Xiaoying Zhou

VP Biden’s Penn Commencement Speech Inspires Viral Rant by ‘Disappointed’ Chinese Student

Vice President Biden giving the commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania (via White House Photos)

It’s commencement season in America again, and quite a few heavy hitters have already spoken. On Tuesday, the Guardian published its first speaker roundup, featuring Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, and former president Bill Clinton. Yet it was a speech by Vice President Joe Biden that seemed to draw the most attention among China’s netizens.

On May 13, at the commencement ceremony for the University of Pennsylvania, Biden began by cracking a few jokes about Penn’s skyrocketing tuition and received immediate laughter from the audience. It was “by far the funniest of the recent commencement addresses,” according to the Guardian. Biden’s speech touched on many  subjects: climate change, gay marriage, immigration, and technological innovation, to name a few. He reassured the graduates that claims about America’s decline were unfounded. “The future is in your control,” he urged at the end, “Don’t listen to the cynics.” And the crowd roared.

Not all Penn graduates were happy about what they heard, however, especially those who were made very uncomfortable by Biden’s two references to China. On May 14, Zhang Tianpu, a graduating senior at Penn and a Chinese citizen, wrote an entry on renren.com, China’s Facebook, in protest against Biden’s speech. The post soon went viral and was shared and read by more than 30,000 Renren users.

What exactly did Biden say about China?

Zhang transcribed Biden’s two references to China for the benefit of those who weren’t present at the ceremony. In the middle of his speech, Biden touched on the American fear that “the Chinese are going to eat our lunch.” “But ladies and gentlemen,” the Vice President continued, “their problems are immense, and they lack much of what we have.” After listing Americans’ advantages in terms of its education system, legal system, venture capital markets, and technological innovation, Biden concluded that the key to all these is was the ability to “think different,” as Steve Jobs famously suggested. Then came Biden’s first China comment, which rubbed many Chinese students the wrong way:

“You cannot think different in a nation where you cannot breathe free; you cannot think different in a nation where you aren’t able to challenge orthodoxy, because change only comes from challenging orthodoxy.”

Biden’s second China reference came at the end of his speech. He spoke of his ten-day visit to China, at the end of which China’s then President-to-be Xi Jinping asked what the Vice President thought. Biden shared his response: “I said he’s a strong, bright man, but he has the look of a man who is about to take on a job he’s not at all sure is going to end well. I mean that seriously.”

Why were the Chinese students not happy?

“Vice President Biden’s speech made thousands of Chinese students and their parents who were present very disappointed,” Zhang wrote in his post.

Two things irked Zhang in particular. Firstly, when Biden said, “you cannot think different in a nation where you can’t breathe free,” he referred to China as a “nation,” not a “state.” So, Zhang observed, “We the Chinese people are slaves by birth, and can’t think independently…Isn’t this explicit racism? In-your-face racism, even!” [Update: This may have been the result of a misunderstanding, not an intentional jab. In colloquial American English, the distinction between "nation," which means a group of people of common descent, and "state," which means a governing entity, is not clearly made. In Chinese, the distinction is clearer. H/T to commenter Gray Hat.]

What added fuel to the fire, according to Zhang, was that Biden said all this during a commencement ceremony at which Zhang and all the other Chinese students were celebrating diplomas they had earned through four years of hard work.

“I don’t care if what he said about China is correct (I don’t dare to make the call either, or else this post would have been a goner—I’m sorry), but despite knowing the occasion—a commencement ceremony at an international university—and the presence of so many Chinese students, Biden didn’t give us even a bit of face,” Zhang wrote, “Having paid the same amount of money, studied equally hard, and even earned better grades than the Americans, why should we sit there and listen to his bullshit? This is not only a stain on the reputation of the University of Pennsylvania as an internationally reputed institution, but also makes America lose face as well. Only cowards praise themselves by attacking other countries.”

Chinese students react online

Reactions to Zhang’s post varied, and mainly came from Chinese college students, both in China and abroad. While some disagreed over whether Biden’s assessment of the U.S. was intentionally naive and optimistic, most found his remarks on China more or less true. Zhang initially transcribed Biden’s speech because the video of the speech, hosted on YouTube, wasn’t accessible from China due to the blocking of the site by the Great Fire Wall. One Renren user remarked, “I also want to roast Biden, but the author should perhaps ask the Party to unblock YouTube first.”

While many seemed confident in China’s future and mocked Zhang’s insecurity, some commented that they understood Zhang’s reaction, though they may not have shared his feelings. Lei Tao, a Chinese student at Penn who was also present during the commencement, wrote: “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what he said, nor should it count as an [unreasonable] attack on China, because everything he said was true. It’s just that the occasion he chose to say this wasn’t very appropriate, and some Chinese students couldn’t accept it. Now, I was present [during the speech] and listened, but I didn’t think it was a big deal.”

Some didn’t think Zhang needed to make such a fuss over Biden’s comments. One of the more popular comments on Zhang’s article read, “What’s all this compared to what they said during election season!”

The controversy and the challenge

Among all the Ivy League schools, Penn has perhaps one of the largest Chinese student communities. It was therefore no surprise when many Chinese students at Penn who shared Zhang’s sentiment got together and penned an open letter addressed to the Vice President. On May 16, a signing session for the petition took place on campus. In his post, Zhang also shared the email address of Penn President Amy Gutmann’s, inviting more Chinese students to write her in protest. According to Zhang, Amy Gutmann should have taken into account the possible reactions Penn’s thousands of Chinese students might have to Biden’s China remarks and done something about it.

Were Biden’s China comments too nationalistic to be part of a commencement speech? Is the University of Pennsylvania, as a private, international institution, degrading itself or losing its autonomy, as Zhang suggested, by accepting Biden’s politically charged speech? Scores of politicians have done the same before Biden, using occasions such as commencement ceremonies to illustrate their political points. It’s not even evident that Biden meant to make his speech particularly political—his second China observation seemed as personal as it was political.

Zhang never expected his post to attract so much attention. It was meant as “a simple rant,” as the author stated in a later, revised version of his text. But one thing is certain: Biden’s speech annoyed many like Zhang, simply because they felt they deserved to end their college experiences on a happier note. As Zhang mentioned in his post, only 60-70% of Biden’s audience that day were American citizens. As American college campuses become more international, not to mention more Chinese, this incident may serve as a good lesson for both US colleges and politicians in their future speeches.

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Xiaoying Zhou

Xiaoying Zhou is a student at Yale University.
  • Gray Hat

    The student’s reaction stems largely from a misunderstanding.

    In most Chinese usage, “nation” (minzu) basically equals “race, plus cultural peculiarities”. In English usage it contains no racial component, a good deal of “shared history,” and fair amount of political tradition. In casual American usage it overlaps with the concept of “state” and often serves to distinguish the Federal state from the state-state. By referring to rights and the degree to which independent thinking is permitted, Biden was finding fault with the Chinese state and perhaps also with an enduring political culture which pre-dates the PRC.

    I am no fan of Joe Biden, and I can see grounds for objecting to his remarks, but to interpret them as “in-your-face racism” is an error which illustrates how hard it is to understand the discourse of an unfamiliar society even after one has spent a few years living in it.

    • Xiaoying Zhou

      Thank you so much for your comment! Personally, I don’t think Biden meant “minzu” when he used “nation”, either, though the fact that “nation” does differ from “state”—at least theoretically—makes Biden’s comment very vulnerable to interpretations such as Zhang’s.

      • http://learnchinesebusiness.com/ Learn Chinese Business

        American politicians will always refer to “the nation” and never to “the state,” it makes them sound more patriotic and not like scary Big Government to domestic audiences.

      • Jahar

        That’s a misinterpretation. The 2 words can be used interchangably most of the time. It’s like splitting hairs over the use of great and grand. small and little.

      • Ada

        Even if he meant 民族,Biden said nothing wrong about it. We Chinese couldn’t speak freely and couldn’t breathe freely in this nation. Why you guys couldn’t admit the facts?

