Sep 23

Do westerners care what we think?

Written by berlinf on Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008 at 5:08 am
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I felt honored to be invited as one of the authors for this site which seems to have a lot of healthy debate. I know that in the past, A Chinese blogger by the name Anti (安替) also started some effort to translate Chinese articles into English to let English-readers have a firsthand understanding of what the Chinese minds are pondering about.
I am not sure how far that project has gone, but let me start by asking a question, not out of bitterness in a problem, but out of curiosity in finding an answer: do westerners really care what we are thinking about?

I was asking this question after reading one of the responses to Mr. Li’s letter to BBC:

“This is a very “Chinese” essay: it uses Chinese thinking, it uses a Chinese style and it gives a lovely Chinese response to the west! This was good, hard work! For the Chinese people, this essay is worth 90 points. For western people, this essay is worth 10 points! This is like playing music to a cow!”

I am afraid that is often true. Anecdotal experiences told me that some Americans know that we may have a different perspective, but they simply wouldn’t care, hence the “playing music to a cow” claim. They listen. They nod. They forget.

While our governments often talk past each other, on individuals’ basis, we practice the same kind of mutual monologues. Effective cross-cultural communication is rare. We often end up reinforcing each other’s own perceptions or even biases. To be willing to walk a few miles in the other’s shoes is a truly altruistic act that few are willing to take. Though many have shown interest in China and the Chinese minds, the ones who end up knowing most about us are the missionaries many years ago, when they simply made a choice to become Chinese in order to minister to the Chinese. If you google the best-known sinologists, you’ll find that many have this kind of missionary background.

As an English-Chinese translator, I noticed that few people even bother to translate from their own native language to a foreign language. As a non-native speaker of English, for instance, we may never know the nuances of the English language after we translated that from another language. In like manner, when we try to reach out to western readers with our versions of truth, does our rendering even strike a chord? This is really curious. Communicating or debating or dialoguing are all nice and noble, but at the end of the day, what do we bring home with? What does it take for understanding to happen?

In other words, when will our 90-points essay to BBC (in all good will to communicate with the west) stop being music to cows?

There are currently 2 comments highlighted: 16267, 16314.

96 Responses to “Do westerners care what we think?”

  1. Daniel Says:

    I’m not quite sure how it could stop being music to cows, but regarding that essay…I think for those who generally have the personal interests and experiences…most importantly the will to to think beyond the words (outside the box); it’s really not too bad. Maybe not 90-points–great music, but definantly not a Failing grade–cow music.

    Sometimes, I think people should adopt some aspects of the “genuine good-hearted” missionaries of the past when understanding others. From the Jesuits missions to today. Some of these people, at least the well-respected ones, didn’t have the condescending attitudes that many other world travellers of today and the past often displayed, intentionally or out of habit. At least, not on a large scale as many openly express.
    Actually, there’s really so much more that can be discussed about why they were that way, but I have a feeling many other commentators will fill in.

    Main point, don’t worry too much to a point where you can’t sleep because the other side doesn’t understand you entirely. People of the same background and society can’t do it either. For those who do care (and for whatever cause), they do care what you all think. The value of those opinions go higher if there is a strong relationship i.e. between friends, partners, etc. Regardless of whoever and whatever in the media talks and writes.

  2. FOARP Says:

    Wow, this post is incredible, it contains pretty much everything that makes people turn off when they hear such commentary. Let me break it down for you:

    1) Condescension – people in the west are not ‘cows’ (please spare me the lecture on how this is a 成语, it still isn’t flattering to the person thus addressed)

    2) Ignorance – Not all ‘westerners’ are Americans, even though some people seem to think they are. Specifically the BBC is a British organisation – the first ‘B’ is a bit of a clue.

    3) Zero fact content – contains nothing but opinion.

    4) Reactionary – this is a response to a response to a re-posting of an article on the BBC website criticising the western media’s interpretation of China. That’s six degrees of separation, the same number that separates me from Hu Jintao!

    5) Front loaded – you know what the article’s going to be about just by reading the title. When someone asks the question “Do westerners care what we think” it is obvious that 1) the author is not a ‘westerner’, 2) That they do not think very highly of them, and 3) that the answer given by the article is going to be ‘no’.

    6) The use of the terms ‘we’ and ‘our’ to address the readers, many of whom are ‘westerners’. Creating a false ‘us and them’ division is no way of getting anyone who does already agree with you to read this article.

    I’m not even going to give this article a 10.

  3. Theo Says:

    I would like to hear more about what Chinese people think. But as my Chinese skills are mediocre the main sources of Chinese opinion are a) The Chinese English language media – mostly rubbish and highly selective (ask me, I used to work in it). b) Comments and other Chinese internet BBS etc posts. Even worse than a).

    Unfortunately recent Chinese nationalist inspired thought isn’t so much ‘music to cows’ (dui niu tanqing) as blowing the cow’s hide (chui niu pi).

  4. cephaloless Says:

    I hate to throw this in but as much as americans don’t care about anything out side of america (or the state they live in, city, or maybe as small as their neighborhood), do the chinese do any better? Do the average joe of any country care about events/opinions in a far away land unless they have family or business interests there?

    I wouldn’t want to limit this to a american/western vs chinese attitude if its closer to human nature.

  5. JL Says:

    “What does it take for understanding to happen?”

    It takes people to stop seeing others as either “Chinese” or “Westerners” (or “cows”), and start seeing them as individuals, who hold the opinions that they do for reasons that are understandable, but complex, and not reducible to simple “media bias” (which exists in different ways everywhere).

    “In like manner, when we try to reach out to western readers with our versions of truth, does our rendering even strike a chord?”

    It does when you support what you have to say with verifiable facts, when you don’t start out from the premise that if the “westerner” in question is either simple-minded or fundamentally biased if she doesn’t agree with you.

  6. Wukailong Says:

    “Playing the lute to a cow” is a somewhat nicer expression than “throwing pearls to swine”, so I wouldn’t bother too much about it.

    I don’t think written communication is ever going to have much of an impact on people in general. Most people don’t pay attention to another country unless they have to or take an active interest in it. When there are more personal encounters between two groups of people, they will learn to understand each other better.

  7. GNZ Says:

    as cephaloless says I think its largely human nature. Anyway if one is trying to communicate with a group of people it is best to write essays that are worth more than 10 points to those you wish to talk to, and there is no greater good in explaining your position only to the people who know it already.

    I think with some effort and understanding any position can be translated so that others understand it. Although there may still remain fundamental disagreements.

  8. Nobody Says:

    Here we go again, the ignorant calling the ignorant, ignorant; the condescended condescends on the condescending; the opined opens fire at the opinionated full of empty indignant opinions… What a load of juvenile whinnings, bitterness, and all too temperamental. Hey, do I hear moos, a grunt somewhere, a bleat in the mix, the twanging of hillbilly blues too ~ hee ha? Yo, there’s even the stomping of rythmic feet, and the smell of shit? Oh my word….it’s the Animal Farm!
    There are sheep, swines, pandas, to the left. Chicken, cocks, crocs, splashing about in the lake! Aha, there’s the deaf Cow, singing bitches, cats on heat, & wolves in wools on the far right. Give them the birds, for Pete’s sake, shoo off the monkeys, and will ya stop horsing around on this merri-go-round..?!

  9. berlinf Says:

    I appreciate the feedback and criticism.

    FOARP, somehow you proved the point I was making in this article.

    Speaking of “us” versus “them”, “westerners” or “Chinese”, I may be overgeneralizing, but do not pretend that they don’t exist. It is a construct all right, but not always false. If you are such a stickler about it, stop using the word “Americans” too.

    Unfortunately people communicate with words. For the convenience of them, we sacrifice some of our original intent.

    However, if the use of “cow” bothers any of you, I apologize. 对牛弹琴 “playing piano to the cow” is a set phrase in Chinese that means nothing more than “communicating to no avail” (something like I am doing here) . No, I am not implying that westerners are cows. Not after Sanlu.

  10. cephaloless Says:

    What about “westerners” vs “chinese”? Westerners refer to europeans and north americans (and a lot of times the white residents of the US). What about “chinese”? I know there was a previous post about that but it got long and I don’t think it did any contrasting in this manner.

    Perhaps “westerners” is too large of a group to lump together without losing everybody’s interest. Could “chinese” actually be doing the same thing (theres chinese citizens of PRC, theres all ethnic chinese around the world, and everything in between)?

