Chinese state media has said the “Chinese style of inner faith” gave British player Emma Raducanu the confidence to win the US Open over the weekend, but some of the country’s internet users asked: why are we calling her Chinese?
Raducanu, 18, became the youngest grand slam winner since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004. The pride in her success was simultaneously shared in China, where her mother was born.
Raducanu thanked her fans in fluent Mandarin through a video on social media shortly after the victory. “I wanted to say thank you,” she said. “I hope you liked watching my tennis. I’m really really excited right now … Goodbye, I love you.”
The pride was channelled through China’s state media, too. Xinhua, for example, praised her tenacity and celebrated her Chinese heritage. It pointed out that Raducanu had received training at the sports academy in Shenyang, her mother’s home town.
“This smiley half-Chinese girl once proudly said it’s the Chinese style of inner faith that gave her the confidence,” said the Xinhua report, adding that Raducanu’s two favourite female tennis players included Romanian Simona Halep and Li Na: the first Chinese player to win a grand slam singles title at the 2011 French Open.
In a separate interview, Raducanu paid tribute to the Chinese side of her family. “They are so mentally resilient – it’s like nothing can bring them down. I would say I take a big part of my inspiration from her. My mum has worked very hard,” she said.
Raducanu’s multicultural background has been a subject of curiosity on the Chinese internet over the weekend. Many people talked about her family background: Chinese mother, Romanian father, born in Canada, grew up in Britain. “Chinese-British mixed blood. Awesome! Respect!” said one post.
On Chinese social media site Weibo, the hashtag “18-year-old ethnic Chinese young player wins US open championship” has now been viewed at least 200m times, with most commenters applauding her success and sending her congratulations. They called her their “sister”, “beautiful”, “healthy” and “a rising star”. Another hashtag, “Raducanu”, had been viewed at least 200m times.
Knowing her mother grew up in the north-eastern Chinese city of Shenyang, some commenters pointed out a slight Dongbei (meaning north-eastern) accent in her spoken Chinese. “She speaks like a ‘Dongbei girl’. Amazing!” one said.
But others appeared to be confused by Raducanu’s ethnic identity. “She is British. Why are we calling her Chinese?” one commenter asked.
“If she’s willing to be Chinese, she’ll be Chinese sooner or later. If she’s in the UK as British, why do you have to give her a Chinese identity? When you talk about [Serena] Williams, do you take the initiative to mention that she is an African American? Don’t you usually just say she’s American?”