        Have you ever seen the reactions from Chinese netizens about this issue? Few of them agree with Zhang. They think Zhang and his followers are from those families of the corrupted governemnt officials who take briberies so they could afford sending their kids to the US universities. So Zhang and his followers have to speak out for them to proect their own interest.

        Zhang and his remarks basically couldn’t represent the majority of common Chinese people back in China. Most Chinese think Biden said nothing wrong, he spoke out the truth and he deserves respect from the Chinese people.

  • http://www.weibowatcher.com/ WeiboWatcher.com

    Zhang presume that other states and their citizens put value on a concept of face.

    • lalala

      I don’t think he assumes that of other states or their citizens. He simply thinks his own putting value on the concept of face should be better respected?

      Then again you can totally say he’s in the States so he is obliged go along with American values and there’s no place for him to rant about having his and his countrymen’s face lost at an American commencement ceremony.

      • Jahar

        I think it’s arrogant of him to think that the VP should be considering him, in particular, and his oversensitvity, at all.

        • Potomacker

          It’s hardly arrogant. As Zhang pointed out, he and the other Han Chinese nationals in attendance did get better grades.

          • Jahar

            I didn’t see where he mentioned the grades, but better than whom? He’s giving a commencment speech at an American University. I’m Canadian, If I got top grades should I expect special consideration from the VP? What if I go to a uni here in China? same thing? Arrogance. The quirks of face are rediculous to most who aren’t Chinese.

          • Potomacker

            I hope this helps: ‘Zhang wrote, “Having paid the same amount of money, studied equally hard, and even earned better grades than the Americans, why should we sit there and listen to his bullshit?’
            Not to mention having travelled the farthest! Little emperor syndrome.

    • AndyLC

      We do though. Joe being tough on China saves face for the Obama administration. Showing up at charity events, kissing babies, letting Hilary be Secretary of State, all are matters of Face.

      It’s really not an alien concept man, Face is just ‘Esteem’, for self and others.

  • Dave B

    The Chinese students spent four years in an Ivy League university and didn’t learn that nation and state are used largely interchangeably in the U.S. What do they think the “United Nations” refers to?

    • Lin

      As a Chinese international student recently graduated from University of Illinois, I must tell you that in the very first Western culture course I took(and I have taken a dozen), one topic my TA spent more than 3 weeks to discuss was the difference between “nation” and “state”, French revolution, and the birth of nation states. I Personally know Perfectly that these 2 words are interchangeable in speaking language, but I do not think that it is that particular Chinese student’s fault to perceive the word “nation” as referring to the people but not the state.

      • bossboz

        Totally disagree. Its impossible to reasonably get the impression that nation primarily means race in English while actually engaging the language for several years. What was this guy, a science major? Nation absolutely means country first, and only a race as an older, much less common meaning.

        And Lin, the reason your TA went to such lengths to distinguish the two words is that they are interchangeable in common speech. If it was understood that the words were different then it wouldn’t be necessary to talk about it at all.

        • Lin0

          Its impossible to reasonably get the impression that nation primarily
          means race in English while actually engaging the language for several years

          <- Well you just said that, the language, pardon us for our sin for not being native English speakers, and yes I guess he most probably is a science major and not a very good English speaker … Moreover, nationalism is translated as 民族主义 and 民族 means people/race, so it's a common mistake to take it for granted that nation means race. But you will probably rebut that it's nevertheless his fault to not knowing this after 4 years in US, so I will just say, I am just telling you why he might have thought that way, and in my opinion Mr. Baiden's words are wrong in other ways.

          • Matt

            I agree that it’s possible this kid doesn’t understand the subtleties of the English language. My dictionary translates nation as 国家。Are you using youdao or something?

            Also do you think it is possible that the student is just trying to becoming famous or 找麻烦? Or perhaps he has some government support like some sort of Wu Mao Dang? Would love to hear your thoughts on this, thanks.

          • Lin0

            I don’t think he wants to be famous or he has government support. He’s probably just another guy with a slightly more sensitive self esteem and a slightly heavier trace of nationalism, and happen to dare to speak up (thanks for the US education). Here’s a strange thing. When Chinese don’t speak up, people say they are too meekly, when Chinese do speak up(regardless of their opinion being wrong or right), it’s “all for fame” and “government support”. (Sorry but my tone is not directed at you, I hear this everywhere all the time.) It is again the tendency and stereotype of assuming that Chinese do not have their own brains. That’s what I am arguing against all the time here.

          • Matt

            Nope, I was just asking in this case because some of my friends (who happen to be Chinese like you) suggested those possibilities. You think Chinese don’t speak up? Have you seen the comments section in any foreign publication criticizing China? Who says Chinese don’t speak up? They are the loudest ones in any internet forum critical of China.

            I don’t think we should commend people for just being loud. I can’t respect this guy…. Have you read his original blog post?? Pretty awful.

          • Surprise123

            Citizens of the PRC do speak up when their nation or civilization is criticized (well, at least online…and very dramatically, I might add), but there is the stereotype that they don’t speak up in other contexts…which does make sense as Chinese culture is far more collective in nature than Western, and particularly American culture, which stresses individuality.
            I’ve never heard that citizens of the PRC don’t have “their own brains,” but if one lives in a culture that doesn’t officially permit free speech, and you live in the fear that if you continually say something too-out-of-line, you’ll end up in prison or worse, you may learn to use your brain in different ways.

  • wes707

    God, I’m becoming so tired of the Chinese “saving-face” culture. If Zhang doesn’t like criticism, then he should have originally stayed in his quasi-fascist nation.

    • Hao

      Then go home and drink your beer. Chinese is not one person, Chinese
      students are not one student. I guess you are tired coz you are addicted
      to hearing what you are tired to hear?

      • wes707

        “Chinese” can also be used as an adjective.”Save/lose face” was actually introduced into Western vocabulary from Chinese culture, therefore saying it’s a part of Chinese culture is not wrong. BTW, I’m not in China – I just don’t want your saving-face culture exported here.

        • Hao

          What you say is fact and I know you are not in China. What I am saying is if you are so tired of so and so, why just stay away from it? Nobody invites you to read Zhang’s comment. Free tip for you.

          • wes707

            Yes, but he did go to my alma mater, and I would expect a little more intelligence on his part. He also seems to be inciting hatred towards Americans in China.

          • jyang

            1. “Save-face” is a wrong way to understand this.
            If people’s making generalized criticism on your particular racial group is considered offensive, if not discriminant, how is it appropriate when it applies to nations? Or your standards of tolerating criticism apply to everyone but yourself?
            2. Let take a further step back, even if it was motivated by such consideration, does choosing to be culturally insensitive make you a better “thinker” or better person so that you get to insult other’s “intelligence”?
            3. Is it not obvious that occasion is the main
            problem? Chinese students are studying here so that they don’t have to hear such politically charged commencement speech. Double standards again.
            4. And yea, fascism is not needed by the political elites in a country while the majority, represented by your arrogant self, was practically living out Huxley’s novel. Maybe China’s being “quasi-fascist nation” is the proof that people actually have better independent thinking relative to the ones follows blindly the government propaganda. Again, “Intelligence”, you say? I guess you missed after that sentence.

          • wes707

            “Fascism: a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”

            “Fascism is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism. Fascists seek to unify their nation through a totalitarian state that seeks the mass mobilization of the national community through ethnocentrism and indoctrination. Fascism advocates a state-controlled and regulated mixed economy; the principal economic goal of fascism is to achieve autarky to secure national self-sufficiency and independence, through protectionist and interventionist economic policies. It promotes regulated private enterprise and private property contingent whenever beneficial to the nation and state enterprise and state property whenever necessary to protect its interests.”

            Here, care to read up more on the definition of Fascism:

            How would you describe modern China’s political/economic system? Sorry, but “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” is just a euphemism.