  11. berlinf Says:

    I remember Jane Fonda once commented that as she traveled across America, she realized there is not an “America”, there are many “Americas”.

    But at other times, I feel there is a need to lump things together, just for the sake of communicating. I didn’t invent the word “westerner”. Even today, it is rather common for many Chinese to refer to anyone non-Chinese as a Lao Wai (old foreigner), whether they are from North Irelandor West Virginia. How are they supposed to know? You all look alike 🙂

    More importantly, I still don’t think that the term “westerner” should altogether be dumped. There is something that seem to identify a British more closely with an American, than an American with a Chinese. It’s all relative, though, on particular issues. Take someone from Britain and one from American for instance, you all speak English. You all belong to the Judeo-Christian tradtion. There are more things that bind you together than some of you are willing to admit, as least in contrast to Chinese.

    And it is part of Chinese thinking to lump things together first, and then go to individual differences. You all probably know that there is a word the link “car”, “train” “bicycle”, “van” “truck” together. We make that similarity explicit. They are all a “che”.

    I don’t feel bothered at all if someone calls me an “eastern”, it’s just a word, for Christ’s sake!

    Even in these responses, I can smell something “western”, if you will, in the attitudes that can reinforce our old stereotypes. For instance, who are you to grade something that I write? What arrogance! Haven’t the west (sorry) always been accused of this? Now some proves it.

    We Chinese don’t lose sleep because anyone just call us a Chinese, without further distinction. We know how different a Cantonese can be from a Shanghaiese. But deep at heart, we all share our Chineseness which does not get diluted with our differences.

    I personally think the avoidance of the label “westerner” is sometimes pretentious among the intellectual elites. Some just don’t want to be associated with the average joes that I was describing in this article.

  12. berlinf Says:

    Unfortunately the average joes pick which elite to run the country. John Kerry can tell you all about it.

  13. Daniel Says:

    After reading and thinking about these comments, I can understand some of issues people will have with these post.
    I don’t if this will help but as an opinion, based on my knowledge, experiences and observation…it is hard to have meaningful dialogue between two or more peoples keep ignoring and putting aside all the terms and beliefs that make them uncomfortable on all sides. I notice it sometimes when I read it here and elsewhere. There are reasons and merits for being PC though, yet we have to deal with the undesireable ones because they do exist and not pretend they don’t.

    I thought about what others stated, and in my honest blunt opinion, there’s little chance people can avoid the “us vs them” mentality in these type of discussions. If it were between two individuals, than there really is little need for it, but for all purporses, frankly, most of the discussions here are between different societies and cultures. It’s very common knowledge though that of course the spokespeople for these us vs them issues do not speak or properly represent all but than many do so.

    I know how many of you hate the US-China comparisons ,but to make my point, the us vs them mentality is quite strong where I live as well. Quite evident in the articles and conversations—public and private—and people do use it when facing other individuals…fellow Americans as well…of different background. If it’s not nationalistic sentiment or ethnicity–race, than it’s class, religion, education, etc. People are like that wanting to find terms and ways to seperate themselves from others, and the strange thing is eventually they will want to form groups with similarities. The basic reason is because we are social beings to begin with, almost everything else is commentary. In a vague sense.

  14. Hemulen Says:

    As an English-Chinese translator, I noticed that few people even bother to translate from their own native language to a foreign language.

    There is a reason for that. In the world of professional translation, it is standard practice to translate into your native language, not from it.

  15. FOARP Says:

    My objection is quite simple. It’s not enough just to speak your mind if you do not “show your working” as my high-school maths teacher used to say. You have not “shown us your working” here, instead you have just told us that the answer to the question is 42. My other points stand also – discussions with Americans are not relevant when talking about British commentary; responses to what other people say automatically have less significance than those that engage with primary evidence; starting from a premise which you feel no need to justify (‘westerners’ are wrong) and then writting a long piece on how you feel about this will not sway anyone who has not already bought that original premise; describing a group of people as ‘cows’ does not help your message.

    If you want people to listen to you, first dispense with these gross generalisations and unsubstantiated premises. People in the US and Europe are quite capable of believing bad things about their societies when they have incontrovertable evidence placed in front of them – think Abu Ghraib, My Lai, Bill Clinton, post-war Germany, the “methods of barbarism” speech on the Boer War, abuse of natives in the Belgian Congo, slavery, Allied bombing during WWII, the Amritsar Massacre, Bloody Sunday etc. etc. etc.

    But until you have this evidence – why bother asking people why they do not listen to commentators who accuse the ‘west’ of having a special ‘bias’ or ‘conspiracy’ against China because we simply won’t believe you and we are quite right to do so.

  16. berlinf Says:

    Thanks, Daniel. I agree with you. We are after all social beings, and there are numerous ways we can identify ourselves and the groups we belong. Yet all of these can change. Pride in being part of a particular group should be no less noble than the pride in being an individual. Unless we refer to something in a derogatory sense (such as Chinamen or “Foriegn devils”), I don’t think there is a need to deny the affililation with a particular social group, or even a geographical one (such as “westerner”). If you are an independent-thinking individual, calling you a westerner won’t make you less so.

    This blog, as far as I can see, talk about societies and cultures and groups in bold generalizations all the time. It is part of a natural dialogue.

    But I know that academic training in the US teach people to make their argument very specific, very narrow, very contextualized, where each concept is well defined and operationalized.

    But that’s also why we have the term “ivory tower”. People lose touch with the natural discourse.

    Though I admit that we Chinese tend to view things more as a group, and risk being over-generalized, I often see benefit in seeing the big picture first, described or presented in general terms.

    As for “us” versus “them”, what’s wrong with that? Try live a day without thinking in such terms. Deninals of such divisions have become a new cliche, more void of meaning than a straighforward division with which we can at least start a discussion.

  17. berlinf Says:

    FOARP, I don’t need to show you my “workings”, because I am just presenting my opinions in general terms. I am not denying that. If we are talking about the true age of a gymnast, then I’ll need to give you facts, evidences, etc. to support whatever position we are on. You are trying to impose rules on me for a game that I am not playing at least for this post. There are times we need to make what you call “gross generalizations”. Think of each word in the very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident. Now tell me about “We”, “Truths”, “Self-evident”.

    If you are disturbed by what I said, that possibly mean I had hit it home somewhere. I don’t know about others, but you answered the question that I raised in the title of the post.

    I am not actually very ambitious in convincing you anything. It’s hopeless. Read your own comment. All you say is that: In order for us to change our opinion about you, you must do this, this and that. In other words, “You guys are guilty until proven innocent.” Who gave you the right to hold that position in the first place?

    I think you are biased. Now do the math and tell me you are not.

    I have made it fairly clear that I am NOT comparing westerners to “cows”. It is a phrase in Chinese that explains about the failures of communication. Besides, I quoted it from the earlier post.

  18. cephaloless Says:

    I don’t think theres anything wrong with “us verses them” either. If “they” choose not to pay attention, that should not be taken as a problem, especially when “they” are a large group. Its hard to receive 100% attention even when audience came to listen to you.

    I see more of a problem with speaking in terms of “us” and “we” (no offense berlinf). Over the past year, one major thing I’ve noticed in blogs is “we” and “us” and along with that stereotyping of the audience. So, stereotyping of the “us” and stereotyping of “them”. Sometimes people chime in and tell the writer not to speak for all of “us” and that we’re not all like that. Speaking about “them” with associated stereotype is hard to avoid but what about “me” and “I”?

    I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head but “we” (you guys) probably remember something.

  19. RMBWhat Says:


    Your very chosen name suggest some sort of bias, but then again I’m just a conspiracy theorist.

    But can you really deny that as humans we are inherently biased in each and every facet of our lives. It’s the left vs right, us against them mentally.

    Now, ignoring all thoughts of some sort of conspiracy, we know that mainstream media (we can all agree on that right?) by it’s very nature supports the dominate paradigm of society, whether it be Fox news or CNN. And where does the dominate paradigm come from? It comes from society. And society is made up of groups of human beings. And by the very definition of being human, we know we are biased. So it is safe to say that the dominate paradigm will have a system of bias build into it’s very core.

    What i’m getting at is humans are biased. society is made up of humans. Media is a part of society, and thus media must also have some bias. Because media is a human construct.

    So we can all agree on that Media can be bias. But are any bias directed toward China (a different group)? Just think about it man. I quit. It should obvious.

    Now to chip away at your cherished dominate paradigm. Just research operation gladios. operation northwood. Oh yeah, and operation 9/11 (the evidences is obvious. I can’t help if you refuse to see it).

