Earlier this week, there was much furor over the recent release of Albert Einstein’s travel diaries, where he made comments about the Chinese people that many construed as being racist in nature. However, it appears as if Chinese netizens are taking the controversial entries in stride, and in some cases, agreeing with the brilliant physicist’s descriptions of Chinese people and life in the country in the 1920s.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, The Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein was published by the Princeton University Press as a document of the scientist’s visits to countries such as Palestine, Spain, Japan, and China from 1920 to 1923. The diaries came with a disclaimer from the publisher stating that the entries could potentially change a reader’s perception of Einstein as a scientist and human being, but even then, a lot of attention was focused on Einstein’s comments about the “industrious, filthy, obtuse people” of China.
“It would be a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races. For the likes of us the mere thought is unspeakably dreary,” read one particular entry.
According to The Guardian, Albert Einstein’s travel diary entries about China and its people offended a number of people, who took to social media to call for a “boycott” of the scientist and his works. However, China’s own social media users believe that Einstein was, in a way, right about his observations, as the country was a vastly different place close to a century ago, at the time the diary entries were written.
“Einstein went to China at the wrong time,” commented one user on Chinese social media network Weibo, who was quoted by The Guardian.
“How could Chinese people at the time gain Einstein’s respect?”
Some users made similar points as they defended Albert Einstein, and even compared him to Chinese literary icon Lu Xun, who is still hailed to this day for his work, despite his satirical criticism of Chinese society as it was in the early 20th century. In other words, these users believe that Einstein was simply calling things as he saw them.
“This is called insulting China? That’s ridiculous. Did the Chinese in that era look dirty? When I see the photos from then, they look dirty, Einstein depicted the true state of that era.”
All in all, the “level-headedness” of Chinese social media users earned the praise of state publication Global Times, which wrote an editorial on Friday that openly wondered how Albert Einstein would react to the attitudes of most Chinese people toward his travel diaries. The Guardian wrote that most commenters agreed with the editorial, but added that there were still a few that insisted Einstein was a racist individual for making those observations and that he was someone who “[didn’t] understand humans at all” despite his many achievements as a physicist.