            As others have pointed out, isn’t it a “double standard” that Zhang Tianpu makes a big fuss over Biden and demands an apology, while he would never dare do the same in China for fear of repercussions?

            So you think in the name of being “culturally insensitive,” we should never say anything objective?

          • jyang

            Nobody is denying that fascism is what is going on in China, Mr. Don Quijote. Quoting me dictionaries (and NYT, of course) is not going to make your argument look better. You were just fighting a straw man there.
            The “double standard” argument, my question was ignored and meaning twisted. I am asking do you dare to single one minority group out, make generalizations, and criticize their behavior or culture, specifically, during something like a commencement speech? If not, why is it okay to single a nation out? By the way, this top down, one way stream form of communication is not an exchange of idea, rather, a not-so-smart hypocrite trying to play to the gallery.
            If you actually read my post, the third point start with the key problem. That implied pretty clearly what my answer is to your last question. I am not going to repeat myself. And please quit playing your little game of reductio ad absurdum. Try come up with some logical argument.

    • lilian

      you live in the 21st century, and cultures blend here

      • wes707

        Do world cultures also blend in China in the 21st century? Last time I checked, the PRC is still blocking many forms of communication with the outside world – taking that old walling in the nation approach.

  • Paul Schoe

    Comments like the one from Zhang are only too common in China. I respect Zhang for the effort that he has done to graduate from Penn University. I am disappointed in him because he shows that he has not been able to get to a level of an open discourse between people. I am disappointed because despite his experience in the US, and that Biden’s speech exactly fitted the occasion, Zhang sees that as an act of racism.

    Biden spoke in front of a group of US students and graduates, and he has to motivate them in a period where all around them they see that China, a land three times their size in population, has consistent growth figures that makes Americans wonder if they will fall behind. Biden simply stated why he thinks that that is not the case. To see those remarks as racist, is not so much an indication of what Biden said, as that it is an indication of the sense of insecurity of Zhang. An insecurity that despite his academic achievements, he clearly has still not been able to get rid off. I am really disappointed in that.

    If Biden had made such remarks about my country, I would have shrugged my shoulders. I would have understood that these remarks were made at a US university, and I would have thought: “We will see who will do the better job in the future“. I would be motivated instead of insulted.

    Without realizing it, Zhang shows with his reaction how little respect he has for the customs of the country that he is visiting. He is faced inward to himself, instead of outward to his hosts, and by doing that; he inadvertently shows how correct the remarks of Biden were. Applauding Zhang for his academic success, I am deeply disappointed in his lack of self-relativity. It shows how difficult it is even for esteemed universities to undo a focus on face value and change it to a focus towards a free exchange of opinions.

    As far as the other remarks in the article are concerned; I love the remark from the Chinese Ren Ren user: “I also want to roast Biden, but the author should perhaps ask the Party to unblock YouTube first.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ghbutler Gabriel Butler

      Very well said.

    • Lin

      As I have said in another post I am an recent Chinese graduate from a US college and, sir, on some points I do agree with you. I personally would not bother to make a fuzz and yes, I would have shrugged my shoulders, admitted in heart that our state does do shit in many ways, and thought “We will see who will do the better job in the future”. But I felt that you have misinterpreted your own culture in some ways. Yes, the US is a land of freedom. But it is also a land that promotes open-minds, understanding, and respect. I belief that it is deep-rooted in US’s social culture and working culture – and as it is repeated again and again in all the job-hunting and networking tips – that you should do the right thing and say the right words at the right moment. So as Sorry to be Frank mentioned, I do not think that a school commencement is the best place to discuss politics and nationalism. It is inappropriate to single out a country – which is neither Nazi Germany or USSR – and say “Hi young people, here is your enemy, now do this for your country” when the occasion is supposed to be celebrating the achievements of the graduates and to encourage them to love Life, to love others, to keep learning for life and always be open-minded, and keep chasing THEIR OWN dreams. Now, to answer your core question why would a Chinese student think the following remark offensive(and let me paste the original words down here again) –

      You cannot think different in a nation where you cannot breathe free; you cannot think different in a nation where you aren’t able to challenge orthodoxy, because change only comes from challenging orthodoxy.

      - I can perhaps give you a new way of thinking it. I would say, this statement implies a belief that Baiden (and perhaps many more Americans) clearly held: all the rest of our peers(Chinese young adults) who live in China, who did not receive any American or Western education, or who have never visited a foreign country, are all brainwashed idiots who can only follow what the authorities say for the rest of their lives.

      I will tell you that this judgement is quite ignorant, arrogant, and wrong. The truth is a GREAT portion of the young population under 30 nowadays are openly criticizing and challenging the orthodoxy everyday and on every media(yes, not just limited on the internet, and sometimes even on state-run newspaper and TV), and I find that some who have never been to overseas are sometimes much more radical than us “enlightened ones”. The censorship and the Great Fire Wall is not as impregnable as most US media would like to portray it to be, and if anybody wanted to, he/she can easily break the blocking and get whatever he/she want to know, not to mention that there are now thousands of netizens ardently translating information from the blocked sites to the accessible sites, as dedicating to the freedom of information as the founders of Wikipedia. Chinese inside China Do know a lot of things, and the young generation are actively pushing for many great reforms whose impact may only be observed by the West 5 or 10 years later. Every summer when I went back to China, I always found all the latest influential ideas and hot topics in social media amusing, and if I were a political science or social study major I would surely write a good paper about the interesting contrasts between my old high school friends’ imagination of the US and my real experience here.

      By telling you all these, I am absolutely not trying to defend for our state’s absolutism and all the shit they do. Yes, US is way way way more free and democratic than China, but Chinese in China ARE starting to think differently. The Chinese youngs in China are speaking up, and challenging the old orthodoxy in all ways everyday now. I think the true mistake Mr. Baiden made was, he tried to bolster the American youngs’ nationalism by boasting and belittling the minds of Chinese youngs (I think you can understand that no one likes to be called idiots). I believe the more correct way to win a competitor is to know your enemy, know his advantages and know your shortcomings. But nevermind, if anyone nevertheless wants to believe that the nowadays Chinese still live and think like in 1960s or like the North Koreans, it’s their freedom.

      • Hao

        Can’t agree more. Not a big deal.

        But the fact that a vice president of a nation (yes, I have no idea why people think “state” should be used here) has to use such strong words (even though it is SO true) against another nation in a commencement ceremony to improve the graduates’ confidence in their country does say something.

        • Surprise123

          As the author of the article notes, Americans do not attach ethnicity or race to the words “state” or “nation”: in most instances, “state” and “nation” are very close synonyms. Nothing racist is implied in either term.

          “….against another nation in a commencement ceremony to improve the graduates’ confidence in their country does say something.” Yes, it says that that country is deeply worried about the rise of Communist China, and its citizens are worried about their place in the world. Penn State graduates from the PRC should take note of that. Plus, unlike high-ranking Communist Party officials in China, who have vast resources to direct their own country’s national conversation, America’s political leaders have very little opportunity to directly influence opinion among young, soon-to-be influential Americans. A lone graduation speech here and there is probably the best shot that good-natured and likeable, but foot-in-mouth diseased Vice President Biden (and other U.S. political figures of similar opinion) has at reaching the minds of young Americans.
          That is until the day that nationalistic and overly-sensitive college students of some wealth from Communist China reach critical mass on American campuses, and can use their collective clout to silence openly pro-America voices at graduation.
          I wonder if American students studying at college campauses abroad in Europe have ever responded so sensitively when the United States was criticized at their own Sorbonne, Oxford, Cambridge, or Padua graduations.
          I suspect not.

      • Matt

        “I do not think that a school commencement is the best place to discuss politics and nationalism.”

        Have you ever been to a Chinese commencement ceremony? 你肯定没去过。。。

        • Paul Schoe

          Well spotted Matt.

          Biden’s remarks disappear in oblivian compared to some of the speeches that i hear here at graduation. In the latest iteration, Chinese graduates are asked to contribute the China Dream; to contribute to the raise of China in the world.