    I quit this forum, seriously. By the patriot act, what I’m doing makes me a terrorist. Do I really want to be labeled a terrorist in this day and age, by law? I don’t think so.

  20. berlinf Says:

    cephaloless, thanks for pointing it out that I should be using “I” where I had used “We”. I will be cautious next time.

  21. RMBWhat Says:

    Note, I only did “bias” of “bias” AND “consipracy.” BUt I think with some more twisting of words I can connect conspiracy to bias. Hey, you game is to show a generalized statement about Western Media with more generalized statements such as “bias” and “conspiracy.” It’s pretty easy. HAHA. Social sciences LMAO.

    Anyways, my point is to show the futile nature of existence and reality. You lefties and right-wingers are all trapped in this dominate paradigm b.s. What is the point man? It’s like human nature in general. It’s oh they’re communist, or they Chinese; there is something inherently wrong with “them,” and “our system” is better, thus we must tell “them” about it. Because god knows they are f***ed up and we must save them!!!

  22. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To JL #5:
    well said. There’s nothing fundamentally special about how a Chinese person or a “western” person thinks. It might require an understanding of cultural backgrounds, societal mores, or some other motivations. But once the starting point is identified and explained, a thought process that is logical should not be incomprehensible to anyone. This post is just a retread of a letter previously discussed, and I fail to see how it was so uniquely Chinese or somehow profound. Seemed fairly pedestrian to me, and as I said before, nothing that a dozen commentators on this blog haven’t said before.
    If a teacher teaches a class, and everyone passes except one student, then that one student might have some deficiencies; but if the entire class fails, then the problem probably lies with the teacher. So if the author of the post wants to bemoan a general lack of understanding of the Chinese thought process by the entirety of a faceless “western” population, then perhaps more focus should be spent on rectifying the cause, rather than further bemoaning the result.

  23. FOARP Says:

    @Berlinf – It’s true that the American declaration of independence starts “We hold these truths to be self-evident” – although, once again, I have to ask why you have to bring up America when the original article was about the BBC. The founding fathers of the United States then followed this up by saying what they thought was self-evident: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” things that most people living in free societies find fairly uncontroversial, but even if they were controversial the declaration of independence was not part of an argument. If you say “I hold this truth to be self-evident: that westerners are biased against China”, I doubt that many people anywhere are going to be convinced, I certainly am not.

    So, let me put this simply: if you cannot provide evidence backing up your point of view, you should be asking why exactly you believe what you believe, not asking why other people do not believe you.

    “Guilty until proven innocent?” In other words, “You guys are guilty until proven innocent.” Who gave you the right to hold that position in the first place?

    I think you are biased. Now do the math and tell me you are not.

    I’ve never seen anyone contradict themselves quite so quickly on an ordinary chat site. Let me let you in on a little secret: In most countries the defendant is innocent until proven guilty BY EVIDENCE – this was the point I was trying to communicate. It is not reasonable to expect people to believe you if you cannot support your argument with evidence. These are not rules I am trying to impose on you, but the tenets of logical argument.

  24. cephaloless Says:


    I recognize the need to use such generalizations sometimes as well.

    But does the chinese culture lead to being prone to using generalizations (in the bad way) or does the western cultures lead to the same.

    I’m trying to get at the stuff behind the public face we normally see. Are the chinese speakers somehow “trained” to be like this while in most of the western nations they’re “trained” to not do that? In our daily interactions, if we’re fortunate enough to interact with people from a wide range of cultures, how much are they like the stereotypes? I personally don’t notice a difference besides accents (maybe I’ve trained myself to filter out some of these differences without knowing it).

  25. FOARP Says:

    @RMBWhat –

    “Your very chosen name suggest some sort of bias, but then again I’m just a conspiracy theorist.

    Theorise away, I don’t like the CCP, but I try not to diss them for things they are not guilty of.

    But can you really deny that as humans we are inherently biased in each and every facet of our lives. It’s the left vs right, us against them mentally.

    I keep referencing this essay by Orwell, but I’ll do it again – read “Notes on Nationalism”, an essay the basic structure of which I am in whole-hearted agreement. Yes, everybody is naturally inclined through upbringing etc. to be more likely to believe one side of an argument or the other: this is exactly why it is so important to rely on proof!

    As for the rest of it . . . . well, I am not a believer in conspiracy theories.

  26. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To berlinf #11:
    if a speaker is to convey a concept, it behooves that individual to speak precisely. If, as you say, CHinese speak in general terms, then you can hardly expect the listener’s understanding to be anything but a little fuzzy. If you view such fuzzy understanding as a problem, then the speaker needs to incorporate more precision.
    Having said that, I disagree that Chinese communication is necessarily imprecise. Your example of “che” can be equated to “vehicle”. A car is in fact a “gas”-“che”; a train is a “fire”-“che”; a truck is a “cargo”-“che. The bicycle I’ll grant you, since a “dan”-che in fact has 2 wheels. But overall, there is no CHinese linguistic impediment to precision. And IMO, precision breeds understanding; moreover, it is a lack of precision that creates misunderstanding.
    Finally, every commentator on this site should fully expect their comments to be critiqued and judged. No need to get bent out of shape about it. Just so happens that FOARP said it out loud; some of us might just be thinking it to ourselves.

  27. RMBWhat Says:


    My whole point was when one talks about these generalized statements such as Western media “bias” and “conspiracy” against China, one use logical statements alone to “prove” these generalizations. And it is also easy to reverse such a statement, such as Chinese media has “bias” and “conspiracy” against the West.

    *shrugs* Just twisting words to “prove” things. But if you want to make some concrete statements then one may need to get into more detail and supply “proofs” in order to “prove” one’s point.

  28. berlinf Says:


    “Guilty until proven innocent?” In other words, “You guys are guilty until proven innocent.” Who gave you the right to hold that position in the first place?

    I think you are biased. Now do the math and tell me you are not.”

    I was being ironic here, or I was trying to use your own logic against yourself, instead of trying to shift my own position as you proclaim. I was saying if you use this “guilty until proven innocent” argument, then try it yourself and see how that feels like. That may be the best test for your reasoning.

  29. berlinf Says:


    I subscribe to the Beijing University Professor Ji Xianlin’s concepts about the differences between “western” and “eastern” thinking. But interestingly Professor Ji was most attacked by a number of Chinese scholars trained in the west. Well, naturally, they learned the “right” way of scientific thinking, so any alternative theories are heresies.

    Here is what Professor said about the difference:

    (From: http://gb.chinareviewnews.com/doc/1000/4/5/6/100045643.html?coluid=27&kindid=0&docid=100045643&mdate=0911123624)

    Let me give it a try at translation: Eastern thinking are more comprehensive, and western thinking are more analytical. Let me put it this way, the west emphasizes “one divivdes into two”, and in the east we emphasize “two becoming one”. To be more abstract, the comprehensive thinking of the east is chracterized by the universal connections of the whole, while the analytic thinking of the west is just the opposite.

    You asked whether we are trained to think in general terms, I am not exactly sure how it all started. Is it nature or nurture? If it is nature, it may be a nurturing process in the past that get passed on to our collective psyche.

    But I am not equating this “comprehensiveness” with “imprecision”. To equate this two would be another type of fuzziness. This kind of comprehensiveness of thinking, though not following a linear logic, may also lead us to draw valid conclusions. As I said, such divisions are relative.

    Though Ji was often attacked for his claims like this, I really think there is a lot of truth in what he says. Very often, we fail in a certain endeavor because we fail to adopt a systemic, comprehensive view of the world, to see things as interrelated, where one starts with a general view rather than a tunneled vision of how things proceed.

  30. berlinf Says:

    @S.K. Cheung

    I may sound like I am defending myself, but I am actually more motivated to continue the talk because I think we are getting somewhere, either by example or by argument. Why are we so obsessed with perceptions on a particular topic without taking a step back to see the more fundamental differences/similarities from which many presenting issues arise.

    I didn’t say that we should be proud of being “imprecise”. But now you brought this up, I do remember something one of my translation teacher said years ago: Chinese is concise. English is precise. In real practice, when I translate something into Chinese, I always go over it by removing words such as “because”, “since”, “therefore” when I can. On many occasions, such logical sequence are implied. I guess in most cases we can be consise without being imprecise, though. We just imply a whole lot more.

    I am not sure what you mean by the explaintion of “che” (vehicle), to me that is an example how our mind are conditioned to think in general terms first (the unifying concept of ‘vehicle’ goes in all these words). It is Ji Xianlin’s “comprehensive” mind at work. It may not have anything to do with being precise or not.

