Flaws of Orientalist Thoughts and Perspectives (RELS 348)

Josh Chin’s article from February 12, 2015, “China Internet Restrictions Hurting Business, Western Companies Say,” discusses how most recently, the Chinese government has been more aggressive in implementing strict Internet regulations. The problem associated with Chinese government setting tougher internet restrictions is that, China being the owner of the world’s largest and most sophisticated Internet filtering system, it incrementally hurts Western businesses. Major social media companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google has lost countless users due to China’s tightening grip over cyber security. Statistical results from European Chamber of Commerce (Jan 2015 – Feb 2015) show that 86% of companies had experienced negative business effects as a result.

In reference to the article, the problem that major Western corporations are encountering as a result of intensive Internet security restrictions imposed by the Chinese government represents that China has immense amount of global economic influence. In the field of political science, numerous scholars have been arguing that we live in an era where there is an upward trend of the ‘Rise of China’. In a nutshell, it is a debate that essentially revolves around the debate whether or not China will stand as the world’s leading hegemon—the most powerful state. The abilities and capabilities of China, in conjunction with the famous ‘Rise of China’ debate from political scientists and scholars demonstrate how Orientalist thoughts and perception is flawed. To understand why the concept of Orientalism is flawed, it is an imperative to examine how Edward Said and Robert Irwin defined the term.

Edward Said suggested that, Orientalism is the hegemonic discourse of imperialism. Further, he stressed Orientalism “is a discourse that constrains everything that can be written and thought in the West about the Orient…”(pg.3). My interpretation of Said’s proposed idea is that, he is implying that Western thoughts and perception of Orientals— Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East Asian cultures— as being inferior and uncivilized, leads to a hegemonic discourse. That is, the discourse where the Western culture, the West, are automatically positioned above all other civilizations; assuming a superior status in the international arena. Similar to Said’s ideas, in the introduction of Robert Irwin’s book, For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and their Enemies, Irwin presents how, “the West possesses a monopoly over how the Orient are represented and emphasize Western superiority. Characteristically, Orientalism is essentialist, racialist, patronizing, and ideologically motivated.” Again, the implication is that, the lens of Orientalism that the West view through hinders them from the realization that the people of the West are in fact not the superior civilization distinct from the rest of the world. This type of attitude is ethnocentric, discriminatory, and incorrect.

In contrast however, as portrayed in the article, the conflicts surfacing as a consequence of Chinese government tightening regulations in the cyberspace world is in fact not a virtual problem; but rather a severe issue in reality. Moreover, this demonstrates how Orientalist thoughts and perspectives are not reflective of Chinese peoples’ capabilities and abilities. It more represents European and Western states’ dependence and reliance on China—Chinese economy and marketplace— for their own expansion and opportunities of increased profits for their respective companies. Especially observing the role China plays in the international arena of global economy today, it is thus unnecessary to perceive other civilizations as ‘backwarded’. In fact, it may have been China’s unique ways of life and culture that contributed to the successes they achieved in today; one of them being China being the owner of the world’s largest and most sophisticated Internet filtering system.



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