          I have nothing against this. I find it to be expected that politicians motivate graduates to help build their nation in the competitive world economy.

          But for Chinese students in the US, to attack Biden on his words, does indeed look more like pointing at the splinter in someone’s else’s eye, while forgetting the log in their own.

          • Lin0

            Here is what I’ve said relating to that point:

            It is inappropriate to single out a country – which is neither Nazi
            Germany or USSR – and say “Hi young people, here is your enemy, now do
            this for your country” when the occasion is supposed to be celebrating
            the achievements of the graduates and to encourage them to love Life, to
            love others, to keep learning for life and always be open-minded, and
            keep chasing THEIR OWN dreams.

            I haven’t found in any formal or informal context that any Chinese authority has SINGLED OUT the US and said anything similar to “let’s beat up the Americans, we have what they don’t”.

          • Paul Schoe

            Hi Lin0,

            I am not sure if you live in China, so I do not know if you are aware of the communication over here. For me, it are the state press institutions such as Xinhua and the China Daily that I consider the representatives of Chinese Authorities. if you live in China then I can not believe that you have missed in their communications all the criticism of the US on topics varying from the financial crisis to war mongering, from espionage to human rights. I am not saying that I disagree with what they say (personally I find it incredible that Guantanamo bay has been opened and still is not closed) but there are many examples of where the US is singled out.

            Stating that the US is not singled out here, is a very surprising remark. The competition and comparison with the US is a constant item here. Just like China is a big elephant in discussions in the US when talking about the future, the US is a big elephant in China on the same topic.

            I am also surprised that you state that; “Of course I am judging the US by the higher standard“. Maybe it is that what irritates some of the commentators here. Chinese people come to the US for study, and then they start complaining. When they get reactions, the Americans are now faced with the argument: ‘of course we don’t compare with our own country. we feel that the US should live up to a higher standard then that we do‘.

            My neighbor would not like it when I make negative comments on the cleanliness of her house. She would quite rightly ask me when it was the last time that I washed my windows. So don’t be surprised that you get some critical remarks when you feel free to criticize other country’s by using higher standards on them then on your own.

          • Lin0

            Paul Schoe,

            I apologize if you find my word of applying higher standard to the US is offensive. I simply mean, people should not do a wrong thing just because many others are doing it. If I was yelled at by my roommate for piling up my dishes in the sink and if I just shout back you don’t have the right to say this you do all the time, that won’t help anything.

            I was born in China and I lived there up to 18 before I came to US for college, and for the last 4 years I went back to China every summer holiday. So yes, I know the propaganda. In fact, in my personal statement for college admission, I wrote that I wish to see by my own eyes how is the US like. However, comparing what Xinhua and the China Daily says to a commencement speech is simply off the point. I said previously, you should to the right thing at the right moment and right place. What China Daily and Xinhua do is what the US media do during election and economic crisis. But I haven’t heard a case about this(US-attacking) being brought into a college commencement speech.

            And I think you have one slight misunderstanding. I guess you do not read Chinese, and the People’s Daily and Xinhua articles you have read are translated, and therefore *pre-selected by the translators*. Chinese authorities never said China’s aim is to surpass the US. The harshest attacks to the US are usually found in *a rebut to a recent open US criticism of China*. In many cases, the previous Hu & Wen government have stated that we need to slow down the paces and be careful to not be carried away by the facial GDP growth and make fatal mistakes. In a deeper sense, if you don’t mind to learn some Chinese culture, Chinese are deep-rooted egocentric, we only care about our own welfare so there’s nothing like the American puritan tradition of America should always be the best and the role model of the world, and therefore the aim is not to compete with any other country but simply we want to get better.

            Chinese people come to the US for study, and then they start complaining.
            In a more general sense, I think the disapproving tone here is very wrong. We pay the same (and in public schools’ cases, much higher) tuition, we learn the same courses, the professors do not loosen the grade standards for us, in our free time we pay extra effort to adjust ourselves to a completely different culture, I don’t see why we should be deprived of the right to complain when we feel we are treated less or differently than our American peers. Additionally, Mr. Biden, by emphasizing nation-against-nation competition to the graduates of a school with a particularly high international student population percentage, was actually encouraging graduates of different nationalities to see each other as enemies in the work place, instead of encouraging them to cherish and maintain their college friendship. I find it very sad.

          • Hopes Bob

            support you and your points!China needs the people like you,and the only thing we can do is to fright for the future not only for the country that raised you but yourself as well.

          • Surprise123

            Ironically, Biden listed America’s education system as one of its advantages over Communist China. But, if less and less Americans are graduating from its top universities, and are being replaced by graduates from the PRC…then perhaps America’s education system is advantageous to Beijing as well (which pretty much nullifies Biden’s argument on that point). It must be as so many citizens from the PRC are enrolling in American universities.
            Don’t worry, Lin0, if the presence of nationalistic, over-sensitive graduates from Communist China on American campuses reaches critical mass, they, with their ever-increasing and valued wealth will be able to frighten American university administrators away from inviting graduation speakers who might speak lovingly of America, and who might criticize the PRC in their speeches.
            To put this in perspective, I wonder if American graduates at the Sorbonne University in France, or Cambridge University in England ever ignited a fire storm after a graduation speech criticized the United States.
            I tend to think not…..

        • Lin0

          I haven’t, but why does matter if I have or haven’t?
          Of course I am judging the US by the higher standard and. Are you suggesting that, a prestigious ivy league university have every right to follow the example of some 3rd rate Chinese colleges?

          Even if Zhang and his followers overreacted, they have tried hard in their own ways to correct some stereotypes of Chinese(brainwashed puppets) and Chinese students(never speak up) for the sake of all of us. I don’t understand why you and some others on Weibo should return with such biting sarcasm.

          • Matt

            Maybe it is an apples to oranges comparison. Maybe we shouldn’t compare the nationalist rants at Chinese commencement speeches to a U.S speech (but I’m not talking about “3rd rate colleges”). Just trying to add perspective. In China, the United States is a very important country. The U.S is the topic of discussion ALL THE TIME. I don’t take issue with people discussing the U.S in China. They should. People in the U.S should also be allowed to discuss China even if they don’t have a favorable opinion. Biden is the vice president… How is any speech he gives NOT politicized? In the context of his speech, it is appropriate to discuss China. Even though it’s silly, people in the U.S are anxious about China. Biden was just trying to reassure them that the U.S still has some good points.

      • Ada

        I am a Chinese from Shanghai. I just can’t understand why you guys make a big deal from Biden’s remarks. He can speak whatever he wants to speak as long as he talks truth. I don’t think anything he said is improper. Don’t you think one of your most important achievments from the US university should be that you learn to respect the facts and other people’s freedom to speak from their minds beyond whatever you acedemic achievements?

        • Lin0

          Don’t you think one of your most important achievments from the US university should be that you learn to respect the facts and other
          people’s freedom to speak from their minds beyond whatever you acedemic achievements?

          I agree with you.
          And I should probably shut up from now because really I DON’T THINK IT’S A BIG DEAL EITHER.

          But from the comments I read here and many else where, I am just tired of the American stereotype of Chinese that we are brainwashed idiots that follow everything the CCP says. That’s all my point.

      • Surprise123

        How is an American Vice-President at an American university using language to inspire American citizen graduates about their future inappropriate? The PRC is America’s primary competitor in the global economy: you know it, and I know it. And, Vice President Biden knows it.

        Zhang’s insecurity over Biden’s remarks is pretty ironic when you consider that Biden was addressing Americans’ own insecurity over the rise of China. Simply one insecurity in conflict with another.

    • mac

      Very Good Job!

  • AndyLC

    I just want to sit down with Zhang and ask him a single question. “Why did you go to school in the US, and not mainland China?”

    And see how much face he can keep in the answer.

    • Rainer

      I’d love to ask similar question too to everyone of half of million respectable expats who stick to China and live on China and badmouth China daily and to “see how much face he can keep in the answer”, especailly when the commie is so inhuman and the air are sooooooo bad.

