, except China, North Korea and Russia is probably something that most Americans cannot stand. Let us not forget that the world was “shocked” that the Japanese defeated the Russians in 1905, a non-white people defeating white people. The Chinese basically defeated the Americans in 1953 along with North Korea. Some American hawks would rationalize that the Americans didn’t really lose, but it was a standstill. However, the goal was to destroy the North Korean government and encroach upon China, which the Americans were not able to succeed. At this point, the American government is spending in the hundreds of billions of dollars, maybe into the trillions to basically encroach upon China, and it is simply failing.

    What I am saying here is that the feminization of Asian men is more of Western rationalizing than anything else. If you were defeated, the most natural reaction is to try to dehumanize the opponent which is really what American foreign policy is all about. Anyways, just my 2 cents.

  2. There’s one great counter example to her idea: China. China is viewed as a threat, militarily, economically and everything in between and has been so for more than a hundred years. It’s at the heart of yellowperil.

  3. I’m having a hard time believing that Western attitude and mockery of North Korea have anything to do with how West views Asian man.

    My boyfriend is South Korean and they have the same attitude towards the North: Dog that barks but doesn’t bite. Iran has the more silent brooding type of politics which are undoubtedly more scary.

    And a quick looks at those countries GDP shows exactly why we are afraid of one but not the other. North Korea: $506 per capita, and Iran: $7,211.

    It angers me beyond belief when someone thinks my boyfriend is cute little harmless guy just because he is Asian, but I just don’t think it’s connect to how we feel when someone points their weapons at us.

  4. @Oegukeen

    If you really want to know how the Americans did in the Korean War, pick up the book Kissinger on China. There is a whole chapter dedicated to the Korean War. Now, Kissinger never blatantly says that China had defeated the Americans whole handedly. However, there was a line that was quite intriguing. It basically said that the Korean War had put China in the world stage and someone to be feared. So much so in fact, that it had altered American strategies in Vietnam not to proceed farther north than it had to. Now, even though Kissinger does not say that the Americans lost, the fact that China was to be feared because of the Korean War basically means that the Americans did not do so well. And let’s face it, I believe that Kissinger carries a little more information than Edward Snowden. LOL…To this very day, China and North Korea are the only 2 non-white countries that the Americans continually bark at. The other of course is Russia, all 3 of them are not under US.

    BTW, North Korea is not as vilified in China and Russia as some of the other US vassal states. It appears that the US is still licking its wounds from the Korean War. And of course all the wars that followed. Have you noticed that Americans greatest defeats were to Asians? i.e. Korean War and Vietnam War?

    By the way, with respect to South Korea, South Korea is basically a vassal state of the United States, a good little boy from the view point of the United States. Of course, the United States never publicly say this, because this would probably evoke a very unpleasant reaction from South Korea. Notice that there is very little harsh words against South Korea, other than looking at your boyfriend as a harmless fellow. But yes, I suspect that this feminization of Asian men is due to the fact that Asian men are quite masculine because of the Americans were embarrassed by them. I would imagine that if you won in a fight, you probably are on the masculine side. It is the media feminizing them to help American foreign policy, or most likely, rationalize.

  5. My housekeeper is an attractive blonde in her 20s. She is only dating black guys. Most of her black boyfriends are free loaders on her. Most of them never finished high school. Yet, she found them sexy and appealing. But she never finished high school herself.

    But she is not attracted to intelligent black guys from my social circle. She thinks they are too `nerdy’ or “lack of character”

    What does this anecdote tell you? Media might have some negative impact on some personal choice. But at end, it is personal chemistry. What is really “Chemistry”? It is compatible intelligence between the couples. Gheto or trailer park girls rarely find educated man attractive. They like those thugs or so called alpha-boys who compete on superficial issue (road rage, tough talk, bullying) or in your face low level competition yet missing the real deals which can determind your status in society.

