The “Chinese In Foreigners’ Eyes” Documentary

Chinese Through Foreigner's Eyes

Last month as part of the Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit to the USA, a short film was released by the Chinese Government to promote the Middle Kingdom to the world.

The film aimed to target Western stereotypes of the country. Whether it worked is still up for debate.

Now, Jacky Weng, a young Chinese Marketing student living in the UK has created his own short documentary titled, “Chinese in Foreigners’ Eyes” (外國人眼中的中國人) to illustrate how China truly is perceived by the rest of the world:

On Youtube

On Youku

The views and opinions in the documentary are quite fascinating, and occasionally somewhat controversial. Most of the people featured are international students, but some are working. Jacky hopes that the video will help change people’s views of the country.

If you want to find out more about the short film visit the Director (Jacky)’s website: http://hiproduction.squarespace.com or contact him via Twitter or Sina.

Help us maintain a vibrant and dynamic discussion section that is accessible and enjoyable to the majority of our readers. Please review our Comment Policy »
  • Kai Ni Nai Nai

    What the fuck does a foreign language student know about China? Like we should take their word as gospel? Itd be better off talking to the old China Hands about it not some arrogant conspiracy theorist with immature political views who thinks Lady Gaga is modern and not some dressed up burlesque artiste.

  • T

    That was SOOOO hard to watch

  • wallimo

    Hi I am Matt from Australia, the first thing I think about chinese people is, they spitting on the street smoking in elevators and wearing there pajamas all day even when walking down the road.

    • Ye

      lame, I’m pretty sure it’s the americans who wear their pajama pants, and sweat pants on the outside, (may i mention superman and batman wear their underpants outside) and the whole trend of wearing flip flops too

      • will

        way to not realize anything about other cultures Ye and be totally blind to seeing the flaws of your own.

  • Brent

    Very shallow!

    humble, polite, clever…
    great cooking – smiling, nice
    delicious food –
    culture – so different
    ktv
    cooking for us
    wish I had more friends from China
    yao ming
    many people
    horoscope
    innovative
    funny
    always walking – don’t mix

    Clematine can get lost!

  • McCurry

    Well what a terrible Documentary, he should get a F.

    The people that he interviewed… ugh. Most of them don’t know jack about China, and if you go to school here in China, chances are you still don’t know much about China.

    You should do a Documentary about ‘ Chinese in Chinese’s eyes’, that should be interesting

    • It’s just an impression from foreign people, it’s not meant to have an in depth interview. If people think in this way there must some reasons.

      • McCurry

        Hey Jacky, sorry if I was being too harsh in my earlier statement. Seems most of these people don’t have close contact with Chinese people, they only have an image of them in their head (they know more about Chinese food better than the Chinese).

        Plus, the ‘Chinese’ people they refer to seem to be about International Chinese students, not typical mainlander that walks in BJ or SH. . International students tend to be a class of their own and doesn’t really reflect well at all to the general mainland population

      • TylerDurden

        I loved this documentary. I’ve been here in China for 3 years. What is so wonderful is this was a reminder of what I used to think of China and the people before living/working here…. and of course how greatly my understanding and opinion has changed since then.

        Its a documentary. Their opinions were subjective of course, and thats fine. Of course they don’t know much as those who have been here in, China.. that’s kinda the point. It wasn’t filmed in China. You can’t blame them for having limited knowledge of something some of them barely have exposure to.

        For those of us who have experienced the “China condition”, maybe its just best to accept the video for what it is, the realization that most of the world IS ignorant about China and its people and that if you think these foreign students don’t know jack, imagine what people from their home countries think. hehe. At least this is a collection of students from around the world that go to this school knowing they’ll be surrounded by international students.

        Most foreigners have a tough time, or just couldn’t care less about how COMPLETELY different Mainland Chinese are from those Chinese who have been brought up in a [Western] country or any where else outside mainland.. Sheesh let alone the stark contrast of Northern and Southern China. It was funny to see the few that realized that all the great stereotypes weren’t true from personal experience and encounters. And you know what? That’s the only way any one could find out the truth.

        I think there is a greater message here rather than focusing on the outside world’s opinions of Chinese. That.. ( it sounds obvious yet important to be aware of). Being mindful of how you present yourself in the things you do and say no matter where you are from is definitely not something to take lightly. Especially when communication and language becomes a tough barrier, people are going to form an opinion of you based on how much exposure of “you” that they’ve had. Actions then become the only thing to read.. and that may be taken positively or negatively.

      • 8mismo

        American living in Shanghai here. My opinion for what it is worth:

        The Chinese are still largely fettered by the sinew of Confucian and Communist ideas of collectivism. Not wanting to stick out. Wanting to save face. Just look at some of the other posts on this blog and you can see the media making embarassing examples of foreigners who are putting themselves out there for everyone to watch (the New Zealand strong man comes to mind). To me, that cultural message is clear: The nail that sticks up gets hammered down. If you stand outside cultural norms, you will be shunned by the collective. As a westerner, this cultural feeling is not only offensive, but scary in light of China’s growing power and influence. I do not want to see a world dominated by these Chinese collectivist ideals. Most people in the west agree with me. Individualism is in our cultural DNA. Until there is a Chinese cultural paradigm shift toward free expression, China will only be grudgingly accepted as a world power.