      • Hopes Bob

        so followed with your opinion you should come to africa countries where have soooooo much fresh air and sooooooo humanity

        • AndyLC

          China is well liked by many Africans now, and I have met quite a few mainlanders who have traveled to Africa for work, they say that while westerners drive around in armored cars, Chinese mingle with the Africans, so Africans respect them for it.

      • AndyLC

        Many Americans I’ve met in China are here because they couldn’t find jobs in the US, so they came to teach English in China, where they make as much money as Chinese college graduates (if not more) and greatly enjoy the freedom they have to pursue their hobbies while engaging in a low stress job. Some of them find the love of their lives, get married and settle down, some have their fill of playing around and return to the US, or move on to other countries.

        There’s no shame in admitting that life is easier in China for a US citizen than it is in America. America only takes the most elite, best educated, richest mainland Chinese, but PR China accepts any American to come and play around. That is a very large difference between the two.

        The day that a mainland Chinese can come to America, not speak any English, and be paid a middle class salary as a Chinese teacher is the day that China has surpassed America!

    • Hopes Bob

      you know what does the meaning of“师夷长技以制夷”,oh i guess you don’t,i just want to see how depressed and grey of your face is

      • AndyLC

        Yes, Japan is the shining example of “师夷长技以制” . When China was the strongest, they studied China, and caught up. When the west became the strongest, they studied them and caught up, they’ve even exceeded the US in many fields. Taiwan and Korea are also very good at this.

        I hope that mainland China can grow like Japan, Taiwan, and Korea has.

  • Sorry to be Frank

    As a Chinese-American Penn student that was present during last week’s commencement, I was not offended by Biden’s comments but rather, it was merely uncomfortable to hear in a graduation speech. Biden had an excellent start, appealing to Penn students and humorously explaining his relationship to the school; however, the rest of his speech was a childlike tirade of his political agenda and shenanigans. If you can’t talk about politics over dinner, you certainly should not make others feel uncomfortable in a graduation ceremony. After 10 minutes, he was literally spewing mouthfuls of nonsense, empty words and meaningless comparisons to the point where even avid Democrats were rolling their eyes.

    Chinese Students’ Perspectives
    I also have a decent understanding of why the Chinese population at Penn could be offended. Imagine working hard for 2-6 years in school, proudly representing your roots only to hear distasteful words being spoken about your country in a gathering that is supposed to celebrate and praise your accomplishments? And imagine how Chinese parents felt: many traveled over 24 hours and went through airport security several times just to see their kids graduate only to hear Biden, an influential and powerful figure in the political world, insult their country and leaders. Annoyance does not begin to describe what they should and could justifiably feel. Biden is ironically not just any average Joe passing judgment; sadly, this Joe’s words can cause countries to do inane things.

    Biden’s Comments
    Those referring to how Biden is racist are rather ignorant. Biden’s speech does not hint at signs of aggression towards China or its people, and the difference between “nation” v. “state” is really not the problem here and is rather insignificant in the grand scheme of what is actually offensive and unnecessary. Many Americans are aware that he is loose with words and likely does not even understand the difference enough to intentionally insult anyone. Any comments relevant to China were just cheap pokes from one guy who personally has something to prove, not the feelings of an entire nation. Again, graduation is not the day to be discussing his take on the performance of the new Chinese president and China’s economy. The whole political rant was poorly worded and meant to draw attention in a “look what I’ve done and because of such, here’s why we’re better even though no one else is comparing” manner. His tactless words do not accurately represent the ideals of the overwhelming majority of Americans. He simply had an opinion, had to share it, barked it at us, and expected us to believe him. Biden could have easily just said that we were better than communist countries as a whole but yet, he singled one out, decided to raise hell and inserted his specific disillusioned opinions at who he well knows is a worthy competitor. All in all, his comments were just low blows and cheap jabs.

    Addressing the Audience
    1) This has been mentioned a lot but Penn is composed of over 10% international students, a % over double of the average college in the U.S. Penn also has a large Asian population in general (at 20% for undergraduates).
    2) Then, there is the fact that Penn has a large educational presence in China, with study abroad ties and research for its 12 schools there.
    3) Although Penn is predominately liberal, there are still large Republican Party and Independent Party presences, in combination possibly equal or more than the Democratic Party. I can only chuckle at how non-Democrats felt during the entirety of the speech.
    4) Here’s where my elitist side kicks in: we are Penn students! We are soon-to-be Ivy League graduates and not your average Joes either. We take what everyone says with a grain of salt and most of us are not prone to fall for simplistic preaching.

    Did Biden really think that this was the time to sway people onto his political agendas? Did he even prepare anything beforehand? As someone who is more liberal than conservative, I was nevertheless disgusted with his bold claims and references to his and his party’s achievements, some of which were questionable. True or not, this was not the place to be discussing controversial issues.

    I guess what I’m trying to wrap up here is that it has nothing to do with his comments about China. It’s more so the fact that he formulated a state of the union address rather than a graduation speech. He picked the wrong time, place, and audience to proclaim his extremely biased opinions on several controversial topics evoked and he should perhaps use more tactful comparisons in the future. In the end, we can also formulate opinions on how awful his speech was, although the dislikes on the YouTube bar really speak for themselves, but an overarching fact was that the majority of his speech was nothing but political ranting on his party’s behalf with little worldly guidance or support in relation to graduates’ present accomplishments and future endeavors, unless it’s for the benefit of the government of course.

    • Paul Schoe

      Thanks for your extensive description of Biden’s speech. As we were not there, it is interesting to read about it. However, as readers of this article, we are only aware of the quotes mentioned over here so we can only react to those.

      I remain surprised about how upset scholars (which is what you are now) are with Biden’s remarks. To me it sounds that you are still very focused on face, instead of exchange of opinions. In these remarks, I see Biden give an opinion and provide a story about an encounter that he had with your president. His remarks were about a system, not about a race or personality.

      As far as the parents are concerned, who, as you correctly mention, often “ traveled over 24 hours” to be there, I think that they got exactly what they came for: a justification for their decision to send their children to the US for Study. They heard Biden say: “You cannot think different in a nation where you cannot breathe free; you cannot think different in a nation where you aren’t able to challenge orthodoxy“. hearing those words as a parent who has just invested more then a million rmb in the education of my child, I would feel justified. I would think, “Yes Mr. Biden. This is exactly why I sent my child to the US, so they learn to be independent thinkers“.

      Or is it is so that they, and everybody else, knows that that is why parents send their child to foreign universities, but nobody is allowed to mention it?

      If that latter is the case, then I am not just disappointed in Zhang but also in you and also a bit in Penn. Then even though you both are now scholars from an Ivy League university, you still dance around the issues, afraid that somebody mentions the real items that are on the table.

      Which is exactly why Biden feels that the US and US scholars don’t have to be afraid of China: US Scholars don’t have to dance around the table as much as scholars in China have to do (if they want to have a career).

      • wes707

        Nice rebuttal.

      • Sorry to be Frank

        I appreciate a good discussion. To address your points, I don’t fancy myself a scholar quite yet but I do prefer to place common sense and practicality before my education, which is not in question here. Scholars have every right to be upset. You’re right that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. My opinion is that there’s a reasonable amount of tact that you would expect from a reputable politician.

        Similar to how it’s bad practice for a CEO to smack talk a trade partner or a competitor business, it’s not wise for the Vice President of the United States to use strong words (1) in a very diverse audience that is not particularly political in nature and (2) in a celebratory setting. That’s my only issue with this whole thing. I don’t agree or disagree with his stance on China, but he also did not need to call out an entire country. It’s just a thoughtless move to even discuss the performance of another country in such a public fashion and quite honestly, I did not care to hear a political rant on my graduation day.

