Why are the Chinese so upset II: Being an internationalist
Your suggestions of overcoming East-West misunderstanding with multiculturalism (Alice Poon), attention to individual choices, within-group differences (Wu Di) and between-group commonality (Daniel) remind me of the Foreword written by former Japanese ambassador to the United Nations Hatano Yoshio for Nitobe Inazo’s well-known book “Bushido: The Soul of Japan” (Kodansha, 1998 edition).
Here are direct quotes (English Translation by William Carter).
“The world is rapidly becoming “borderless”…….But will there be a similar trend toward homogeneity, a similar “borderless” transformation, in the world’s way of thinking, in its values?……Another question I have is whether this trend toward homogeneity will mean that “Asian” ways of thinking will move in the direction of “Europeanization” or “Americanization”. It may be too early, however, to give a conclusion. This is because there is too strong a feeling of resistance on the part of Japan and other Asian countries……”
Hatano’s analysis represents a misunderstanding of the world and positions of the players’ in it shared by many.
The world is far from borderless. Ten years after Hatano wrote his article both Japan and US are finger printing foreigners’ at the border and the Chinese are imposing visa restrictions on foreigners during the Olympics. Large parts the Middle East have no connection with the rest of the world except via trade in oil or violence. Africa has little contact with neighboring Europe except via its refugees trying to sneak into Europe and the European authorities intercepting them at sea. Hatano’s old work place the UN is paralyzed by divisions and bickering. The Olympics has opened the Pandora’s Box of mutual loathing between China and the West. In a fragmented world where everybody is more psychologically isolated from foreigners than ever, Hatano’s concern about the “Westernization of Japan and other Asian countries” was misguided, just like the Chinese hope for their “one world, one dream” Olympics is muddle-headed. The Olympics has become a parade of relentlessly incompatible ideologies, values and politics between China and the West, as well as their stereotypical/suspicious views of each other.
Cross-border contact is indeed increasing and the world’s economic activities are getting integrated. However, the different groups are held together not by a new-found love, or a mutual fascination with each others’ uniqueness, but by cold-blooded, impersonal Capitalism. Cooperation and conflict, as well as people’s movements are driven by Capital’s drive to replicate and increase in value on a global scale, often at the expense of the people it controls. Why do you think foreign business people have relocated to Beijing and Shanghai despite the pollution? What motives drive non-Chinese to learn Mandarin?
How should individuals in Asian countries respond to the inevitable internationalization(國際化)? Hatano offered an advice from a sensai position, that we should all transform ourselves into internationalists (國際人), a concept he then defined with 4 requirements. Only the first two call for close examination.
“To be an internationalist, you must first of all have an interest in the world”, Sensai wrote.
On this front today’s college age Chinese are way ahead of their American counterparts. Their purview transcends the Chinese border in their education and career choices. Their language skills allow them to “swim in both Oceans”, as Fareed Zakaria has pointed out. There is no question about who and where the narrow-minded people of the world are.
“A second requirement for being a true internationalist is to have one’s own clear points of view and to be prepared to express them in a way that will carry weight with others”, Sensai continued.
Hatano sensai did not inform us what the purpose or objective of expressing one’s views and opinions is. Should you aim to convert the other to your position, or simply inform the other of your position (a more modest goal)? Consensus is almost always impossible among individuals holding different opinions. The pro-life versus pro-choice and intelligent design versus evolution debates have no sign of being resolved in the United States . Opposite opinions radicalize each other with each side interpreting the “evidence” as unambiguously in its favor and exaggerating the other sides’ extremism. The same logic applies to China bashing in the West and West bashing in China; neither side will be persuaded. Still, China and the West should continue to talk to each other, if only for the purpose of being informative (without being persuasive).
It is hard for Jack Cafferty to convince the Chinese that they are indeed a bunch of goons and thugs. It is hard for the Western activists to convince the Chinese that their Olympics are genocidal. It is equally hard for the Chinese to persuade Jack and Western activists that they are SBs. But I think it is still useful and productive that some Chinese do inform Jack and activists they are SBs. I think this is Hatano sensai’s spirit of “having one’s own clear points of view and being prepared to express them in a way that will carry weight with others”, an essential requirement for being an internationalist. I hope everyone takes this last paragraph with a sense of humor. Have a good weekend.
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