Sorry, No Chinese (again)

One of our clients arranged a high level meeting with us and only our global CEO and head of Asia was invited. Like many multinational organisations operating in China, our global head is western, but our Asia head is actually Chinese and female. So as the two of them entered the meeting room at the client office, a young Chinese girl, I assume some kind of assistant, stopped my boss and said “sorry, you’re not invited to this meeting, just your boss”. I guess she thought our Asia head was simply our CEO’s assistant or something. Why? Well, because she is Chinese and could not possibly hold a senior post.

For me what’s interesting is that Chinese can be very proud and patriotic, for example, during the 2008 Olympic games, yet at the same time there is also some in-built programming that makes them think anyone who is western is naturally more intelligent and superior. I can’t really reconcile these two factors.

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49 Responses to Sorry, No Chinese (again)

  1. Andreas says:

    did she get the sack ?

  2. WoAi says:

    Well they are the client, so no.

  3. JohnG says:

    Did your boss at least clarify that she was the head of Asia and it might be relevant for her to attend the meeting?


  4. Andy Best says:

    Hey Woai

    I have come across this many many times in various situations and it’s easy to know why. It’s just because racism (or nationalism) doesn’t follow any kind of logic. If you try to follow through and apply that kind of thinking it’s just a big mess. It doesn’t go.

    They should used this to handle Griffin on the beeb too. Let him talk himself into ridicule.

    People all over the world believe that they are not racist because they don’t go out in the street and punch foreigners.


    Attributing ‘positive’ aspects to ‘races’ is also racism as it’s not true and feeds into the idea the people who look different on the outside have fundamentally different talents or social behaviour that is linked to that look.

    Wole Soyinka said it best, and I paraphrase perhaps, when he said it is just as sick to love the ‘negro’ as it is to hate him.

    The point is that there is no ‘negro’.

  5. jill says:

    the idiom for this is “chong yang mei wai”. dumb assistant

  6. Sue says:

    I wanted to comment, but its thanksgiving day for us in the usa and i think i had a little too much again. Damn, my bro in law makes a good turkey!

  7. Couldnt agree more, really don’t understand this.
    But I do know that a lot of the locals feels inferior to western people.

    Chinese have a Zi Bei Gan 自悲感
    which is sad, because Chinese people are awesome, they just need to learn a little bit more of common sense.

  8. T. says:

    @Andy Best – this is a common problem in the States, as Asian or Chinese, we have to deal with “the myth of the model minority,” where its assumed that all east asians are good at math, non-troublemakers, etc. etc.

    An excellent quote (cribbed from the wikipedia article) is this “”While superficially complimentary to Asian Americans, the real purpose and effect of this portrayal is to celebrate the status quo in race relations. First, by over-emphasizing Asian American success, it de-emphasizes the problems Asian Americans continue to face from racial discrimination in all areas of public and private life. Second, by misrepresenting Asian American success as proof that the US provides equal opportunities for those who conform and work hard, it excuses US society from careful scrutiny on issues of race in general, and on the persistence of racism against Asian Americans in particular.”

    Er, now we’ve gotten way off track. But then this will go back to my life sitations where sometimes I’ll get better or worse treatment depending on which language I choose to speak in certain places. I suppose it’s a good thing to realize when to go with Mandarin or English. (Or Cantonese – which is 100% of the time in Guangzhou)

  9. balticninja says:

    try being fucking ginger-

    the only minority in the world where its not considered discrimination to make a derogatory quip at us.


  10. Hopfrog says:

    I have thought about this paradox myself in the exact terms in which you describe it WoAi. China really is hurtling towards becoming an economic Superpower and I think incidents like this will happen less and less as time passes. Lets face it, 10 years ago were those two to walk into that office there would have been a very high probability that she was the western man’s assistant. A lot of that mentality still carries over, but change is coming so fast for China I think we will see this contradiction less and less.

    “there is also some in-built programming that makes them think anyone who is western is naturally more intelligent and superior.”. Its funny you should say that. In fact, there is that same built in programming among many here in the west who think that the Chinese are naturally more intelligent. Also, I have read many accounts where Chinese Nationals are bothered by an American stereotype that they think exists. They seem to think that Americans view them as lazy and uncultured. In fact, if you were to poll Americans randomly on the street and ask them for two terms in which to describe the Chinese, they would probably say “hard working and cultured”. Well, that and the obligatory “good at math”.

