I read Meng Weizhan’s (孟维瞻) article about how to improve U.S.-China relations from Jordan Schneider’s newsletter, and though I agreed with many of the things Meng said about what Americans get wrong about China, I couldn’t help but notice that he gets a lot wrong about the U.S. For example, in the opening paragraphs, he states:
“In the American intellectual community, criticizing China has a few unspoken rules. First, you cannot say anything that violates American political correctness. For example, you cannot attack China from the perspective of civilization and race. Second, you can’t express disappointment in the Chinese people, though some conservatives feel this way in their hearts.”
Though American intellectuals may be more politically correct than most, and though the practice of criticizing anybody other than white men have grown more and more taboo over the years, Meng appears to have deeply misunderstood Americans. First and foremost, Americans have a long history of racial conflict and racial resentment, some of which has been targeted at Asians (the Japanese internment camps in WWII), and some specifically at Chinese people (The Chinese Exclusion Act). Yes, American intellectuals are politically correct right now, but that can turn at the drop of a dime if relations between China and the U.S. heavily deteriorate. Also, keep in mind that American intellectuals have to grapple with the atrocities being committed in China. It might ordinarily be hard to criticize a different culture, but it tends to be easier when said culture is committing atrocities such as locking up Uyghurs in concentration camps.