        Finally, if you read carefully, my description is nothing like Zhang’s. I’m not trying to translate or justify that Biden’s remarks were “racist” or “derogatory” in any way whatsoever. I respect that Biden does not dance around issues and waste people’s time. I hate people that do that and I don’t think that he should be out there to promote something he does not believe in. Still, there’s a time and place for everything. This was a family and friends event, and people were there to celebrate.

        Understandably, Biden’s job is to be a politician but politics is something that can clearly be very controversial to hear in general and it simply left a bad taste with many graduates and their families. I overheard a few minor arguments about a slew of issues that Biden discussed between families after the commencement ceremony and that’s not exactly something to be discussing on such a day. So you can continue to be disappointed in me and Penn, but I’m just relaying what it feels like from this perspective and I have no interest in actually decoding his words.

        • Paul Schoe

          Thank you for your reaction. Let me start by saying that in my initial reply, I did not say that I was disappointed in you or Pen. That disappointment was conditional (if …) and if, as you seem to indicate, that condition applies, then that only shows how deeply you are convinced that politeness goes before truthfulness. Which I personally find a pity for a scholar (which in my eyes, as an Ivy League graduate, you now are).

          Where you and I differ in opinion is whether Biden’s speech was appropriate or not. I cannot speak for the rest of Biden’s speech, but as far as his comments about China are concerned, I do believe that he chose exactly the right location and occasion to make those statements.

          Please remember in reading my reply below that, just like you, I am not a US citizen.

          As you yourself know so well, when people graduate, they are also looking for guidance. For many there is the big unknown out there. They have gone to school for almost 2 decades. They have received enormous amounts of support from their family, or had to take on very big loans, and now they have to make it.

          And the numbers are not that optimistic. It is a rat race out there. Hundreds, if not thousands, applying for the same jobs. Tens of thousands who end up in jobs that do not do right to their education. Many of the ones who do not have the guanxi to get the right job, wonder: ‘What is next?‘, ‘How do I succeed?‘, ‘Can I survive?‘.

          When a famous politician then arrives at your graduation, you welcome guidelines. In such a challenging world, with such high unemployment, you welcome a motivation speech. You welcome suggestions on what to do next.

          And whether you like it or not; China is the big elephant in the room. In the US, China has the reputation that they have taken away many manufacturing jobs. Now China has more university graduates then the US. Many wonder what that means for the short-term and the long-term employment situation for US graduates. So when you graduate in the US, and you hear your Vice-President say: ‘don’t worry, we will succeed‘, then that is a welcome message to hear.

          In addition, the Vice-President is there to motivate the graduates. Every country invests enormous amounts into education. From primary school to college and universities. They do that for a reason, and one of the most important reasons is to stay competitive. Politicians have to make sure that their country’s graduates will achieve that goal, and that they stay in their country to help their country’s development. Politicians HAVE TO make sure that graduates believe in (the options in) their own country and so he quite understandably mentions the one country that at this moment actively recruits scholars from the US: China. And he tells them why not to go there.

          So this is were you and I differ from opinion. I feel that it was an excellent occasion for his message and you feel that it wasn’t.

          And I meant what I stated before. I believe that many parents who traveled more then 24 hours to be there, felt justified when Biden mentioned that he feels that the situation in the US is better for scholars then in China. For most of these parents this is exactly why they have spent so much money. If what Biden said, is not the case, then why send your child abroad for study?

          As stated above, thanks for replying. We will most likely remain to differ of opinion on this issue. That is OK. However, i do have one question. Since you are open to an exchange, maybe you can satisfy my curiosity: Where does your screen name come from? ‘Sorry to be Frank‘ doesn’t strike me as a very positive screen name for somebody who just graduated from Penn and now has the whole world ahead of her. But like I said, this is just personal curiosity.

          • wes707

            “I believe that many parents who traveled more then 24 hours to be there, felt justified when Biden mentioned that he feels that the situation in the US is better for scholars then in China. For most of these parents this is exactly why they have spent so much money.”

            I think you’re projecting Western values onto Chinese parents. I think prestige is a much larger attraction for Chinese parents than the openness for scholars in the US educational system. I also graduated from Penn a few years ago and most Chinese undergrads were either in Wharton, studying economics in the School of Arts and Sciences, or in engineering/science. This tendency to focus on mechanistic learning and skill was very apparent. Unfortunately, most of the Chinese seeking education abroad do not seem to have any interest in the values of the Enlightenment that actually spurred on the creation of modern science, industrial methods, and not to mention modern universities.

            In my opinion, Chinese students (and their parents) are looking for the most practical way to monetize Western education. This is not necessarily wrong, however the majority still seem to lack an interest in critical thinking, and it shows through in the knee-jerk reaction to any criticism of China. As you’ve pointed out in your discussion with “Sorry to be Frank,” the concept of face still overrides frank and clear discussion.

          • Paul Schoe

            Hi Wes, Thanks for your reply. I might indeed be naive in how much Chinese people who go to the West do indeed prefer Western values above Chinese values.

            Maybe you are right. Maybe it has nothing to do with appreciating Western values, but instead it is a simple cost/benefit calculation that makes them send their children to the the West to study (or their child is incapable of going through the Gao Kao exam and can’t get to a prestigious university in China).

          • Sorry to be Frank

            Hi Paul, “Please remember in reading my reply below that, just like you, I am not a US citizen.”

            I AM a U.S. citizen, born and raised in the states, and a proud Chinese American student from Penn. From your seat, wherever you may be, you might have found Biden’s speech to be appropriate. For someone who actually attended the ceremony, sat through the speech in the correct setting and for the intended audience, and is both Chinese and American, I am rather bias but I can assure you that in the moment, it was inappropriate.

            When Biden made his speech, aside from his comments on China, people of all races were unimpressed and annoyed with hearing one long political drama. Yes, Biden shouldn’t lie and be fake but I would expect that the leader of the best country in the world to have a little more grace with his words. I do think Zhang overreacted about Biden’s China comments and like I previously mentioned, I’m making my narrative on the overall speech and what it felt like when I was there.


            Since you were wondering, my screenname is derived from rebuttals to a column in the Daily Pennsylvanian known as “Sorry to be Kurt.” And I don’t appreciate your comparisons of my personal choices to my Penn education. My screenname has nothing to do with my intellect.

            You’re right I do have the world ahead of me but I am already rather successful in my field and I run a profitable startup without your encouragement and condescension. Finally, since you’re looking to read up on my life story, I grew up in a liberal household in the most diverse city in the world and I went to an arts school for 4 years before attending Penn. My mind is more “American” and my job requires me to be a critical thinker. I’m horrible at anything Asians are stereotypically good at (math, Excel, etc.) and I have a knack for cooking, reading, boxing, and design. Please keep the personal questions coming.

          • Paul Schoe

            Hi “Sorry to be Frank”, this is the first time that I end up in such a long discussion on an article. But we both seem to take the effort, so I guess it is ok.

            They only item that I have is, “Who do you react so defensive?“.
            I simply asked for the source of your screen name. I explain that I can not connect it to the brief information that I had of you (Penn graduate) so I got curious. I even mention that it is nothing more then personal curiosity. No judgment, I just explained that I couldn’t connect the two.

            Your reference to the Daily Pennsylvanian makes a lot of sense, you must have enjoyed or connected withe column. Great!. But I hope that you forgive me that living at the other side of the world, I have never heard of ‘Sorry to be Kurt‘.

            I guess that with this, you also touch the core of the complete discussions on this article: “Why do people who have had such an excellent education, suddenly feel so offended, when topics are raised or, quite innocent questions (such as where does your screen name come from?) are being asked?“.

            And when it then appears that all those people have a similar background, then we start wondering if they are more concerned about face than about an exchange of opinions.

            I believe that people are rational beings, so if I don’t understand something, i try to find out why that is the case. Asking about your screen name was an innocent question. There is really no reason to be offended.