    I really agree with what Andy says about overemphasizing positives in a racially motivated way is equally racist, however, I do disagree that racism doesn’t follow any kind of logic. It would be nice to say we are all equal, but scientifically it just is not the case.

    An anomaly like Liu Xiang becomes a national hero because he in fact has defied logic and its nice for people to rally around someone like Liu and parade him around as an example that Asians can run and jump just as well as any other race on the planet, but on average this is just not the case. Likewise, I work in the casino business and have spent many years in the craps pit where mathematical ability is put to the test at a frenetic pace and I can say from personal experience, uh yeah, Asians on average, really are better at math than most other races. In fact, as cliche as it is, its all this diversity that plays a big part in America’s success on the global athletic field (if soccer, football, was popular here we would have won many a World Cup) and in bringing so many scientific advances to the world.

    For me the problem arises when people actually make judgements based on the law of averages. To judge a book by its cover is inherently racist or sexist, and in the case of WoAi’s incident, both. We may not all be created equal, but no one should be judged based on perception. I always assume a person doesn’t fit the mold until they have proven otherwise. Sadly, the majority of the world’s population has proven unable to do just that.

  11. Hopfrog says:

    Actually, I should clarify. You never mentioned the gender of your CEO. I just assumed based on the wording “Chinese AND female” that the other party must have been Western AND male. What a hypocrite!

  12. Swiss James says:

    baltic- you forgot about the Welsh, everyone’s always having a pop at the Welsh.

  13. T. says:

    Swiss James – don’t forget the bald.

  14. mandy says:

    i don’t think it’s because chinese people think foreigners are smarter which prompted the assistant to stop your boss. in fact, from my experience, most chinese people don’t think foreigners are very smart at all. i think the reason that the assistant thought your boss was not invited was…well, look around! most multinational companies /are/ headed by white people. in particular, white men. and this is not restricted to just china.

    sadly, i think if i were in that situation, my first impression would also be the same, that the asian girl is the assistant accompanying the white boss. however, i would actually confirm her position before denying her entrance.

    it’s not racism so much as stereotyping.

  15. Andy Best says:

    @ hopfrog

    Good comment, but.

    Scientifically, our look or ‘race’ does not affect our intellectual potential or social behaviour. Scientifically, we are one human race.

    If you took a complete group of people who look the same and put them in a society or established cultural group, you would find the usual spread of behaviours and aptitudes.

    Most of those older racist ideas come from hokey Victorian science created to back-up prevalent racist ideas of superiority. For example The Bell Curve. IE The IQ Test.

    Where James Watson quotes The Bell Curve in public his DNA discovering partner ran recent tests on heart medicines made for African-American males – and found it to be completely balls. Look it all up.

    They concluded that the higher rates of stress and tension in the pulmonary systems of African-American males had to be down to societal factors (no shit, Sherlock).

  16. Andy Best says:

    Cor blimey mate

    I decided to find that link about the Medeicine scandal, the article was on the Guardian, and got a shock.

    The medeicine in question was Bidil but when you try to search the article now it can’t be found. You can find comments on posts asking where the article went – and guess what, the drug still has FDA approval.

  17. IC says:

    Well, product of long civilization or large empire is people who have intense loyalty (patriotism or loyalty to the lord) and humbleness (self-hate or servility). Not surprise!. English people might share some of this. Yet, tribal people are very much self-centered and proud like germans who only recently become united people.

  18. chrisB says:

    No one ever seems to disrespect the Swiss.

  19. Kaiwen says:


    Gingers, unlike other groups, lack souls

  20. Sarah says:

    I agree with Mandy. Most Chinese people actually think foreigners are less smart than them. What happened is most likely stereotype. Even without the factor of race, many people when seeing a man and a woman walk into an office would probably assume the guy is the boss and the woman just an assistant. It’s a sad fact.

  21. Hopfrog says:

    @Andy, Good stuff.

    “Scientifically, our look or ‘race’ does not affect our intellectual potential or social behaviour. Scientifically, we are one human race.”

    I agree with that statement, not because I don’t think there are basic genetic differences in the human race, but because I think its been proven time and again that the intellectual and social “potential” humans can reach under the right circumstances is pretty much equal regardless of race. What defines intelligence? There are thousands of factors and abilities. I wouldn’t rule out that certain races are genetically better suited at certain tasks any more than I would rule out that certain races can swim faster or jump higher based on their genetic makeup.