    It take ones to know one. If bimbos do not find you attractive, it actually a good sign. It is no surprising that most white women with Asian husbands/boyfriends are highly intelligent type. My housekeeper might look attractive. But once you know how she thinks and behaves, you would rather stay away from her sexually (she loaded with all kind STDs).

  6. I look nice and act nice but I’m not harmless. I constantly have to control my rage with exercise etc.

    China helped North Vietnam a lot with food, bullets, and weapons ;however, “united” Vietnam betrayed China during 1978-79. Without China’s help and the Soviet Union, N. Vietnam would have lost the war. Vietnam couldn’t build a car.. How could they win the war?

    It’s so funny that westerners view Asian men as feminine but lost war to a bunch of sissy Asian men? ” masculine, muscular, tall ,strong ” white men were defeated by weak, feminine Asian men?

  7. @bruce

    That’s precisely the point. If you lose a war, the next best thing is to rationalize your way out of it. Think of the USA situation. You got all those cool weapons and planes, ergo you must be stronger. But when you confront someone who simply has better strategy and lose, then you go all up and arms over it. You tend to rationalize. To this very day USA is still bitter over the Korean War. They wouldn’t leave the army base because if they leave then it is official, they lost the war. As I said, check out kissinger’s book “on china.” While he doesn’t blatantly say the us lost the war, the fact that he said it made china someone to be feared and put them on the world stage (the Korean War) and altered American strategy in Vietnam because of the Korean War implies that the Americans did not do so well. So all this feminiZing of Asian men is bitterness from the Korean War. Also to some extent, the Vietnam war.

  8. @Psy
    It is amazing that history repeats itself again and again. You should check this book.
    Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China’s First Great Victory over the West
    This is about how Chinese captured Taiwan from Dutch. Again superior strategy defeated superior war technology. Chinese military traditionally believed that IQ won the war not weapons. Chinese soldiers in steel armors looked like Ancient Roman to Dutch musketeers. This book is really fun to read with sources from both China and Western world. In this war, German defectors helped a lot. They called Koxiga `my king’.

    If Koxinga did not die young, the conquering journey would continue on to other European colonies from Philippine to Malaysia since German defectors made threats to Dutch in southeast Asia. Koxinga already demanded Spanish surrender in Philippine. World today might look quite different if he did not die young.

  9. @AG

    Interesting perspective. I think Westerners have always had a difficult time beating Asians down throughout the centuries. It’s only recently where they had some moderate success with Japan. Maybe it’s because Japan followed Westerners ideas too much and that’s why they lost! But anyways, when you look at history, Asia has always had the upper hand against the West, the West had some brief success, and the tide already tipped in the last few years. Now the West is screaming bloody murder because they lost, or know they’re going to lose.

  10. Vietnam was colonized by France for over 80 to 90 yrs. During 1950’s , the French army was defeated by the Vietcong and pushed to the South of Vietnam. After that the French retreated so the U.S took over the war 1960’s to 1972. The U.S army was not used to fighting in the jungle.

    China will never invade another country because it has its own problems internally. When a country is not stabled politically, it won’t cause problems with other countries. Right now China is using economics as an equalizer. China is not interested in wars , it’s interested in wealth ,money and status. China can sacrifice 600 millions men and women during a future war. During WW2 was different for China because Chinese people didn’t have guns to fight against the Japanese. Freaking all guns were confiscated by the corrupted Chinese gov’t. China was not politically strong that time. Why do you think that all rich chinese are sending their kids and money to oversea within this decade? From yr 2011 to 2012, $600 billions were leaving China hint hint. Don’t think about buying real estate in “hot” los Angeles areas. Mainland Chinese will out bid you by $100K-$600K CASH. I won’t say too much here on how to change China’s system on every level. If you can get rid of corruptions in China, I think all countries will fear China 1000 % . Why? because China will be richer, cleaner , well respected and more powerful = more influence in this world.