  31. cephaloless Says:


    Thank you for the source and translation. That’ll be interesting to look into.

    Regarding what I was asking, I was thinking of a possible difference in education system vs growing up in the cultural environment (so both nurture). For example, news anchors tend to “speak proper” and not have an accent. Maybe in the course of their training to become a new anchor, they’ve had to learn the official accent. So, BBC anchors are more understandable than the average british sitcom star. Now, rephrasing the question, its it just the people who speak up publicly who fit this aspect of the chinese stereotype? By what you shared from Ji Xianlin, its a cultural thing which means the average chinese guy in the small town or village would also do the “we chinese people …” thing. The same line of reasoning should also apply to “westerners”.

    I’ve never seen this kind of stereotype in my admittedly limited experience. Chinese->food and american->sports sure but not so much this.

  32. berlinf Says:

    cephaloless, if there isn’t something called “John Q Public”, or “Zhang Q Public”, the entire field of statistics will collapse. It is assumed that with the increase of the sample, we can fairly accurately assess or even predict the average of a given quality. I suppose it is the same with national character. There are charateristics that separate one people with another in spite of our common humanity. If you sample 10000 Chinese on the street whether they think Taiwan is a part of China, and you go the street in New York and sample 10000 Americans what they think of the same issue, I suppose that the percentage will be rather different. Would the sum of all such differences make us Chinese as a whole, and you as an American as a whole? Very likely.

    Outliers don’t count. Dashan from Canada speak much better Chinese than I do. But these are exceptions.

    But no statistics assume there is no individual differences even though there is some predictability on a given attribute. That’s the whole point here. Even when I am talking generally about a national chracteristic in general term, that does not imply I think they are all the same. John may have 8 out of 10 on a given quality, and Jay may have 10, and they average on 9. If I am attributing this 9 to a group, that does not mean I think John is 9 and Jay is 9.

    It is only on this ground that we can base our arguments. Denying that there is no such commonality thus derived is not always desirable, because we could lose the opportunity to communicate in a way that make sense to the other side based on our perception of such difference. I am sure it is much easier to start a dialogue with an understanding that we are different, than to start by assuming we are the same.

    Exactly how we become what we are? That’s the curious thing I’d like to learn more about too. Possibly a chemical compound of nature, history, education, media influence, and social reinforcements…?

  33. Otto Kerner Says:

    I can only speak for myself, but, yes, I do care what Chinese people think. That’s the entire appeal of this site. Why else would Westerners come here? I don’t think debate is at odds with that. Debate, i.e. follow-up questions, is necessary to find out the nuances and details of the other person’s thinking.

  34. Daniel Says:

    I’m not sure, if what I’ve learned and observed in the past could indicate a general idea, I would think it would say that it can be just as easy to start a dialogue with knowing we are the same and different. Then, I guess it would depend on what the topic and conditions surrounding the conversation should be in the first place.

    Pardon me for being blunt but Berlinf; you sound articulate enough and knowledgeble that it’s safe to assume you probably knew that writing this post as it is worded, would face criticisms such as these comments.
    Tell you the truth, if I show this article to about a 100 people at random at my US midwestern hometown, half of them would probably think what others did;that they would feel upset of the comparison to cows and have some issues with believing in an absolute convincing definition with the word “western”.
    The other half would have probably seen it through that they aren’t really being viewed as cows and can think beyond the box. Then, like you all said in this thread and others, there are the quirks with taking samples, statistics, surveys, estimates, “guess-timates” and other measurements to calculate public opinion.

  35. TommyBahamas Says:

    I find myself once again “Enlighten” from reading this thread. Thanks folks for putting in the efforts for the benefit of anyone who cares to follow this East, West approaches to a collective comprehension debate.
    berlinf’s quote of Professor Ji Xianlin’s concepts and examples are excellent. I also agree with FOARP and SK’s rebuttals for following the protocol of presenting proofs too. As, here it is again, the controversial yet inescapable term, “westerners,” but for lack of a better or more convenient word, by putting myself in the “westerner’s” shoes, I could see no wrong in their arguments. Neither do I find RMBwhat’s very honest & concise rationality and cephaloless nice summaries any less palatable.
    After years of debates with a good scholarly friend of mine, we have yet come to agreement on a lot of things. What’s right & clear to me is often not so right or debatable to him and vice versa. One of my favorite debates we had concluded with both of us agreeing that — it was a matter of taking sides. And that settled that day’s fruitful debate; we then both enjoyed a nice meal chit chatting about whatever.
    As for insinuating that the collective Eastern minds are less “logical”, that sounds like just another narrow-minded, two dimensional understanding of human reasoning. The East has been a part of, if not absolute pioneers in affecting innumerable great progresses in human civilization for millennium without the influence of the West, given that the “west” at large at the time was void of comparable scholastic disciplines in systematic logical deduction, the sciences and whatnot. Fact was, eastern modes did dominate earlier political the sciences and cultural paradigms.
    Even though the underpinnings of the great Confucian civilisation are predominantly secular, so is Daoism, polytheism or worship of nature and ancestors found their affinity with the mythological polytheistic philosophies of ancient Greece and Egypt were compatible – other than the first introduction of the ideas of monotheism conspired by Akhenaton, Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt. (He is especially noted for attempting to compel the Egyptian population in the monotheistic worship of himself.)
    It is perhaps of the holistic approach of Eastern collective mentality that it was and has always been very open to modern western ideas where they compliment and enhance and transposing themselves in their modern progresses, but not without paying enormous prices.
    The West, as we know, is although not the inventor of monotheism, nevertheless has inherited the severe patriarchal and savior complex of monotheism of Akhenatonian-Judeo-Christianity.
    (Akhenaton first known as Amenhotep IV meaning Amen is Satisfied, hence the word Amen, which came to also mean “so-be-it,” in Greek.)
    So with the politicizing of the Great Commission to– “Go forth and preach the gospel to the ends of the end,” and thus having invaded much of earth, Christendom or the “West,” has reaped enormously, further benefits in gleaning from non-western philosophies and sciences. I see a lot of modern sciences rehashing ancient philosophies such as chaos theory, quantum physics, etc.
    The ancients were already wonderful mathematicians, astrologers, architectures, industrialists, environmentalists etc. Our present epoch of the last 300 years however, even having found multitude of medical cures for earth’s inhabitants is unfortunately also, again, retracing the ancient’s hubris path to annihilation of most life on earth.
    Wow, holy cow, I did not mean to write such a long comment. My apologies.

  36. cephaloless Says:

    @ berlinf
    Agree on all accounts. But I question the generalizations derived from … where ever they were derived. Did we learn these from, say, academia, then simply accept them, or are these generalizations evident all around us supporting these generalities? I’m finding individual differences out weigh whatever cultural differences there is. Maybe its just the people I hang out with and have contact with but thats my experience and it led me to be more critical of assumptions about people.
    Sorry, I can’t resist throwing another analogy out there. “White people are blinding in the sun” but I’ve seen plenty of white people and they’ve never blinded me when they’re standing in the sun. (apologies for any who take offense, its meant to be sort of like a joke)
    I’d appreciate other people’s experience to add to my own.

  37. berlinf Says:

    Hi TommyBahamas, thanks for tracing the history of western thoughts! I learned quite a bit by reading your comment.

    Also, thanks for the word “holistic”. That is what I had been searching for! That offers a better description of of the “eastern” mind. But of course, human brains all have elements of holistic thinking and elements of analytic-logic thinking. Daniel Pink wrote a book called A Whole New Mind, which distinguishes between L-directed thinking and R-directed thinking. I highly recommend it.

    Daniel, once again, I apologize for quoting that “playing music to the cow” phase. I didn’t know that “cows” have some negative connotations. I learned something. Yesterday I saw a lady walking a dog which was black and white. I told her that her dog is very cute. It looked like a little cow. She didn’t seem to be extremely pleased with my compliments. I had been wondering why. I still don’t know exactly why, except it probably has something to do with female bodies? When we Chinese hear the phrase “underdogs”, or “guinee pigs”, we are unhappy too. I should have been more sensitive.

  38. Daniel Says:


    No need to apologize, these comments are just as enjoyable to read as the others. However, if the admins, authors and others feel that we are going off-topic and such, then I guess there’s not much we can do. ^-^.