    Because there are so many factors that define something as all encompassing as intelligence and athleticism its downright criminal to say that certain races are better athletes or intellectuals as a blanket statement. Much as a broad range of races excel at varying athletic endeavours, a broad range of intellectuals excel at various forms or art, music, science, literature, and etc.

    The differences really are grey in the grand scheme, but its the racist who sees these differences in terms of distinct color rather than shades of grey. However, I personally think to deny that we are all a bit different is just not realistic.

  22. balticninja says:


    we also have HUGE cocks

  23. CK1 says:

    ^ Sadly sat upon ginger pubes.

  24. Kim C says:

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    Hi, my name is Maya, I’m a gorgeous British shorthair, 2 year old kitty. I’m looking for a casual relationship with a good-looking guy of the same breed as me. I don’t want to scare you off, but I’d like to have BABY KITTENS with you! Write to me if you’re interested! prrrrrr… meow :o)

  25. Dingle says:

    Come one Woai, surely this case of prejudice was because your boss is a woman, not because she’s Chinese?

  26. mike says:

    how tall is she ?

  27. Jen says:

    I agree with Dingle.

  28. Dingle says:

    Mike, do you think this might have been a height thing?

  29. mike says:

    @Dingle – It’s very possible. We have to increase awareness of this problem and blogs such as this are a great way for people to share their experiences. :D

  30. Dingle says:

    Hmm, that’ll have Woai really riled, he’s only 4ft 10 you know.


    However, I would like the record to state that my generation is the last generation of genetically more intelligent whites, and every subsequent one should be judged on merit alone. Now give me my expat salary wtf.

  32. mike says:

    4ft 10 ? hmmm … he didn’t play R2 did he ? :D

  33. WoAi says:

    Way too many comments for me to reply to every one but:

    @Oli – I think you’re a generation too late!

    @Kim C – You know Tommy has been fixed, don’t you?

    @Mandy / Sarah – I have to say my experiences have been very different. I’ve even had clients who insist on western people to look after them because they don’t think the local staff are capable.

    Anyway guys, this WTJ article I think covers some of the issues on racism quite nicely:

  34. IC says:

    This laowai blog should make every one feel better. Just try to find positive stuff in life. Otherwise, you all gonna suffer from major depression. Winter is coming and suicide rate is up.

  35. wisemanofasia says:

    I think in this case the reason the lady was denied entrance is definately due to her sex.

    I also agree with whomever it was that said Chinese people often insult their own race with negative comments about them being stupid, poorly eduacated etc. Interesting that while making these comments the same people (usually the nuveu rich) are usually exploiting the shit out of the undereducated ‘peasants’ they seem to despise.

    It’s fair to say that westerners in general are seen as running things, and traditionally our posts / jobs in China are higher up than the locals.

    I can’t believe that I am saying this but I agree with Shopgirl that Chinese people need to learn common sense. They also need to learn that it’s benfical to cultival long term business relationships by making high quality items etc and not just trying to make one big lump sum at the expense of the working relationship.

    It would be nice to see China making some attempts to become a little more PC in many areas. In some ways its liberation that you can call black people black, white people white and that to the local Chinese people being called yellow is in no way offensive (at least in Chinese). However, they harbour serious stereotypes about people and it would be nice if they could get a little perspective on this!

  36. wisemanofasia says:

    Sorry for all the typos! I am supposed to be working….

  37. T. says:

    Krispy Kreme is opening on the 15th. See my blog for the product shot.

  38. mike says:

    ok then, let’s apply for the permit then. who’s coming along ?

  39. FangFang says:

    I can totally related to your post. I am Chinese myself and I manage a music festival in China. The last time we had a dress rehearsal in Beijing Concert Hall, the staff totally blocked me out without any reasons while letting other western faced faculty in. Totally rude!! I don’t understand why some Chinese people do that either…

  40. swiss James says:

    chrisB: In my experience, everyone respects the Swiss

  41. chrisB says:

    Swiss: Don’t confuse respect with fear.

  42. swiss James says:

    Man always fears that which he cannot comprehend

    Jacques Costeau

  43. Anthony says:

    I don’t understand why there is only one Carl’s Jnr here.

  44. Anthony says:

    almost 9:30pm … anyone know if there’s a show this week ?

  45. Jin says:

    Interesting. But please allow me to say, the widely witnessed behaviours due to that in-built programming of inferiority complex for some Chinese, is, actually, reconcilable with the fact that Chinese are generally proud of their country and culture.