            I just ask myself, “Why do I see so many comments on the Internet from Chinese youngsters who feel offended?” China is applauded for the progress that they have made over the last 30 years. So why are these Chinese youngsters not a group of proud people, instead of reacting on everything as a personal attack. There is no reason to be insecure. As I said in my remark to Zhang: If Biden said the same thing about my country, it wouldn’t have insulted me, it would have motivated me. I would already have moved on and started working on proving Biden wrong instead of going to my friends on the Internet to complain how awful the vice president of the US has treated me.

            (PS: just read the last 12 words slowly again, doesn’t Zhang realize how ridiculous that sounds?)

          • Sorry to be Frank

            Why did I make a fuss? “‘Sorry to be Frank’ doesn’t strike me as a very positive screen name for somebody who just graduated from Penn and now has the whole world ahead of her.”

            I have every right to be defensive and offended if you are going to somehow criticize my screenname and connect it to my education. If I chose a screenname like “jfnskldfjasdf,” it’s not “a very positive screen name for somebody who just graduated from Penn” but maybe I just don’t care enough to make time to come up with a creative screenname such as simply using my name.

            I already explained my thoughts on Zhang. I think we both agree that he overreacted so I don’t understand why you have to dive deeper here when I see you can and have continued your obsession on other posts. And I still feel that Chinese students have every right to be upset. If these remarks were made about Americans, the media here would have a field day here and speaking as an American, we tend to instantaneously overreact.

            Finally, it’s great that Biden’s speech would have motivated you and I hope you saved it to your “Favorites,” but again, for someone who this speech was actually intended for and having recently gone through the entire experience of college, the speech did not motivate me but only made me loathe politicians more nor did it appeal to most students in my age group. And for the last time, I’m talking about the speech overall and I have little interest in analyzing the China comments further with you, which you seem to be obsessed with for some reason I do not wish to know, and I am neither defensive or offensive about the comments specifically. I wished to provide an overall perspective of how it felt for someone who was there for the entire experience, and who is Chinese and American, as I feel my description and emotions evoked during the speech warrant a lot more merit than someone who watching and commenting on a computer screen. So again, I’m glad the speech motivates you.

          • Arbor

            You might find yourself dancing around table already, defending Biden’s disputed speech. It is your right to choose the side you like to support as a third party. That’s what I see clearly from your “exchange of opinion”.

      • Mishmael

        @ Paul Schoe

        1. You do not need to go to University in the US to develop independent thinking – many Chinese here hav made the point that Chinese students are just as capable of thinking for themselves when in China.

        2. This was not an “exchange of opinions.” Biden was in a priveledged position as speaker and was certainly not taking questions from the student body. He was able to say anything he wanted without having to face criticism. In any case, there is a difference between “in my opinion the CHinese government does not permit enough free expression” and “Chinese kids are brainwashed idiots.” One is open to further discussion and the other is racist.

        3. US education is not a privledge, nor is it a transformative experience. It is a product purchased by the student (and his/her family). FOr this reason you should not expect all those who have experienced US university education to come out as uniformly pro-American or libertarian hacks. While it might change the minds of some it certainly will not change the minds of others. You should stop pushing your political expectations upon people, saying “i am disappointed in this and that,” because there is no legitimate basis for these expectations. The best kind of education is actually one which enables students to develop according to their own preferences and makes them better at what they want to be better at. I am aware that this does not include a normative political element but that is precisely the point – a degree is about self-actualization and not political indoctrination. If the US is uncomfortable with this mentality towards education then I forsee a decline in enrollment in US institutions as foreigners become aware of the uncomfortable political agendas of US institutions and look elsewhere for education.

        • Paul Schoe


          Biden did not say that “Chinese kids are brainwashed idiots.“. It are these type of ‘quotations’ that lead to infuriating reactions.

          I fully support Biden’s remarks and as I stated before, if he had made those remarks about my country; I would be driven to proof him wrong rather then being insulted. However, I would be insulted if he said that all our kids are ‘brainwashed idiots‘. But Biden did not say that, so please stop throwing oil on the fire. Your statement shows how masses become agitated.

          Actually Western university studies are normative. They are not only about ‘self-actualization’. It is not supposed to be a pick and choose what you want. From people who have finished a Western education on university level, we do expect independent thinking, we do expect that they place logic above believes, and we certainly expect from them that they adhere to facts and knowledge instead of placing ‘saving face’ above that.

          So when I told ‘Sorry to be Frank‘ that I would be disappointed if she feels that despite that “everybody knows why parents send their child to foreign universities, nobody should mention it“, then there is a very legitimate basis for this. Not because I expect her to conform to a certain political agenda, but because I expect from scholars that they are willing to face the facts and say the truth rather then hiding what everybody ‘seems’ to know.

        • Harold Janson

          US “education” is for those who screwed up too bad to get into a decent school at home. It’s the dumping grounds for idiot undergrads.

          And yet.. they still beat the crap out of the americunts who fight to get into them. Pretty funny actually.

    • Adela Virginia Gonzalez

      what about free speech? Biden as vice president of the USA and can choose to say what ever he thinks if he wants to or if it fits his agenda or if its a union address… he doesnt have to think about China or Republicans or! And as an American-Chinese, you should be more aware that a commencement is about giving HOPE and present the future not as a continuous state of WAR or a continuous SUMMER or WINTER CLIMATE CHANGE nightmare, we already know how difficult is out there…i thought it was a good speech, nothing biased or party line, for a man that is very down to earth compare to other politicians….what triggered your anger with the speech? You are the only one who knows, maybe you are a republican disguised as a non partisan commenter or just an anti LGBT or a another professional complainer about everything….just enlighten us with your expertise and knowledge, please :)

      • Sorry to be Frank

        In one of my previous responses, I said that Biden can say whatever he wants and I’m also expressing my opinions of his speech. He could have talked about the color of his turds, but does that make it appropriate? His speech neither gave me hope nor needed to be so political. Similar to how you would expect your maid of honor at your wedding not to discuss politics in her speech and your best man not to discuss the groom-to-be’s sexual encounters, graduation is an affair that I believe should not have been so political, thus fueling all these comments, as clearly evidenced here.

        Since everyone is so interested in my personal life, I have no religious affiliations. I am a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. I don’t believe in politicians discussing LGBT because it’s a waste of everyone’s time and money. People should be able to marry whoever or whatever they want. There are people out there married to cars; why can’t they marry other people? “Professional Complainer” is already on my resume.

        Finally, if you’re looking for more complaints, I prefer to have civilized discussions with those who do not need to use caps and italics in the wrong places to make a point. Today’s children already write like this: “JiLL, LeTs HaNG oUT laTEr.” Please don’t encourage them to be incoherent dents in society. Thanks.

  • Me

    After generations of brainwashing and the treatment of despotism, this is what happened!!! Fearful towards the frank criticism!!!

  • http://twitter.com/OcastJournalist W Chua

    Regrettably, China has being demonized by the western media – these are some of the examples: http://outcastjournalist.com/index_files/media_disinformation.htm

    Many of the so-called Chinese dissidents are being funded by the US government for the purpose of smearing against the Chinese government: http://outcastjournalist.com/index_files/no_evidence_to_support_chen_guangcheng_beating_claims.htm

    China is freer than the United State in many ways. This is the reason why so many Chinese students decided to signup in protest against Biden uninformed allegation.

    • Eddie spaghetti

      China is freer than America? How? I’m interested as to how you could possibly argue that….

      • Global70

        China is as least as free as the American as they can protest against any American government officials. It is just too bad that all Chinese citizens cannot have actually see the youtube recording of Biden’s address.

        • Harold Janson

          It’s entirely possible in China to protest against local officials. The end result tends to be an immediate investigation and kicking them out of the party. As opposed to the US, where said protests are simply ignored and crammed into “free speech zones”. With the end result being presidential pardons, slaps on the wrist, and legal excuses as to why nothing was technically criminal.