    Frankly speaking, in terms of historical-cultural achievements-contributions and such, I truly believe that the Chinese (very general sense) learned a lot from other non-Chinese that many seem to not be aware of or accredit to. At the same time, I also think that the Chinese did came up with a lot of novel ideas, experiments and innovations on their own, much more than what people are aware of or accredit to as well. Sometimes, even the Chinese themselves aren’t aware of this or too arrogant of the things already known instead of investigating further to realize there’s a lot more to discover about their past, the world and their future potential.

    Put it into context, what I just typed is a very vague generalization my own personal opinion. Yet, I’m certain based on my interactions and knowledge I gained from others that I’m not alone with having these generalized thoughts.

    Oh yeah, I read an interesting theory…though I don’t think it’s an academic one. Some people believe that the basis and aspects of monotheism (as in One, ecompassing Diety–with very little if any images and idols to represent with;or possibly just nature–the sun alone, *sigh* too much to go into detail, could be another term I’m thinking of besides monotheism)
    as a religious-cultural belief existed all around the world prior to all the other beliefs. Supposedly, it would have made sense has humans progress that there could have been only one supreme being, but overtime things change. Assuming how much of the common humanity concept people truly believe in.

  39. cephaloless Says:

    So far, the discussion covered eastern and western thinking. But what about japan, korea, and other “eastern” nations? The verbal conflicts with japan in recent history comes to mind. Does the Japanese care about what the Chinese think?

  40. Daniel Says:

    Oh no Berlinf,

    No need to apologize. I’m just stating that the example which was used in this post, how it could have been percieved by others in this fashion. There are a lot of people who can see beyond the words, read between the lines, know the background or at least know where the authors are coming from whenever they read such material.

  41. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To berlinf #30:
    my point about the “che” was that, while cars, trains, etc are all “che”, that word alone is insufficient, you need to add the “gas” or “fire” to describe the equivalent thing. Similarly in English, “vehicle” replaces “che”, so a car is a passenger vehicle, a truck is a cargo vehicle. Admittedly, this doesn’t work for train or bike. But if anything, it just shows that for certain things, English has synonyms where Chinese may not. On the other hand, Chinese seems to have many more homonyms. But either way, if the objective is to convey a concept, I don’t think the fundamentals of either language are a barrier.

    I don’t mind being concise. No point using 10 words if 5 words will convey the same thing. But the point is that if the 5 words don’t provide the whole meaning, then it’s best to use the 10, if the listener’s understanding is the ultimate objective. I would also say that relying on implied meanings requires assumptions. And I was taught that one should never assume (cuz it tends to make an ass out of people).

  42. Wukailong Says:

    @berlinf: “Daniel, once again, I apologize for quoting that “playing music to the cow” phase. I didn’t know that “cows” have some negative connotations. I learned something. Yesterday I saw a lady walking a dog which was black and white. I told her that her dog is very cute. It looked like a little cow. She didn’t seem to be extremely pleased with my compliments. I had been wondering why. I still don’t know exactly why, except it probably has something to do with female bodies?”

    LOL. I agree that a little cow would be very cute, but I can only imagine what the lady thought. People in general probably think about cows as large, silly creatures, whereas horses or cats would be more acceptable for comparison. In China, dogs and turtles are animals people probably wouldn’t like to be compared with.

    But I digress. I accept the description of Chinese and Western civilization of having followed different paths (monotheism) and that there is some proselytizing over the spread of democracy that could perhaps be traced back to Christianity, but in general I don’t see how people think so differently. I tend to think in terms of examples rather than theories when I talk to people, and in most day-to-day discussions with people here the same everyday logic is followed. Of course, there is a different political correctness in China (Taiwan and Tibet comes to mind) but when these are learned and one can avoid bringing them up, there really are very small differences.

    The differences I’ve seen here are mostly of the following kind:

    * Political opinions (the Western media; the Chinese have too low suzhi to have democracy, Taiwan is chaotic and its leaders are bad)
    * Chinese medicine
    * Family things – more interdependence, some different ideas on how children are best raised

    As for some of the other things I’ve heard – that Chinese friends are more loyal or that Chinese people think more holistically – I’ve never seen any evidence from it in my personal experience. Of course, I might be wrong statistically.

  43. berlinf Says:

    @cephaloleses: “Does the Japanese care about what the Chinese think?” or “Does the Korean care about what the Chinese think?” Wow, I don’t what kind of worms will get out if we open these cans 🙂 But these are fascinating questions, maybe we can save them till next time, because we don’t have to wait long for a closely related issue to come up. Japan and China seem to be getting along all right. We have a lot more issues with the Koreans. Just today, I read that 13% of South Koreans surveyed say they hate Chinese. That’s a lot of hatred.

    But to make us feel better, 57% of the South Koreans surveyed say they hate Japanese. 10% of South Koreans say they hate North Koreans.

    Source: http://news.wenxuecity.com/messages/200809/news-gb2312-706502.html

  44. TommyBahamas Says:

    berlinf ..

    LOL..that was funny. Although I often think of ‘strength & deligence” whenever the word cow comes up. Yunno, strong as a cow, or an Ox in English. But I can also understand your refering the black & White puppy as looking like a dairy calf because what immediate came to mind was an image of absolute cuteness, a clumsy calf, that is. Haha, that really cracks me up. Thanks for the comic relief.

    Daniel, “the basis and aspects of monotheism (as in One, ecompassing Diety–with very little if any images and idols to represent with;or possibly just nature–the sun alone,”

    You are absolutely Spot On~!
    With re: to the concept BASIS of Christianity..It really is as old as time, from basic aggrerian observation of the solstices…The Sun as the Light of the World, the only reliable, imutable entity that allows for reliance, hope, scheduling, sowing and reaping so on and so forth, and hence refered to reverently as Providence.
    You are right, it is too long to get into, and I’ve already taken up too much space. (Same with the exchange of ideas from China’s long history of international trading enterprises. Heck, Buddhism is from India, so is Guan Ying & others, then much later, Christianity etc.) Cheers.


    What? Chinese medicine? Given you didn’t post it as question, is this a trick? Just kidding 🙂

    As for some of the other things I’ve heard – that Chinese friends are more loyal or that Chinese people think more holistically – I’ve never seen any evidence from it in my personal experience.

    Only when you are in the pits…as we say 患难见真情啊, do you know who your friends are.
    To be honest, I have for years, decades, gosh, half of my adult life walked around being OBLIVIOUS to a lot of the things discussed on this blog. This is why I keep coming back.

  45. Wukailong Says:

    Eh, hehe… I didn’t really make myself clear about Chinese medicine. It’s that people include traditional medicine in their thoughts on the world, so that it’s obvious that you don’t eat lamb meat in the summer because you will have problems with 上火, etc. Though as an expert in the field pointed out, it’s mainly a filtered and watered-down version of Chinese medicine that has find it to ordinary people.

  46. Michelle Says:

    I feel excluded from this post, being “western”.

  47. Michelle Says:


  48. Hongkonger Says:

    OH, Michelle. We are, I mean, excuse me, I AM sorry to hear that, melady.

    Gentlemen, look at what we’ve done. Surely this is NEVER our intentions.

    FOARP, from the UK is here. Wukailong, another European is here. Most are North Americans. Most of whom are as Western as they are Eastern, together with us Easterners here are together trying hard to find equilibrium.


  49. Michelle Says:

    I’m not really put out much 🙁 But i was a little.

    Anyhow, i think the main question posed is a valid one and an interesting one, though i take issue with the way it was presented. The question itself should be extended to get a complete picture, e.g. do people in China care what middle easterners think.. In my experience, this isn’t a hot topic. I know that the relationship between the west (seemingly means USA to most here) and the east (specifically China) is an important one for our times, if not the most important one. But in terms of the cow, i’d like to point out that attitudes do change and understanding does take place, though it takes time. That, and, i’m not really too sure that Americans, while mostly deserving their reputation for myopic and glaucomic views of the world, are the only ‘cows’ unable to appreciate music. More likely, we are all (our countries, cultures) guilty of this as it is part of human psychology and nature.

  50. Michelle Says:

    I’ll change mostly deserving to somewhat deserving..

  51. Daniel Says:

    It can be a good thing or bad depending…but one of the interesting things I figure about this blog that for articles that may have questionable content, the discussion on the bottom can pretty much tear it apart or keep improving it till we get somewhere decent. Sometimes.

    That would be something interesting to learn as well, regarding what would the people in China think about middle easterners—South Asians–South Americans, Africans, etc. Vice versa as well. If you all think about it, between USA and China is obviously very important, and…well, it might sound a bit controversial but the Chinese-Middle Eastern relationship I think would very soon rank on the same level as the USA.

