A Chinese View of Chinese Jealousy

In China, people are pretty much wary of appearing too popular, too smart, or too rich, basically because it provokes jealously.  We say in Mandarin Chinese that we are pàhóng (afraid of red) (meaning afraid of being too noticeable), because as we say in English, “the nail that stands out gets the hammering.”  Therefore, humility may not be as much an inborn personality trait or a sign of good education as it is a defense mechanism used to protect oneself from jealousy, often times disguised as criticism and often resulting in backstabbing and sabotaging (as confrontation is avoided in China).  That’s the real mìmì (secret)!

As an editor of scientific journal articles, I have had the opportunity to read the peer reviews of manuscripts submitted for publication, and have chuckled because most often it is NOT the native English-speaking peer reviewers who are most critical of the author’s English, it is the Chinese peer reviewers who are most likely to criticize the English, as if they actually knew!  Of course, language can be edited and edited and edited, forever and forever!  It can ALWAYS be improved.

As I edit research manuscripts, I have noticed that some authors in China are overly critical of previous research in the Discussion or Comment section of the manuscript.  I either remove the comments or tone the negativity down, because I know this will make the peer reviewers become overly critical of the manuscript they are reviewing.  Who knows? One of those peer reviewers may very well be the person or a friend of the person the author is criticizing. Oops, poor review and rejection!

In Chinese, they have a saying, “Scholars hate scholars.”   For some reason, some people, not only in China but others around the world, think they can raise their own  esteem if they push down, browbeat, or make fun of others. The logic is similar to this: if I go next door and break up my neighbors’ living room furniture, my own living room furniture will look better. Yeah, right!  Of course, the opposite often happens because criticism invites criticism. Most likely, critical people, those who habitually and blatantly judge something as bad, terrible, or without merit, will be held in lower esteem by all.  And THAT will be easy to do, for as Wei Zheng from the Tang Dynasty said, “Other people are mirrors that reflect our own flaws.”  From this, we can deduce your frequent criticisms show that you have plenty of flaws that can be found and will be found and used by people who have a negative opinion of you.

Here is a cute article written by a Chinese member of the Falun Gong in the newsletter PureInsight.org it is entitled, “Cultivation Diary: Experiencing Chinese Jealousy.”

And enjoy a little music jealousy.  :-)