    Chinese are proud of their country and culture, to the extend that they do not neccessarily need to “racism” others, it has been the tradition for Chinese that “showing pride but with respect to others” is regarded as the norm. Chinese are proud are themselves, but not to the extend of exclusion of others (and ignorace of their merits). e.g. Buddism in China.

    On the other hand, because of the monopoly of global power status by western powers in the past few centuries, China and the rest of the other non-western civilizations had to re-adjust their strategy in order to survive and modernize, that strategy is, westernize to the extent which is needed. Like Japan, China searched a path of modernization for itself and marched confidently into the 21st century, however, the neccessary steps of domestic westernization and the fact that western cultures had been able to maintain its “leader” position for most of the 20th century, mean that most Chinese will have this “inferiority complex” in themselves continually for the foreseable future of, say, for the next 20 years at least.

    China had been great in the long past, therefore Chinese were and are still proud.

    China had been humiliated and remained backwards for most of the time in the 19th and 20th century, therefore Chinese were and are still “feeling the old shame”.

    China had been growing strong, its recent rise reveals a distinct success model/example of modernization for the rest of the developing/third world, its culture, is expected to enter into a reviving “boom” era once again in the near future, and very likely, will overtake and replace the western ones currently in decline. Therefore, Chinese will become proud, once again, but, not to the exclusion or fear of others, much less supression in the names of religion.

    Like the idea Confucious had proposed and remained in place since thousands of years ago, “Never force, but let others take what they want of what we regard as good values”.

    (BTW, I am from GuagnZhou too)

  46. Jin says:

    To wisemanofasia:

    PC is already happening in China, if you haven’t noticed, that the police alledgely “harrassed” African overstayers believed to have been invovled in drug dealing, this happened only a few years ago in certain Chinese cities (Bejing and GuangZhou), however the fact is, the offcials are not in a rush to deport the overstayers and allowed most of them to “overstay” in China, and the government did not implement any particular policy or tighen up measures to curb African immigrants to China, even though it has relatively much more power to do so in contrast with western countries. This is neccessary because China has important business with Africa, and therefore is becoming more and more torlorent of “illegal immigration” from Africa because it does not want to damage its business relationships with Africa. China has neither openly praised nor critized the western model of Political Correctness, for its own culture has many elements of PC thinking, however, when confronted with this “real problem” of illegal African immigrants, Chinese government finds itself “oblidged” to act in similar behaviours for similar reasons like the West has, though not to the point of “promoting” PC.

  47. wisemanofasia says:

    Jin – I find everything you have said to be very interesting.

    Firstly, what you said about China being proud and in the late 19th Century being humiliated by the west. China was essentially invaded by western powers and since then there has been very much an ‘us’ and ‘them’ attitude in China – in other words everything is about China vs the west.
    I personally think this is a very negative thing. Chinese modern culture is what is being developed currently in China and it needs to be done so carefully. I don’t really think a lot of the ways in which large institutions have developed in China is very healthy – e.g too much corruption and dishonestly. Also the idea that ‘we must make lots of money very quickly and nothing else matters’ is extremely worrying,. Often I find the Chinese business model to appear like this: ‘screw over everyone so that a few people can be successful’. This usually leads to the frustrations and alienation of clients.

    I personally cannot see how there is any political correctness in China. I see what you mean about the African situtation but things like this cannot change the people’s attitude. I guess I would like to see people in China being better educated in such things as race relations. Where I am from we take it for granted that people are polite to each other regardless of race and we do our best (with varying success) not to harbour single views against an entire race of people.

    Chinese people, if I am to be extremely synical, don’t really like anyone from outside of China. They accept the presence of foriegners as its good for the economy, but they openly say things like ‘I don’t like blacl people,’ or ‘I don’t think people from ….country.’

    I hope that these people on some level understand that not everyone from a single race or country is the same and that if they have perhaps met some ‘bad eggs’there are others out there that are different.

    Jin – I hope you are not upset by anything I have said. My reason for writing these things down is because I feel Chinese people need to explore the darker side of their society in order to make it better. I don’t profess to be an expert, but I think talking about such things helps. Generally, when I am not winding people up, I can be very positive about China – otherwise why would I live here!

  48. WoAi says:

    @Wiseman – “…. otherwise why would I live here”. Same reason we all do. The women!

  49. This is neccessary because China has important business with Africa, and therefore is becoming more and more torlorent of “illegal immigration” from Africa because it does not want to damage its business relationships with Africa.

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