    Some of the opinions I heard from people (Chinese and non-Chinese) were that even though there are issues with some Islamic Militant groups with China, the overall impression I’ve been recieving is that China can have a lot of leverage with them as well as the ability to build a bigger-stronger bridge with the Middle Eastern nations than some of the other powers. These are just opinions though.

    The controversial part I want to mentioned it that there are cases where Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and South Asia are interlink closely where people might have to relate to them all on the same scale.
    Come to think of it, somebody should research this and post an article. The world is a lot bigger than what some of the blog posts are revealing.

  52. TommyBahamas Says:

    Below is an email reply from a friend of mine to my Comment # 35 ., which reminds me of some of the erudite comments that our good regular poster, Jerry often alludes to:

    “…broaden the whole discourse on religious and or secular ideological outlook to beyond the confines set by the entrenched corporate media machines and bourgeois academia. The exposition on the rise of monotheism is very eye-opening and has the potential of diffusing the charged atmosphere engendered by chauvinistic tendency among ethnic entities to adopt “my religion or cultural values” are superior than yours. We all learn from one another in all fields of human endeavor. [T]he greatest divide is between those handful few (such as elite CEO-types that Hank Paulson seems to personify) — talking down to the vast majority of passengers and crew to stay below the deck to bail out the sinking capitalist titanic while he and the elitist few he represents stash as much goodies as they could find on available lifeboats to abandon ship –and abandoning the vast majority of trusting passengers and crew of the sinking ship.”

    I thought perhaps this has some relevance in response to your (?), “Exactly how we become what we are? That’s the curious thing I’d like to learn more about too. Possibly a chemical compound of nature, history, education, media influence, and social reinforcements…?”

  53. Michelle Says:

    On a related note, I have noticed in the past ten years the average American’s understanding of the middle east, arab culture, and Islam has changed quite a bit. These issues are more in the forefront than issues connected to China (save the greater Olympics) in the American mind, and the perceived threat is much greater.

    Without getting into the messy business of US involvement in the mid.east., I’ll just comment that a) The changes in perceptions have (imo, imexperience) uniformly been positive, b) Americans DO listen, DO nod, maybe forget some, but are affected and over time will adjust *their* way of thinking to accommodate new and unfamiliar ones.

  54. RMBWhat Says:

    LOL @52. This is why I visit this forum. Really smart people here; I feel so silly being here sometimes. Do all your friend write emails like that?

  55. GNZ Says:

    I think what China can do is deal directly with those with power – they can deal with the Saddams like the west used to do and they can deal with the terrorism and all China needs to do is not complain.
    The West twists itself in knots when it tries to do that – it has too many complex idealistic goals that it desires goals that are more easily thwarted with terrorism than the sort of goals China would seek.
    On the other hand I think the importance of places like the middle east will decrease significantly when China starts to become the clear leader and no longer needs them to counterbalance US economic/military dominance.

  56. TommyBahamas Says:

    Hi, RMB What,

    # 54

    Since you ask, I also receive emails such as this (edited), from another friend: (What do you think?)

    …I asked a friend of mine who considers herself a witch, of the Wiccan variety,how she came into her beliefs. She paused, took a deep breath and then said, “It’s not about beliefs. It’s about who I am. This is my path.It’s what I know, not what I believe. You choose to believe in something. I don’t. I just am.”

    I get what she’s saying. She’s proclaiming what to her is her identity. It’s not based on dogma or right information, but based on her perspective of who she is and what feels right to her. This is the mission statement of the post-modern generation. “It’s right for me. I won’t cram it down your throat, because it might not be right for you.”

    This accentuates a mindset that is prevalent in [religion], something that I’ve heard referred to as beliefism.

    My friend Jim defines beliefism as “about me being right.” Beliefism is devotion to a system of beliefs.
    So what does it matter? Who cares whether I believe something or know something, like my Wiccan friend, or have a certain perspective. What is the flippin’ point?

    To me there is a huge point here because beliefism, I believe, is what distorts our understanding of the truth. Beliefism is the crazy carnival mirror that screws up our perception.

    Beliefism will strangle reckless zeal and passionate pursuit of truth in a heartbeat. It will produce mean-spirited warriors who’ll duel to the death over a shred of doctrine. This is not believing in the truth. This is believing in beliefs. Beliefism will quench love and compassion.

    I’ve decided these days that I’m ok if I offend people, if my beliefs don’t match their beliefism.

    I want to give beliefism the bird.

  57. berlinf Says:

    wukailong, that is the most fascinating thing to me, does “上火”(getting a “heat”) really exist? In any case, sometimes I treated “上火”with the traditional methods, without eating certain foods, etc, and it worked! Yet on the other hand, we have people who claim that traditional Chinese medicine is a pseudo-science or non-science. The curious thing is that for thousand of years, China was using nothing more than that before we had access to “western medical science”. I am rather positive that Western medicine helped to extend our life span on average, but what is going on in those years when Western medicine is even unheard of? Are those being cured by traditional Chinese medicine just heal as a result of chance? I suppose it is not an either-or issue between these two systems of medicines. But on a side note, traditional medicine, just like many other things Chinese, takes a holistic view of the human body.

  58. berlinf Says:

    I gave an example of traditional Chinese medicince when I studied a “human performance technology” course. I told my class that we sometimes address the wrong issues by only addressing the “presenting issues” at places where they appear, without digging further for root causes, which is what we call “treat the head when there is a headache, treat the foot when there is a foot ache.”

    I do not have much knowledge about the China-Middleeastern relationships, but I have felt that China always size up an area in consideration of all the other things that may be related to it. It’s the surgical precision of the US that sometimes makes things worse. Iraq, for instance, is not just an Iraq issue. Think of all the forces within it and around it!

    On further thought, this is not just a Chinese thing. When Russia threatens to deal with Iran, it is because of Georgia. Talking about healing the head when there is a footache!

  59. FOARP Says:

    You seem to have completely missed my point. “guilty until proven innocent” is about the burden of proof lying on the prosecution to prove their case, but there also exists a standard of proof which must be reached for the prosecution to prove their case. In the UK in criminal cases the prosecution must prove their case beyond reasonable doubt, and in civil cases the standard is the balance of probabilities. It is you who accuse people in North America and Europe of being biased, it is you who must prove your case. You cannot simply start from the premise that ‘westerners’ do not listen when Chinese commentators accuse them of bias unless you can show reasons why ‘we’ ‘westerners’ should listen. If you cannot do this, there is no reason why anyone should listen to someone like you when they accuse them of being biased.

    This is exceedingly simple, yet you don’t seem to have got it.

  60. Hongkonger Says:

    berlinf ,

    My grandfather was a Chinese medicine doctor and he had this all-natural ingredient formula in powder form which is a cure-all for minor ailments such as stomach-aches, diarrhea, cold, fever, headaches etc. It was the only medicine I took growing up, and it worked every time.
    You’ve heard of accupuncture used during surgery without the need for anaesthetic –the patient remains awake — even able to chat with those in the operating theatre.
    刮沙, 火罐, 铁打 and so on for example are all very effective. The first two for fatique, stress, suffering from “wet-heat” and the last one for sprains, bruises, broken bones & joint dislocations. As for those who say that traditional Chinese medicine is a pseudo-science, well, it is nevertheless a very humane and communal form of medi-care in all it’s nuances and meanings, otherwise known as the holistic approach with plenty of human-touch, love, care and faith incorporated in it.

  61. berlinf Says:

    FOARP, you missed sarcasm earlier. I said: “You are biased, now do your math and prove you are not.”

    You cannot just arbitrarily pass a judgement and then give somebody the burden of proof.

    In my case I have a better proof in saying what I say. Let me quote you as this: ”
    because we simply won’t believe you and we are quite right to do so.”

    Tell me about it.

    But I am not going to waste any more time arguing with you because as I repeatedly said, my words would fall upon deaf ears. You are one of these argumentative types that are obsessed with the process of argument itself. What do you care about understanding?

    But I thought of the parable of the farmer spreading the seeds, some may fall in fertile soil and some may grow. And upon those we place our hope. And it’s because of these that it is necessary to have this blog.

  62. berlinf Says:

    Hongkonger, I wouldn’t lose sleep either if somebody call traditional Chinese medicien pseudo-science. I just think that kind of claim may have evolved out of a narrow definition of science. Doctors here emphasize “evidence-based medicine”, by evidence doctors mean things like X-rays, etc. But Chinese approach a diagnosis through 望闻问切 (look, smell, ask, pulse-taking) which tries to inductively arrive at a diagnosis. It may not be accurate, but for many common illnesses, it is enough.

