Chinese Is Not a Backward Language

Tom Mullaney in Foreign Policy:

ScreenHunter_1945 May. 19 15.34Even in the age of China’s social media boom, with billion-dollar valuations for Beijing-based IT start-ups, prejudice against the Chinese language is alive and well. One would be forgiven for thinking that by 2016, the 20th century’s widespread critiques of racism, colonialism, and Social Darwinism would have sounded the death knell of 19th-century Orientalism, which viewed China and the Chinese language through a condescending, colonialist lens. At the least, one might hope that if notions of Chinese Otherness were still with us, those who carry on the tradition of these threadbare ideas would generally be seen as archaically Eurocentric and gauche — the dross of airport bookshop paperbacks, unworthy of serious engagement. If only. Nineteenth-century understandings of China persist, not only surviving the decline of Social Darwinism and race science, but flourishing in this new century, driven primarily by arguments about China’s unfitness for modern technology and media.

Call it Orientalism 2.0.

More here.