|News about the U.S. debate over the Confederate flag appearing yesterday inside a Hong Kong MTR train|
In China I have seen numerous examples of why the U.S. is considered a leader in soft power, especially in terms of American culture's influence through mediums such as movies, music, and sports. Usually the term "soft power" is used in a positive sense, at least from the perspective of the country yielding the power. One late night earlier this year in Southwest China in the city of Chongqing, though, I saw how American culture's influence isn't always a positive.
That night as I passed by an outdoor night market, a Chinese man and woman in their 20s invited me to join them for barbecued food and beer. I happily accepted, and soon we were speaking about a variety of topics. During our conversation, several young black men sat down at a nearby table. The woman expressed excitement and explained she was extremely interested in meeting them, especially since there are very few black people in Chongqing. She then left to introduce herself and chat. Her sudden and extended departure from her friend seemed awkward to me, but in light of racism being common in China I also saw a positive side to her actions.
As the man and I continued talking, the conversation soon took an unexpected twist. He suddenly stated that he didn't like black people, so I asked him to elaborate. Although his friend's action may have prompted his statement, it didn't appear to be a newly formed belief. After I pushed back against some of his following points, he sat quietly in thought, and I wondered if I had made an impression. A minute or so later he broke his silence and asked, "Are there people in America who don't like black people?"
I replied, "There definitely are." I assumed he was curious about racial issues in the U.S. So I thought it could be valuable to shed some light on the immense challenges the country still faces, despite recent progress.
But before I could continue, he triumphantly declared, "You see. So I'm right."