    It will be fascinating to see the two supplement each other.

  63. FOARP Says:

    @Berlinf – Once again you miss the point. What I said was, that without proof, no-one will believe you. What you then said was that you felt what you were saying to be self-evident – you were asking people to believe that the proposition “‘westerners’ are biased and do not listen to Chinese people” is some-how an internally logical propostition which requires no proof, and that people who do not listen when you say this are simpletons.

  64. Nobody Says:

    Oh, forget it…As George Carlin said it all too well: “Nobody listens, nobody cares…the American dream, you’d have to be asleep to believe it.”

    Watch this — now why isn’t she and Ron Paul heading for the White House?


    My question is, where is democracy, where is the American spirit…REVOLT, people! America is long overdue for an all out revolution~!
    Over throw the banks, bring back the Gold standard and burn the Fed reserve notes…Thousands have been telling you, the American public that for years— Ron Paul…why didn’t you listen to him????? Ron Paul should be the next President of USA., and Marcy Kaptur as VP…not an ex-POW and a hockey Mum…sigh*

    Oh, am I off topic? Um, so sorry, Um, nobody listens, nobody cares anyway, right?

  65. little Alex Says:

    @berlinf re#12
    how’s Dubya in any shape or form an elite? :p


    As to whether the West cares… I think they do, especially the businesspeople who’re out to make a buck or two, but of course, only to the extent that it’d help them make some money. And seriously, as China gets more influential, Westerners will begin to care more…? Yeah, that’s a pretty simplistic world view, but think of how the book Crysanthem and the Sword came about… And I think a lot of people are actually still stuck in that worldview…

  66. berlinf Says:


    I am listening.

  67. berlinf Says:

    FOARP, I asked an open question. I said I am curious.

    Yet you said I made a statement and demand proof for it. When I don’t, you say I miss your point. Who missed whose point here? You just want to frame an argument in a way that will lead to your own conclusion. Let me paraphrase something from NPR: Your point is your passion, but none of my business.

    You won’t hear me either. So I said it is a waste of time communicating like this, because you hold your opinions. Fortunately there are others who listen.

    Maybe a good follow-up topic should be: Do we care what SOME westerners think?

    On second thought, I will forget about it. The answer is no.

  68. Daniel Says:

    Hmm…interesting how these comments shifted, as usual.

    If you all are talking about Chinese Traditional Medicine, a few people told me that we need to be careful a bit because even though they take a while and does produce some relatively decent results, the herbs concoction are quite strong. I remember watching some news segment where some scientists took some of the herbs to test and found some elements in there that “if it were higher” it might not be too good. However, the measurements they do in these TCM pharmacies should be ok. I used them before, a lot of people I know, even non-Chinese in the US Midwest—far away from the heavy Chinese populations, have used it before and doing ok. So, we’ll see how it would do in the future.

    The thing about the Middle East is that well yes, it could be a counterbalance to other powers, and it’s natural resources as usual is very important. What I’m thinking is more like geographically, I think it is quite strategically important, how much of the unique “soft power” it has around the world is definantly something not to underestimate, and if the region is stable—think how many benefits all that all the continents that are connected to that area could get. Possibly.

  69. TommyBahamas Says:

    Daniel, You are right – Peace means all kinds of possibilities for the Old Hundred Names – the commoners that is. It is the elites who want wars because they are the ones who invest heavily in the profits of war. The concept of 危机 (Opportunity thru & from crisis) is definitely a merchant-and-above class game that is usually instigated and exploited best by the ruling class. We, the working class are the ones and have always been the ones who yearn for peace. Remember these lyrics?
    As soon as your born they make you feel small, By giving you no time instead of it all,
    Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all, (Chorus)They hurt you at home and they hit you at school, They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool,Till you’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules,. (Chorus)When they’ve tortured and scared you for twenty odd years, Then they expect you to pick a career, When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear, (Chorus)Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV, And you think you’re so clever and classless and free, But you’re still fucking peasents as far as I can see, (Chorus)There’s room at the top they are telling you still, But first you must learn how to smile as you kill, If you want to be like the folks on the hill, (Chorus)A working class hero is something to be. A working class hero is something to be. By John Lenon of the Beatles. — And for songs and ideas like this, he was rubbed out, gunned down; sent to an early grave.
    So do Westerners care what we think? I think if we all see through the deceits and recognize our commonality, the answer is yes. If by Westerners you mean the movers and shakers, not likely. Hell, do you think your rich Chinese neighbors care about what you think? I once heard in some motivational convention where the speaker started his BS lecture by saying, “Ladies & gentlemen, listen. If you think you are so great, why then are you so poor? Where’s your first million? I….know the way to greatness….I …..was once poor & powerless…blah blah blah.” I turned to my friend and said to him, “Let’s get outta here.” Money is and should never be the measure of “Greatness.”

    Someone wrote he was staunch anti-Communist before he spent some time on this blog. I, however, am definitely NOT pro-Communism for now, only because I don’t think it is possible for another few centuries, perhaps. Back to the question, and I think for the most part, yes, I think Westerners like FOARP, Jerry, WKL, Michelle etc do care and that is why they are here — as peers.

  70. berlinf Says:

    Tommas, I think you started some new perspectives on this. Thanks for sharing that song.

    I obvioulsy have not written a good article here, but I am happy I got a lot of insightful feedback.

    But I think the question “Do westerners care …” is a valid one. I have six years experience living in the US that cause me to ask this question. But I doubt that it is the elites who “don’t care”. Often the “Old Hundred Names” don’t care. I once sit in a restaurant with an American professor I was working with. And he told me: Look around you, even if this restaurant is full, you wont’ find 2 of them here who would care what is going on in the world. Do they care what’s going on in Geogia? Heck, no!

    Communism doesn’t mean much those days. People may be hating it, but it may just be a strawman you are hating. Today’s communists don’t practice communism, we all know that.

  71. Hongkonger Says:

    Daniel —–“if it were higher” it might not be too good”…Of course, an over-dose is an over-dose.

    Nowadays, MOST Chinese folks buy TCM in capsules, pills, liquid forms. The one thing I like about TCM is really the consultation. TCM, is more experience than pure science. Silver hair TCM doctors are almost always the best. Unfortunately they get too many patients, otherwise, they are really nice to chat with. And that’s the part I really like about TCM — listening to the unhurried advise from a wise old man you might have known since infancy.

  72. TommyBahamas Says:

    “But I doubt that it is the elites who “don’t care”. Often the “Old Hundred Names” don’t care.”

    I am sorry, once again I say too much, and manage only to confuse my kind listener, so to speak.

    I, a commoner, care that war be not glorified.
    I care that this saying, “What millions must die in order for Caesar to be great,” infuriates me.
    I, a working class nobody cares that my hard earned money in the bank & the tax I pay will not be ripped off to fund the killing and maiming of innocent children and their families in Iraq, Afghanistan, South America, Africa, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, possibly Iran, etc for profit.
    I care that my young cousins, nephews, friends, and children will not be sent to batttlefields to suffer and die for the rich & powerful bastards….On the other hand, I don’t care what the West may think of China, but I do care that my western, eastern, northern, & southern friends treat me as peers, as I them.

  73. Netizen K Says:

    To those Chinese caring about what Westerners think about China:

    Why do you care about what Westerners think about China?

    Care not. Care not. Care not.

  74. Michelle Says:

    @Berlinf #70 “But I think the question “Do westerners care …” is a valid one. I have six years experience living in the US that cause me to ask this question. ”

    I don’t think anyone is arguing this. But go into a crowded 饺子馆, or whatever the equivalent of a diner would be, and how many people there care about Georgia? Little Alex made the good, and IMO self evident, point that as China becomes more and more important to business / gov’t in the US, and as that trickles down to the 老百姓, people will care more. This is human nature, and this from my six+ years in the US and 6+ in China. (though years alone won’t tell you my degree of involvement in American / Chinese culture and community, same as your statement tells me nothing about yours.)

    Here’s a question: Why do Chinese people (pardon the over-generalisation) care whether westerners (ditto) care about China?

  75. Michelle Says:

    “Maybe a good follow-up topic should be: Do we care what SOME westerners think?
    On second thought, I will forget about it. The answer is no.”

