What are the historical reasons?
Is it because of the historical relative wealth of western countries?
Is it because of the history of colonialism in Asia?
Is it because of the same white supremacy that gives white people higher status in the west?
Please answer only if know prefer not to have answers that are only speculation. Thank you.
Zhuozhe Li Data Analyst in NY
Written Aug 5 2015
It depends where those laowai are . For example In Beijing Chinese people travel to the western countries and see many laowai in Beijing. They probably see too many of them. They can't be nice to every laowai and they know laowai is just laowai nothing special.
In my hometown a north-western city people think laowai is cool and treat them well. People here are not well informed and their expectations of laowai are from movies. Laowai is not probably richer than middle class in Beijing. But people in cities like my hometown are poor so laowai appears rich and educated.
Every time I go home and I try very hard to persuade my mom that laowai is normal people and laowai is not better than us. Laowai is just a person like you me and the others. But my mom won't buy it. She thinks laowai should be as cool as they are in movies...
Well China is still a developing country. Most of parts of China are still poor and need better education for the people living there.
Matthew Sutton worked at History of China
upxed Mar 28 2014
I never felt like I was given 'higher status' or 'preferential treatment' as a laowai in China but I guess for many Chinese Caucasian foreigners are perceived as being affluent.
Typically this is true. In comparison to the average Chinese person who even if they have a lot of money are generally much more frugal a white traveler in China will be there on an expensive vacation or business traveling for a large corporation. Given the distance from their country of origin a Caucasian traveler can be predicted to blow money on stuff that they would not closer to home.
Naturally if a Chinese person is running a stall/store/restaurant those who might be big spenders (or provide biggest profit margin) will get the proprietor's attention.
Patrick Wallace lived for 14 years in China
Written Jan 26 2014 R26; Upvoted by Paul Denlinger
The accepted Chinese view of their own history would lead many Chinese to give westerners a much lower status than they have now as westerners are blamed for many of the ills that China has suffered over the years. Therefore history has little part to play in how westerners are treated within China right now.
From what I can tell there are three factors that currently govern the way westerners are treated in China. First westerners are considered guests and there would be a significant loss of face if they were treated badly. Second the policy of the Chinese government has been to encourage relations with westerners and the West in order to build up the Chinese economy. This automatically gives status to a visiting westerner. Third on a personal level many Chinese people think that all westerners are rich and traditionally many Chinese people admire wealth (if not the wealthy).
Yet all of these factors are transitory. While Chinese people may want to treat guests well a guest who has overstayed his welcome is despised in every country. While economic development is still a government priority the government now has other priorities as well and so the Chinese view of western investment and westerners is evolving in complexity. Finally some Chinese are waking up to the reality that not all westerners in China are all that rich.
Consequently are attitudes within China changing towards westerners? I would say yes. They have been becoming more nuanced and less favorable as the years have gone by and old resentments are starting to bubble up slowly to the surface. While most Chinese still treat westerners respectfully as guests there is a growing undercurrent within China that westerners are no longer as needed or even welcome as before.
Given past Chinese history such as protests and even riots against Americans in the late 1990s because of the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Serbia and protests against western interference and westerners in general after the fall of the Qing Dynasty it would not at all be surprising if Chinese attitudes towards westerners changed rather quickly depending upon events or government policies.
Written Aug 6 2015
I would suggest that the preferential treatment that (white) foreigners are given (and it's very right to consider that they don't only get positive reactions) do depend on the notion that they are successful and rich as much as probably even seen as attractive (when they are well-dressed and groomed and have pale skin) for some people.
There is of course a history of colonialization in China where a successful and affluent "West" invaded Chinese territory and spread their ideas. Unfortunately what they also brought with them was their colonial philosophy and social darwinist ideas that according to some academics was more or less adapted by Chinese intellectuals who put the Chinese race as equal to the "white" race and put everyone else lower especially black people. Curiously BLACK Europeans or Americans seem to suffer the same discrimination as Africans. Color overwrites origin in this case. I am sad to state that even a couple of my young and educated Chinese friends had predjudices against blacks. So yes the idea of supremacy might be a factor in this treatment even though Chinese wouldn't consider themselves as "inferior" to Whites but see themselves more as equals. Some Chinese netizens also seem to be complaining that Chinese would glorify Westerners which I would say could be true in quite a few cases. That might have to do with the comparative rarity and the comparably successful image of white westerners that are present in China. Especially for the large group of Chinese who do not travel abroad they will most likely not see poor or homeless or even uneducated white people in China.
Whites seem to still feed off the status of the rich and powerful even though this picture might be changing. As other people correctly observed in regions outside the more international cities white foreigners are also a rare sight and i would assume that people mostly know them from western movies and media or appearance in Chinese TV shows (where I would assume a rather positive picture prevails).
As for "please answer only if you know" well "knowing" in this case is relative. There is a lot of research on this topic and I personally only looked at racism in China so far but then again please consider that there is no one simple answer to your question just as much as your thesis that there is a general preferential treatment on whites is not at all correct. There are a lot of different and conflicting notions that come together when discussing that topic and opinions of experts might vary greatly