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COLUMN: Taking out the foreign trash

Editor’s Note: Detroit senior Darnell Gardner, a journalism major, is currently interning at The China Daily in Beijing. He will compose an occasional column on his experiences and impressions.

“The Public Security Bureau needs to clean out the foreign trash … cut off the foreign snake heads.”

Those are the words of Yang Rui, an anchor for a state-run television broadcast in China. He was responding to the Beijing municipal government launching a 100-day crackdown on “illegal” foreigners.

Similar calls for the ouster of “foreign devils” and “foreign trash” echoed across the Internet in China after video surfaced showing a British man being beaten by a Chinese man for allegedly sexually assaulting a Chinese woman.

Beijing’s municipal government announced the crackdown shortly after the video surfaced, but refused to acknowledge any connection between the two. Beijing’s expat community responded with suspicion, chuckles and indifference.

This episode illustrates China’s conflicted, if not confused, approach to the outside world as it strides toward superpowerdom.

More than three decades after Mao’s death, his distinct flavor of nationalism still seeps into the dialogue between China and the Western world.

The wildly successful transformation of the Chinese economy would not have been possible without the West. China has been reliant on ideas from Western minds and the buying power of Western consumers during its ascension.

China’s top communist cadres, while dismissing Western culture and values as shallow and unfit for China, clamor to send their kin to the best academic institutions the West has to offer.

The streets of China’s biggest cities seem to prefer consumerism, a staple in the developed West, over nationalism. Western food, premium electronics, and sharp clothing are increasingly ubiquitous here.

Trendy Chinese saunter the streets wearing Gucci and Louis Vuitton, enjoy Pizza Hut so much the chain sometimes insists patrons make reservations, and form massive queues outside Apple Stores whenever the latest glossy gadget is set to launch.

China, it seems, has fallen prey to the soft-power allure of the nations it so frequently likes to set itself apart from.

Despite this reality, nationalist rhetoric that flirts with xenophobia still finds its way into the Chinese press and propaganda machine.

China, like any country, is rife with contradictions. This particular inconsistency is indicative of a failing of the Chinese press and government to accurately represent the ideals of those they serve.

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