Culture Question:

How do most Americans think of China?

(posted: Apr 2010)

A student first asked me this question in an American Culture class I taught several years ago. Since then other students have asked it as well. I sent the question to many American friends, or people I know who live in the U.S., and some of them sent it to other friends of theirs. Some of the responses are below:

I would LOVE to visit China and see all the beautiful places there, and meet the interesting people there.
                                        E – Wisconsin – Midwest U.S.

I have always wanted to travel to China someday.  There are many places I'd like to see. China is a beautiful and vast country with an amazing cultural history.
                                        M – Eastern U.S.

My family and I visited China for several weeks in 1995 - Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

It was very interesting going to Chinese restaurants or just buying dim sum from street vendors. But I also had very good Italian food in Shanghai.
                                        b – Washington State – West

My parents (who are in their 70s) went to China twice to visit. They went to the Yellow River gorges, Beijing, the tombs with all the terra cotta soldiers, and some temples in the mountains with brilliant paintings of Buddhist guardian deities.

They loved it and made me want to go!
                                        K – Midwest U.S.

While most Americans know very little about China, many Americans see it as an up-and-coming economic power.  

In fact, businesses in America look at the markets in China (given the huge population) as having great potential.  

However, some in America use the fact that China is communist (and also specific actions that it has taken, such as restricting internet access and the one-child policy) to argue that the government is oppressing its people.
                                        s – Lived Across U.S., 4 Regions

Big. Austere. Totalitarian.
                                        g – U.S.

That's a hard one.  I had several Chinese housemates in college, and my dad spent a month in Chungking (after  being shot down by the Japanese in WWII), so I'm not typical.

Most people are worried about the impact of China upon the outside world.
Many places are either little known (Shanghai) or fraught with political issues (Tibet), and the impression is that travel isn't as free and easy as just buying a ticket.
                                        F – Boston – New England

Most Americans probably only think of China as a place for cheap goods.                                                         
                                        K – U.S.

Very big, very primitive, ancient culture, fantastic landscape, definitely lots of good places to visit. But very expensive.
                                        D – Minnesota – Midwest U.S.

Most Americans think of China as both a trading partner and a potential threat. Perhaps most Chinese view America the same way!
                                        D – Wisconsin – Midwest U.S.

Lots of history, huge cities like Hongkong, and Beijing, the Great Wall ... all the great technologies and it seems that anything you buy was made there
                                        C – Asian-Canadian living in Oklahoma

Most Americans think of China as a very big, very crowded and very exotic place. Almost all Americans think of the Great Wall, the Forbidden City in Beijing, and the terra cotta soldiers in Xian.

Also, most Americans love Chinese food.  We have very many Chinese food restaurants and we eat there often.
                                        K – Minnesota – Midwest U.S.

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Further Reading:

General (American) Attitudes Towards China

American Attitudes towards Chinese Americans and Asian Americans