Anyone who doesn’t recognize this term might think we are talking about the foreigners who can’t use chopsticks, take a cab, or use a squat toilet. That is not what this means. The ‘useful idiot’ is a political term, dating from the days of the early Soviet Union, and used to describe those who praised the regime either out of ignorance, or a mutual benefit. Not shockingly, it was usually used by those on the political right to castigate those on the left. Fast forward, with the fall of the Soviet Union, and end of the Cold War, we live in a very different world, and today those ‘useful idiots’ are those who praise the strange land of the Middle Kingdom.
For the record, I like it here. I have a girlfriend, a job, and have been living abroad since I graduated university in 2007. I enjoy language study, travel, making friends from around the world, and eating strange animals. This doesn’t mean I need to ‘check my brains at the door’ nor am I a ‘guest’ here. I am a free man and a worker here, and I owe nobody anything other than the honesty and integrity I owe every citizen of the world.
Unfortunately, there are those who for various reasons have decided that they must defend their adopted homeland, the PRC with all the patriotism of a fen qing (Angry Youth). Seeing this phenomenon has many reasons, I thought we should look at each one. I have divided these ‘fellow travelers’ into 4 categories.
This guy isn’t so much a ‘useful idiot’ as just an idiot. The kind of guy who says, “Hey man, you’re killing my buzz”. He collects Mao memorabilia because he thinks it’s funny. He is mostly interested in getting laid, and drinking heavily. Political discussions annoy him. After all China is all about Kung-Fu and the ladies, and why should he tell other people how to live?
The anti-intellectual is harmless, he just shows up on websites telling people how awesome China is, and how cool the Great Wall is. He doesn’t really praise the ‘dark side’ since he’s totally in the dark himself. The problem with him is that if he stays in China he may morph into one of the more dangerously affected individuals, the…
The USA sucks man!
The second stage of useful idiot is known for his continued complaining about how bad his life in America-Canada-Australia-Other Country-was, and how much better China is. Maybe all the beer and women have gone to his head, or perhaps it’s the 10 kuai taxis in his town. Maybe he just gets a kick out of downloading movies, and not having to worry about pesky things like copyright law, or littering. This useful idiot usually smokes, since this pleasure is denied him in his native land.
Why complain about him? The man does extreme damage to the image of the West that Chinese have. Yes there are many social problems in the West, but should teach the Chinese people about them. Simply venting about how bad it is the West, or showing your students pictures of Detroit in class, doesn’t do anybody a favor. Explaining American gun culture is useful, simply telling your students you’ll get shot plays right into the hands of the establishment.
In most cases, the disease ends it spread here, but the symptoms may intensify leading to
In this case, the foreigner starts actually feeling guilty for white behavior in Asia. He starts reading, and apologizing for, almost anything. He feels bad for the Opium War, he starts calling the Boxer Rebellion a struggle for independence, rather than a bloody massacre of Chinese Christians. He ignores, forgets, or overlooks the role of the PLA in the Korean War. He says “What have White-European-American-Christians ever done to help China?” He continently ignores forced abortion, infanticide, domestic violence, and other ‘demons of our nature’.
Generally this individual was an intellectual, predisposed to leftist thought, and melancholy Perhaps the steady diet of Global Times, People’s Daily and Chomsky has affected his brain. He means well, and hopes his politics will get him the Marxist street-cred when he interacts with the Chinese, who are far more interested in Justin Beiber than they are in Lenin.
Red and Redder
This was that annoying university room-mate, you know the guy with a Che Guevara poster on his wall. This guy is out-right-nuts. He actually praises the establishment, calls America an Empire, and refers to the many glorious freedoms he enjoys in China. He would be happier if they closed all the Churches in China as he believes they are the opiate of the masses.
Honestly, Chinese people think these guys are crazy. They are thankfully rare, but you will be shocked. These guys usually don’t end up in first tier cities, preferring the rural worker’s paradise. They may have a Chinese girlfriend, who they make wear braids with red bows. I had the rare privilege of working with one such Red Guard who actually brought flowers to the North Korean consulate.
Each of the useful idiots provides ammunition to those Chinese Ultra-Nationalists, and they in turn use it against us, so don’t pay for your bullet. Whether it’s a guy calling other foreigners “sex-tourists’ or a English man who calls beating your wife in the street “a cultural difference”, we all have an obligation to resist the smears of our fellow ‘idiots’.
Tags:General Expat Rants & Advice Expat Tales
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I'd have to say that the sweeping generalizations and characterizations you made give an indication of what your own political leanings are. Personally, I value the principles of socialism within a democracy, but I was shocked how little of Marx's theories are present in China. Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a bad quality copy of American culture, with all the materialism, superstition, bourgeois posturing and disinterest in society. And I do feel that churches have no positive contribution to *any* society, but I don't feel that all those other characterizations fit me at all. In the end, what you wrote in this blog is a compilation of value judgements against people with different opinions than your own. I also noticed that you didn't acknowledge a single negative aspect of western culture, except to mention that anyone who disses their own culture is a 'useful idiot'. I'd have to say that you come across as an arrogant, self-justifying, unabashedly biased conservative. If you were Chinese, you'd fit right in here in China.
Nov 23, 2013 19:32 Report Abuse