        A word or two about Shanghai: The Shanghainese in particular are obsessed with wealth and status symbols. Flaunting riches in clubs and in the streets. It seems like almost the whole city saw one too many rap videos and decided that shallow material expression was going to be their highest virtue. Its quite repulsive and I know that many Chinese from other cities agree with me.

        I could say all the warm and fluffy stuff about how good the food is and how warm hearted some people are, but you can say that about almost anywhere. Honestly to me, China and its push for power and GDP is scary. Especially because of the above mentioned collectivist cultural thinking and the implications of 1 billion consuming at U.S. levels.

        • TylerDurden

          Bump! Interesting, man. I’m right there with yah.
          8mismo sounds like they’re pretty in your face with the whole adopting Western pop and materialism. One of those “I see, I like, I buy, don’t know wtf this is (nor do I care) but I know it gives me status, oh btw I’m rich beyond reason, so I’ll just buy ten more, don’t talk to me, don’t even look at me, but yes you can worship me” mentality (exaggerated of course)?
          I liked visiting there, but of course thats completely different from living and.. enduring.. heh. What are considered cultural norms out there? Cause when I went there last December it felt (people wise) like there was a good percentage that were trying way too hard to adopt and claim painfully obvious Western trends and culture. Would religiously keeping up with fashion trends be one of them?

          I might be moving there pretty soon, would be cool to get the low down, mucho apppreciato (my poor Spanish)

          • 8mismo

            For the sake of getting a point across I simplified a bit about Shanghai, but yes…the emphasis here seems to be on wealth and the expression of that wealth. Fashion, cars, clubs, trophy girlfriends. If you don’t have them you are trying to get them (or trying to fake it). I’ve found some real thoughtful people here though that don’t care about all that. You have to look hard though. The problem is, there isn’t much to do for fun here besides the scene that perpetuates and reinforces all that materialism (clubs with overpriced drinks and interiors that are all too glamorous. Makin people feel like 3000 rmb/ mo superstars). That shit gets tired fast though. If you move here, I advise you to bring your entrepreneurial spirit with you and try to offer this city something it hasn’t seen before. A way to have fun that doesn’t involve drinking, dancing, and fucking. (I know they’re old standbys, but variety is the spice of life.) If you can do that, you’ll get rich and make peoples’ lives better. Take care.

        • McCurry

          I really doubt the Chinese will have a great globally impact maybe their economy might swing things around a bit, but not cultural. Look at Japan, Korea’s effect on the western world then look at China’s. Economically yes , cultural no (China is still trying to mimic western culture). The greatest export of the country still will be its people

          • 8mismo

            Good point. My concern is not just cultural though. Its U.S. style consumption on a China scale. The U.S. has nearly destroyed the planet with its intensive consumerism, and needs to change its approach to production and consumption. I see the Chinese adopting that model whole heartedly and aggressively while simultaneously continuing to feed the American waste machine. We (both our nations) need to leave that infinite growth paradigm in the 20th century and move on into more efficient systems. Thats another conversation though.

  • Roy

    “The film aimed to target Western stereotypes of the country. Whether it worked is still up for debate.”

    — New Yorker here. Trust me: it didn’t work. No one here even noticed it.

  • Stephen Woo

    What’s intriguing about this short documentary is their opinions appear to be based on somewhat superficial experiences with Chinese people and culture. Food, group behaviour, political events filtered through western media, and on the rare occasion personal interactions.
    The only opinions that I gave any credence to were the ones based on personal interactions – all other opinions apply to their own cultures and people (sticking with groups, being closed to interaction with strangers, language barriers, personality conflicts, etc).
    Coming from a Canadian upbringing along with my travels, I’ve noticed the language barrier is a significant cause to all other misunderstandings and issues about Chinese people and culture. Otherwise, there really isn’t much difference between a person from China to a person from just about any other location and/or nation on the planet.

    • Fman

      Dude I am also from Canada, 2 of my best friends were Chinese/Canadians and trust me, they nor their family were ANYTHING like the Chinese I deal with here daily on the mainland for the past 5 years!!! NOTHING alike.

      • alphar

        I second that. People in mainland are WAY more influence by their environment.

      • McCurry

        I am CBC myself. and mainlanders and us are nothing alike. maybe because a lot of the Canada Chinese include a lot more Cantonese, who are more westernized.

        • Of Canada

          If you are born in Canada you are Canadian. . not Chinese. . doesn’t matter if you look Chinese. My canadian born “chinese” friends are indistinguishable in personality from my “white” Canadian friends. Which is why if I have a child with my Chinese wife we might have the child live for awhile in China, otherwise they will not learn the language or culture.