  11. @Bruce

    Some of your rhetoric echoes American propaganda. Not all of it of course. It’s okay. We have all been tricked by it. It’s the best in the world. Even Nazi Germany was impressed at how the American government employs propaganda and borrowed some of its techniques. In any event, you should check out these 2 books. One is of course, Kissinger on China. Let’s just say that Kissinger has more information than Edward Snowden. And check out “When China Rules the World,” By Martin Jacques. He’s a professor of history from the London School of Economics. Some of the figures you mentioned doesn’t exactly match with what these scholars are saying. If you continue to echo that rhetoric, you will be forever trapped in the loop that the American government tries to propagate. Hint: Asian men are feminine, supposedly that is.

  12. ‘I think Westerners have always had a difficult time beating Asians down throughout the centuries. It’s only recently where they had some moderate success with Japan’.

    No. You must have not heard about the Opium War.

    Martin Jacques, he has some interesting views about China but I can’t say he’s accurate about China either. He comes off as more of a Sinophile. It’s ironic we need to read about China from books written by Westerners and think that it’s the truth.

  13. @dre

    I have heard of the opium wars. Don’t worry. This probably factored in on why westerners are so bitter about china and tries to dehumanized them. They are supposed to be easy to defeat from here on out. After 1949, USA believed to be top of the world with all their fancy weapons. They bombed Japan to smithereens and Japan wreaked havoc all over china. Ergo, china should be easily defeated during the Korean War. Didn’t quite happen that way. Imagine a big bully with all the perceived strength in the world all of a sudden got defeated by a nobody. You’d be pretty upset too if you we’re that bully.

    I have my own reasons, and it should be quite obvious to everyone else who follows world affairs as to why the west is more fearful of Iran. But I am typing on an iPhone Nd I’ll leave it here.

  14. @Dre

    Even during Opium war, Qing army did not lost all battle. In some the battles, English were defeated and suffered huge loss. If Qing losing like those central Americans, China would have been just like another mexico or Phillipine. At end, English were willing to sit down at negociation table with Qing government because English themself were not sure to have complete victory. Only benefit of Opium war for English was tiny island of Hong Kong where English Opium dealers did not have to obey Chinese laws.

    Yes, Westerners like to exagerate their might and strength. East Asians like to be humble and self-critisize their own weakness. The distorted history made Opium war like total lost for China.

  15. If you guys read some of French and English explorers books (1800s) in South East Asia, you will have some ideas how China was like during Opium war time.
    Some Chinese rebels escaped to outheast Asia from Qing Gov. When French colonial power tried to wipe them out with full confidence of repeating Conquistadors victory over Inca, the results were opposite. The French force were totally slaughtered and wiped out at Chinese rebel camps. These Chinese rebels actually became effective barrier to prevent French northward expansion.
    When French explorers encountered Chinese villages, they were really impressed by the high productivity and wealth which were quite comparable to European’s

  16. @Psy
    I bought those books in Phnom Penh when was visiting Cambodia in 2005. Unfortunately I no longer have those books and do not remember the titles or authors.

    These books are really collections of many French and English explorers travel diaries in 1800s. These diaries were not very politically correct. The description regarding Southeast Asian is almost like subhuman beings. They constantly described inferiority of natives compared to Chinese in the region.

    I also read the book “lost colony”. Dutch colonists also encouraged Chinese immigration to Taiwan to replace the native people by claiming: “Chinese are only bees that produce honey” Only highly productive people are taxible, which contribute to the rulers (Dutch East India company) wealth.

    Chinese culture power is due to such high productivity. China repeatedly assimilated both conquors and conquered. Some of barbarian conquors themself even force their own people assimilation into Chinese culture by banning their own languages and dressing (e.g Northen dynasties). If your own people can not contribute your wealth, why bother keeping them around? You need to keep the bees that produce honey. So Chinese history is that of repeated domestication (or civilization or assimilation) of wild barbarian into Chinese way of living.

    Mongol conquest of China was similar. They stopped genocide of conquered Chinese cities soon after realizing Chinese productivity. They only killed non-productive, non-taxible people.

    At end, Chinese history is the survival of most productive (or fittest to civilization).

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