By Thorsten J. Pattberg
This didn’t go down well in politically correct America: US presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, was recorded saying that she talks from experience when assuring everyone that the Chinese may best the tests, but are “not terribly imaginative.” “That’s why,” she said, “they’re stealing our intellectual property.”
The interview quickly went viral. Ms. Fiorina’s remarks about the lack of imagination and entrepreneurship among the ethnic Chinese feed on mass anxiety in America, where we are currently witnessing what the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas once coined the ‘Siegeszug’ (a victory march) of Asian students at America’s universities. East-Asian students, on average, are vastly outperforming their white, black, and Hispanic peers via SAT-scores and other IQ-related tests, not just in the US, but throughout the world.
Naturally, many conservative voters worry a rising China and would like to hear, possibly from the next US president, that what those smart East-Asians are truly lacking is Western “creativity.” And we kind of see where Ms. Fiorina is coming from. Western education remains a fetish of the colonial past. During the last 300 years of European, later American, expansionism, China’s originality — its ideas and concepts — were simply omitted or translated into convenient Western words and categories. Shengren became “philosophers.” Junzi became “gentlemen.” Until nothing “original” was left.
It’s the greatest intellectual property theft in the history of mankind, with far reaching consequences, even today: Your author once approached Science magazine, its two consecutive China correspondents (both white) in Beijing and Shanghai. Science wouldn’t in a dream think about publishing a single Chinese term. Chinese words and brands must be suppressed, crushed even, hold back at all cost. Only if a Chinaman presents proof of affiliation with the West, has Western patrons vouch for him, and writes in “pure” English, may he present his ‘submission’ to Western publishers. It’s discrimination worse than slavery, racism, or the patriarchy.
The European ‘Enlightenment’ is said to be a late consequence of the thoughts of Kongzi and Laozi. The Four Great Chinese Inventions — compass, gun-powder, paper, and print — are legendary. Less talked about are meritocracy and banknotes. As to the humanities, the Chinese have produced three of the world’s greatest “belief systems” – Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism (the latter originated in India).
Meanwhile, Americans are not having any of it. The English word “creativity” is derived from the Roman-Latin ‘creo’ — to create. It is inextricably linked to the Western notion of a creator — a divine intervention and violent disrupter. We are all living in the Year 2015 of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It’s not a coincidence that the United States, “God’s Chosen Nation,” believes it substitutes for the Maker on earth.
This sense of mission and make-belief comes at a cost. In America, for centuries, immigrants had to undergo a process of forced assimilation. Once they become completely oblivious to other cultures, they are ready to “Americanize” the world. The typical A-bot thinks learning a foreign language is a character flaw. He can’t name a single Chinese innovation, let alone a single famous person (apart from “Jackie Chan,” whose Chinese name is Cheng Long). In his mind, the Chinese must have been doing nothing else, all billions of them, throughout the last 3000 years, other than waiting for Yale and Princeton.
Unsurprisingly, our Western “press soldiers” from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist magazine, etc. (often one correspondent for every 200 million Chinese), happily manufacture stories, demonize the Chinese government, and fabricate heroes, saviors, and incidents for China, at will.
Their agenda-driven journalism is why, when educated Americans finally do visit China, they are surprised to hear about hundreds of “famous” Chinese persons and events that they didn’t even know existed, and realize that they had, for years, only read about Chinese dissidents, Chinese crimes, Chinese flaws … in short: they were made to loath China.
Just because the Chinese were deprived of much of their intellectual property; that doesn’t mean they do not have the intellectual capacity to innovate. Today, US universities are overwhelmed by Chinese performances in the sciences, engineering, and mathematics. Harvard has to openly discriminate against Asian-Americans, because it fears the exodus of its traditional student body. To give you a perspective: We have yet to find a white professor in Chinese Studies who is able to write the language.
China has already more millionaires than Japan, Germany, and Great Britain combined. Only in US politics, where the ruling elites belong to the dinosaurs, does the myth of Chinese lack of creativity hold its sway.
So, back to the US presidential candidate. Ms. Fiorina tried to comfort a largely white electorate that although their kids and grandkids, on average, may not be as smart or well-behaved in school as the East-Asians, Americans still remain the most upsetting force of disruption in the universe: “We are better at risk-taking.” Oh dear, mother planet.
Thorsten J. Pattberg, PhD, is a German scholar and cultural critic, and the author of “The East-West Dichotomy.”