In the past few years, Zhan Bingkui foreign-trade manager of the Shanghai Flag and Tent Factory, says Chinese attitudes toward America have improved significantly: "China is more open now and is more friendly to the U.S." Still, the relationship remains complicated, he adds, noting that many Chinese resent America's "bullying" of other countries:
The U.S. occupies a unique place in the Chinese imagination. To immigrants and students, it is the "Gold Mountain"—a land that, ever since the gold rush in 19th century California, has epitomized the promise of wealth, progress and modernity. The flip side is the global "bully" with which China first clashed in the Korean War, and that to many Chinese still seems intent on preventing their country from rising to its natural place among the world's great powers.
"Chinese perceptions of the United States are deeply ambivalent," says Minxin Pei, China program director at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "They mix resentment and admiration, fear with respect, jealousy with the desire to emulate." So long as that volatile mixture constitutes a central, "brittle part of the national psyche," says Pei, there's always the possibility that these emotions will boil over.
[Excerpts from an article in TIME Asia]