Media professional and current events columnist Zhang Wen on current US ambassador to China Gary Locke‘s popularity among Chinese netizens due to such exotic behavior as buying his own coffee and flying economic class.
Zhang starts with CCTV host Rui Chenggang's attempt to humiliate Locke earlier this month at a Davos summit but tries to take on the view, also popular online, that Locke's unintended soft power is one carefully orchestrated scheme:
The writer of the piece completely disregards the overall trend of cooperation between states throughout the world, as well as the key point of the win-win situation in the economic between China and the United States. The article manages to scorn the United States for its “bloodthirsty ambition” in aspects ranging from politics, economics, military affairs and religion, saying the USA is set to turn the entire world into “an animal kindgom under the law of the jungle.”
I'm not surprised by the outdated views held by its author, many people like him can still be found in China today, with a brain that hasn't managed to keep up with the changing times, almost seeming to have stopped growing at some point during the Cold War. I think, though, that this kind of thinking comes from isolation with the rest of the world, and it's easy to notice that the writer knows little about the world or the United States, and despite this has managed to fill his head with hostile rage.
This statement alone is enough to prove that the writer lacks even the most rudimentary understanding of the American people, and from there he then goes on to jump to conclusions. In a recent interview with Caixin Media, Locke said that he's quite surprised with how popular he's become with average Chinese citizens. “I didn't realize that someone was taking a photo of my daughter and me (while he was ordering his own coffee at a Starbucks in Seattle). In fact, you'll see that many American officials act just as freely, and personally I happen to enjoy doing things for myself, that's just my style.”
In other words, Locke didn't intend any hostility, or to put on a “show.” What the writer interpreted as “acting” as one of the people was actually just a rule by which officials must comply under the current American system. Those who don't comply, have problems. Think about it, would Locke dare and try and do like Chinese officials do, having police clear the roads and bring crowds out to cheer their arrival? There's no way the American public would let something like that go, and I think that if he did try it what he would get is dismissed and sent back home to “tend the farm.”
An American ambassador is just doing his job, yet ends up interpreted as “symbolizing a surge in neocolonialism in the information age, and a head-on collision between China and the United States in the ideological sphere.” Is there anything in the world more absurd?
Of course, this is just the result of ignorance, but even more so of guilt and lack of confidence. It could be “neocolonialism” or just “old colonialism,” either way it's the stronger side “violating” the weaker party. When in fact, the writer is also admitting the power of American culture and values, and the weakness of ours. If we weren't the weaker side, what would we have to worry about being “colonized”?