When it comes to colonialism, the US has tended to take a different approach than our European forefathers. The Belgians had their “chop off a hand if they aren’t working hard enough” method, the French used a “leave the country in even worse shape than you found it” doctrine and everyone tended to embrace the “prop up a minority tribe and give them weapons so everyone else hates them but they fight each other instead of us” hypothesis. The US, after a failed attempt in the Philippines at European style colonialism, invented a new way. We decided to sow our products and culture on any possible fertile land and then reap the harvest.
You can call it what you like but the US approach has been pretty successful so far. You probably can’t find McDonald’s in Mogadishu but it’s one of the few world capitals where that’s true. Yankee hats decorate heads from Morocco to Malaysia and is there anyone who doesn’t know who Kobe Bryant is? Neo-colonialism, as it’s often called, has even found its way into US diplomacy where baseball and basketball feature prominently in pro-American campaigns in Latin America and China, respectively. Honestly, it’s a much nicer kind of colonialism.
That’s probably why it’s not much of a surprise that the Chinese internet community laughed aside a recent State media editorial claiming that the newly arrived US ambassador to China, Chinese-American Gary Locke, was an American attempt at neo-colonialism. Locke captured quite a few fans before he even arrived when pictures of him buying his own coffee, using a coupon and carrying his own luggage showed up on the internet. The Chinese have a reputation for being frugal and they appreciated seeing these same qualities in the US representative to their country. It’s ninja neo-colonialism. You don’t realize what is happening until it’s already done.
I, for one, applaud this new approach. Appointing an Ambassador who comes from the same cultural background as the country where he will serve and someone who has real experience from his time as governor of Washington and Secretary of Commerce? That sounds less like neo-colonialism and more like common sense to me. Or maybe that’s exactly what ninja neo-colonialism is all about.