  • Fman

    Most of those people need to spend a couple of years on the Chinese mainland and I have a feeling most of their opinions would change….

  • Jtoy

    This video is hard to watch. Really slow, boring, and not genuine. Most of the people are trying to be very selective with their words so that they don’t say any negative stereotypes…. The video needs to be 10 minutes shorter and/or maybe ask a few more questions.

    God, the French are so annoying!

    • TylerDurden

      Yeah most of them were being really politically correct. You can see it running through their head when they either didn’t have a clue or maybe didn’t have anything good to say resulting in…”I love the food. The food is delicious!”

    • Lin

      I concur, the remarks they make are all positive which is not bad but you know it’s not honest. Should get a caucasian to do the documentry, maybe you’d get a more realistic opinion from these foreigners.

      • TylerDurden

        Agreed. Ethnicity of the interviewer would definitely play a huge role in their responses.

  • Mick

    “We Chinese are humble … oh, and clever.”

    • Loic

      nice remark, he said “maybe sometimes” clever but as Jacky said it is just stereotypes. Plus, other people do not make better by being “very politically correct” TylerDurden, 2011

      • TylerDurden

        Agreed, it sucks. During my time here I’ve asked myself the opposite, would I really make better if I wasn’t PC?
        Everyone’s afraid of telling the real story for fear of offending another especially the others culture. At the same time many are more afraid to be that anomaly that speaks the truth (which 90% of the time what truth is said culturally is difficult to fathom and usually ends up being perceived as negative ultimately making you look bad )while everyone ignores it or passes just a “nice” comment.

        I also think that people who end up trying to explain the reality here find it exhausting to convince others that the craziness is true. Maybe at times it isn’t just being PC but rather saying
        “Well China’s still developing but damn it sure is beautiful.” and then just leave it which would save you a lot of time and headache. heh

  • jjj

    Saying al those things like you know china and u not even here…let this guy ask us living here.

    • TylerDurden

      I do, and I would think mostly people (assuming foreigners mainly) have ran into this site mainly because its probably the easiest buzz of news for foreigners that live in China.

      What are your thoughts JJJ ? Please share if you’d like. Have you had a pretty enlightening experience here?

  • xmcx

    So, Jacky, why the old characters?

  • These are very friendly interviews, try with Chinese American and you should see hard core comments…

  • DRaY

    China is very ghetto!!! Nice people, but a little ghetto!!

  • American Abroad

    I guess this was coming from a different angle because these people, apparently, don’t live in China. They live in the UK and are talking about the Chinese they’ve met abroad. I think I had quite a different view of the Chinese before I came to China as well, it was almost totally positive, but after living here for several years I unfortunately am not as positive as I once was. I think it’s impossible to really judge a nation by the people who have left because in most instances those are the people who are the most open minded, the most outgoing, the most educated, etc. You really have to look at the people who stayed behind. My view of the Chinese isn’t all negative as I’ve met some really awesome people while here and definitely wouldn’t have stayed as long as I have (leaving in a month though) if it was all bad but I’d be lying if I said I’m not leaving with more than a few disappointments and more than a few biases that I didn’t have before coming.

    • Kevin in Henan

      On the plus side: Some very beautiful girls and cheap products, some very nice people, some beautiful vases and fine arts personally I could probably get into Chinese opera. And not neurotic in the way the British are, either.

      On the minus, based on living here, superiority complex, crap television, internet censhorship, even worse cruelty to animals and achieved surprisingly little for a country that keeps reminding us they are 5000 years old (which they are not). Very few old buildings, totally ruined countryside, overrated food, men spit alot, people unsophisticated and boring.

      I could live in a world without Chinese culture (I’d still have Shakespeare, the Beatles, classical music, English pubs and English fun fairs). If I only had Chinese culture I guess I wouldn’t know any better but I think it would be a much poorer world. Or not, as the case may be.

      Sounds like I’m being grouchy, but actually China could well be a much nicer place in the future. And it’s not as if every country isn’t full of problem but it just seems that it is always playing this game. When the first UK delegation rocked up in China on behalf of the king he was asked to kow tow and things haven’t changed. Do you like Chinese culture? Such a common question here. Never asked a Chinese person if they like British culture, wouldn’t expect them to either.

  • will

    this is really uninformative. the people in this video have no experience of real chinese people and culture. foreigners who actually live here dont think this way. useless.

  • thatguyinchina

    Of course, a Chinese man invites foreign students to talk about their impressions of Chinese people while they live in China…

    If you were invited by a Korean to talk about your impression of Koreans while you were studying in Korea, would you give truthful opinions?

    This project was not very well thought out.

  • Mad man

    I feel depressed having watched that.
    These kids are so vacant.
    The planet is doomed.

  • Dahlain

    When I think of Chinese I think of cooked cats and dogs.

    • Derrrrrr

      don’t think much do ya?

Personals @ chinaSMACK - Meet people, make friends, find lovers? Don't be so serious!»