      • http://twitter.com/OcastJournalist W Chua

        China don’t killed their citizens by drone. China don’t have any rendition program or torture chamber like Guantanamo; Besides, China government do a lot more for their citizens during and after a natural disaster than the US and Australia. Here is the examples: http://outcastjournalist.com/index_files/democracy_need_reform_australia_china_n_usa_a_tale_of_3_natural_disaster.htm

        • darkeegan

          There is no need for secret rendition when there is public knowledge of black jails. And Wumao being paid to make China seem better than other countries with nonsense comments in discussion forums.

        • Eddie spaghetti

          All of those pionts are wrong, and none of them are a measure of freedom, freedom is freedom of expression, freedom of choice and freedom to be governed how you like (maybe-not really freedom I guess, but better choose than not). P.S. the Chinese have drones and use them -same as America, chinese torture more people in prison than Amercia, what does china do for it’s citizens after a natural disaster?

        • Guest

          China has drones and but doesn’t need to kill it’s own citizens with them, you are correct, the PAP just use bullets. china has many more torture facilities than the US they are called prisons, and blackjails, and resducation through labour camps. I’m not sure what the chinese government does for citizens after a natural disaster but in the west mostly insurance companies deal with the aftermath. All of these are in now way at all related to freedom.

  • wispson

    It’s true that it’s difficult to challenge authority in China. But Chinese inabilities to confront orthodoxy and think different in China are nonsense considering the effort made by Chinese to adopt new cultures and values in the past decades. Even though the face value should not be cherished all the time, in this case Biden is oviously a party spoiler who turned a commencement into a show of political propaganda that can readily arouse discomfort.

  • shcngzb

    Chinese cannot think different?

    Wow! I can assure you, Chinese are the one who think different way too much compare to any others on this planet. They can rip any legal system apart and find ways to benefit themselves. Most Chinese are like lawyers who can find ways to get their way.

    Biden, seeing China raising SO FAST after opened up just 30 years ago and another 5 years will be on par with US GDP from nothingness didn’t teach you that Chinese think very different to achieve where they current are compare to others?

  • Derek

    I really don’t understand what these stupid chinese students are protesting for? Well, I don’t like Biden at all in general but I don’t think he said anything wrong in this matter. These Chinese students should know better than anyone else in the world what kind of place their homeland is. Maybe this again is those Chinese face thing. They might think they lost face when Biden said those thing publicly. Well, in that case, I hope they would go back to China to make changes instead of trying every thing to stay in US after their graduation.

    One other thing. I have a very strong impression from this forum about these Chinese students: they don’t sound like someone who have had years of education in both China and US, rather, they sound quite like a Chinese peasant who just came out of a small village in a remote mountain area. All the things he knows about the world are from that talking box in his kitchen wired to the house of a local party secretary!

  • Bracton

    Vice president just told the truth about China’s situation, why does a man need to apologize for the truth? If the Chinese guy don’t like being in the US, come back to China and enroll at a domestic university. Don’t be shameful there.

  • Somebody

    This article confused the focus obviously, maybe purposely. The reason why they are not happy is certainly not about the use of nation, but “where you can’t breathe free”. And there is obvious tendentiousness.

  • Rainer

    Funny to see Americans are so down-graded themselves that they need a idealogical commissar to boost moral spirit in competing with China, a China which only used the same trick in Mao’s time.

  • John W

    America, this is what you get from millions of Chinese students flocking to American universities in recent years. They probably spent too much on their academics and never learnt and understood what makes China and America different: faith, ethics, justice, and equal opportunities. BTW, normal citizens in China can’t afford their kids to study in America. It’s only the many who use their ill-gotten commercial gains or corrupt money to send their children to America. In China, usually you don’t get rich by being honest and following the rules. Zhang should go back to China after graduation and enjoy his life there. Just don’t become a computer hacker.

  • Jason B

    I’m in Beijing now. I can tell you that Mr. Biden is wrong because you definitely can breathe free here. The problem is you will choke yourself to death because of the super bad air pollution.

    • Rainer

      As I know, of 550,000 foreign expats in China, 180,000 are living in Beijing. For a teaching job vacancy in Delwich Int’l School, there are over 40 foreign applicants who seem not to feel the bad air.
      Sugar cane cannot be sweet at both ends. You must be an idiot to have failed to strike a win-win deal when coming to China where you get nothing for your interest.

  • David

    What the V.P. was possibly hoping – but clearly unable – to say was “Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice” (Steve Jobs, Stanford’s 2005 Graduation Ceremony).

    • Eddie spaghetti

      Thanks David for clearing up the ruckus. Could have said it better myself.

      • Eddie

        I mean ‘couldn’t have said it better myself.’ Sorry about that.

    • wes707

      imo some of the best words to live by … “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish” Sure trumps the v.p.’s words.

  • Offended

    His speech implies that people who grew up in China do not have the ability to think differently. Given that a large number of the students did grow up in China, and I presume can think, Biden is implying that these people, and their family and friends, are inferior thinkers (even if those attending Penn had been liberated or something by American thought).

    It is important to stand up for yourself. Maybe it’s not a big deal as an isolated incident, but if those students don’t say something, others like Biden may continue to dismiss the thoughts and ideas of Chinese students to the detriment of both sides.

  • lilian

    I’m chinese, and i really don’t care if what VP Biden stated or ranted was true. I just think that a graduation ceremony with so many chinese seniors is certainly not the best place to say how chinese students can’t think different. I understand that he was trying to encourage the US students, but invited as a guest speaker, it was his responsibility to encourage all of the young students ready to be exposed to various political systems and cultures. you’ve gotta demand an apology over the man that made your ceremony sucked, right?

  • Nick

    Biden’s comments were not directed at Taiwan, they were directed at Red China. Red China is a cesspool of privilege and human rights abuses. Any ivy league student from there studying in the USA is a beneficiary of that system and stands on the necks of their enslaved neighbors. If you are uncomfortable hearing your country described thus go back home and change it, stop benefiting from it. You could start by pushing for intellectual property rights in your plutocratic, kleptocratic, fascist state. Perhaps you could work on some freedom of speech and of the press and of religion too.

  • Bracton

    As a Chinese, I would like to be on the side of VP since what he said is the true fact in China. Actually, with rapid economic development of China, some Chinese guys are getting arrogant and rude, even looking down on anything. It is a bad trend for China. I think China now is in need of criticism, especially from the outside world. Direct criticism will make Chinese government and people realize their shortcomings or faults and push them forward in the direction of a peaceful and harmonious country. What Biden should do is not to apologize but to keep attacking. In China, there is a saying: harsh words is not comfortable to the ears but good to actions.

  • zh

    When Biden talked about ” “think different” he doesn’t seem to have the ability to “think different” .
    Biden doesn’t know the wisdom of other nation and culture.
    There is a old saying in China every Chinese know that is : A single chopstick is easily broken, A bunch of chopsticks can’t be broken.
    Thinking and Acting together is one of the biggest strength of Chinese culture.
    While Xi fooled Biden, Biden didn’t even know it.
    In Chinese wisdom, knowing other people’s thinking but don’t show other people especially your enemy your real thinking.

  • Audrey

    In demonstrating his dissent, Zhang is taking advantage of exactly the hallmark freedoms of thought and speech the Vice President talked about. Bravo.

    Perhaps now he understands why the distinction in freedoms between China and elsewhere is genuine, and why such “real” discussions are appropriately timed for his graduation into the real world.

  • Face The Fact

    Another big BS article.

    When someone is US speaks something discrediting/not respecting China then it will always be meant as a “joke” but when it’s the other way around then it will be meant as an insult to US.

    The fact is not that racism doesn’t exist in US; it’s a simple matter where many are better at hiding their “true” feeling.

  • celtthedog

    First, if Joe Biden says the Chinese are a joke who will never rival the United States, you can safely bet on the opposite. The man is a buffoon.
    Second, in respect to where Biden gave his speech, when it comes to an oppressive and conformist society devoid of freedom of speech, thought and conscience, not even the People’s Republic of China can compete with the present-day American university.
    God bless America? God help America.

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