    Yikes! This sounds very abrasive, you speaking for all the Chinese against the western participants. I know i’ve had my moments of knee-jerkitude, but this just seems to me quite against the grain of how people manage discourse on this blog…

  76. The Trapped! Says:

    Do we have to care what westerners think about us?

  77. Hongkonger Says:

    “though years alone won’t tell you my degree of involvement in American / Chinese culture and community”

    For some reason I kept thinking you are in China. Ok, lemme guess. Michelle, you worked as a school teacher for six years in China ? Um, in Shanghai? And, you are presently in Hong Kong ?

  78. Nobody Says:

    ” go into a crowded 饺子馆, …..how many people there care about Georgia? ”

    I have no idea.How many in Wendy’s, or Taco Bell or anywhere in North America where folks even know that you’re not refering to that State in the Bible belt ? Speaking of which, Ok, time for another comic relief:


    (I gotta say, that silver blond may not be the sharpest knife in the kitchen but she seems sweet though.)

  79. berlinf Says:

    @nobody, thanks for sharing, that’s a hilarious movie.

    But I am not sure about the authenticity of this “Are you smarter than a 5th grader” episodes. I wonder if the lady just pretend to think of Europe as a country to make audiences laugh. And “Hungary a nation?” That’s comic enough. I mean isn’t that the whole point of such programs? I have difficulty telling whether this is true ignorance or a genius act of pretendint to be so.

    Just like an earlier story of an American asking “I heard that Russians are bombing Georgia. Should I be afraid? Boy I’d head for Florida soon.” I thought that might be a joke.

  80. Steve Says:

    I just found this blog and read through all the comments… very interesting and thoughtful! There have been a few side tangents but I’d like to go back to the initial question and comment on that. Everyone’s ideas tend to be based on our experience and mine is married to a Hakka (kejia) lady from Taiwan for 20 years, living in San Diego, lived as an expat in Taiwan for a few years after the turn of the century but spent a LOT of time in China, mostly in Shanghai, Tianjin and Beijing as a business development manager in the semiconductor business and worked almost exclusively with Chinese while I was there. My perspective might be different from others based on these experiences, so here goes…

    I think the 80/20 rule applies to the original statement, though it might be more like 90/10. What I mean is that 20% of westerners in China understand 80% of the culture, while the other 80% understand about 20%. (but think they know 100%, ha ha) This also applies to Chinese living in the west, and just about every other culture. It’s the human condition. Why do people take tours when visiting foreign countries? Because they don’t want to have to “do their homework” and study up on the country, but have someone handle everything for them. It’s the difference between tourists and travelers and let’s face it, the vast majority of people are tourists. They want to see the hits but at the end of the day, want someone to make it as much like home as they can.

    It’s the same for people living overseas. They constantly compare cultures, which is the worst thing you can do when living there. Each culture is an intrinsic whole that needs to be experienced in that way, and you can’t take parts of this and parts of that and think you can separate them from the whole. It’s like being married, the good and bad points of your spouse are like head and tails on a coin. There’s only one coin and the “good and bad” are the yin and yang of that coin. You’d better love that entire coin rather than trying to split it in half or you’re heading for a divorce. Quite frankly, it drove me crazy when I exposed to it since I felt those expats weren’t even making a simple effort to fit in and understand where they were living. They were stuck in the expat culture, and the locals in the expat culture have to fit into expat expectations, not the other way around. That’s why I am very skeptical of expat opinions in general.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the comment about language nuance. I remember shortly after being married, I had a copy of the Tao Te Ching with Chinese on the left and English on the right. So I read the English on the first page and asked my wife what the Chinese said. She said, “Well, it can mean this, and it can mean this, and it can mean this… philosophy is very complicated.” That’s when I realized that a character language could never be adequately translated into a phonetic language, so it’s a very good point.

    In the end, I had no problem communicating with my friends and colleagues in China and Taiwan, but I was lucky in that I had a pretty good understanding of the culture, and I greatly respected the culture before I arrived. Having many years of Xingyiquan (Taoist martial art) under my belt sure helped, but it was mostly realizing that people are people, they are all the same and all have the same basic needs that made making friends pretty easy. Yes, cultures are different but if you just plunge into them, it’s not so bad. When something happened that was really funky, rather than get upset I just said to myself, “That’s very interesting!” Sometimes I had to say it three and four times but it kept me from getting into a negative frame of mind.

    So in the end, I guess I agree and disagree with the comment. In general, it’s correct but mostly because one side cannot see where the other side is coming from, compares with what it knows and finds fault. China is not what you read about in the papers and see on TV, normal Chinese don’t eat the food that Anthony Zimmern eats on Bizarre Foods, northern Chinese are different from Eastern Chinese who are different from Western Chinese who are different from Southern Chinese who are different from Taiwanese, you barely notice the government while living there but when you do, it can be an enormous pain in the ass (no different if you are a Chinese citizen) and last I looked, getting involved with American bureaucracy wasn’t any picnic either. But when I read the comments of the two sides arguing, all I really hear is propaganda and stereotype, same old simplified arguments go on and on. At least it seems the people commenting are trying to come up with a better understanding of what is really going on in both countries, and for that I applaud you. Thanks for putting up with this babbling brook commentary, but I feel pretty passionate about this subject.

  81. berlinf Says:

    @Michelle, I modified “westerner” with a big “SOME”, so I hope that excluded many including yourself. This is not setting a generalized Chinese versus a generalized westerner.

    I think the very fact that we are writing in English here and you are reading here, proves that we all have some hope that there are people listening out there. And we know there are people who are communicating with sincererity, though in my case you may not like the way I have expressed myself. For that I felt rather embarassed.

  82. TommyBahamas Says:

    more like 90/10. What I mean is that 20% of westerners in China understand 80% of the culture, while the other 80% understand about 20%. (but think they know 100%, ha ha) This also applies to Chinese living in the west, and just about every other culture. It’s the human condition.

    SPOT ON, Steve. Great comment. Thanks~!

  83. berlinf Says:

    Steve, that sharing is very enlightening! Like you, I dislike expat culture. Right now as I live in the US, I try to avoid being an “expat” groupie to hang out only with peopjle similar to myself. I have found that the better learners of Chinese from the west do the same. They wander into the lanes and hutungs and markets to get to know the people. Or to return to my original example. I found that many sinologists have missionary background. These people have a sense of calling to be “one of them”, though ironically their mission is to convert them to be “one of us.”

    I watched a comedy about a mouse catcher before. He said something that got stuck in my mind: To catch that mouse, you’ll need to think like one.

    Well, at least temporarily.

    The whole point of cross-cultural communication is that you’ll need to “cross”. Don’t just sit there and wait for people to change your mind, or worse, to prove that you are right in what you already believe in.

  84. GNZ Says:

    In the french who wants to be a millionare the contestant did not know that the moon goes around the earth – interestingly it went to the audience and they didn’t know either.
    (this one has commentary in English)
    that is much worse than thinking Europe is a country.

  85. FOARP Says:

    @Berlinf – Once again, when you say “I do not need evidence”, then you eliminate the possibility of anyone who does not already agree with you changing their mind. It is quite possible to say anything, but unless you have convincing evidence no one will be convinced, nor should they be.

    Bias, ingnorance etc. exist everywhere and in everyone, it is exactly BECAUSE of this that we should not form opinions without supporting evidence. The only way that you can be sure that your opinions are not being guided by ignorance or bias is by trying as much as possible to base them on the facts. Therefore, when asking “Do ‘westerners’ listen to us” you must first examine whether your argument contains convincing evidence – and if not, what reasons do you have for believing it?

  86. little Alex Says:

    And definitely hot enough. Unfortunately she does fit the dumb blonde stereotype to a T.

    I suspect it’s real enough. I mean, how else did Bush got elected? :p

    Sometimes we learn by osmosis and form opinions because of day to day experience instead of things that would be considered concrete evidence.

  87. berlinf Says:

    @FOARP I think you use the words “ignorance” and “bias” liberally without bothering with any ill conscience of supplying any details of evidences or facts.

    86 comments later, you are still asking for my evidence for a question I asked which is meant to bring out the answers as we have got: “Yes, this is human nature.” “It’s 80/20.” “Why do you care whether westerners care?” “Yes, I do care.” “Do Chinese care what Mid-easterners think?” etc, etc. As for whether I even have the right to ask this question, suffice it to say that my life experience and extensive exposure to US media and average people lead me to ask this question.

    But based on your assertion, it is right for you to “not to believe you and we are right in not believing you.” In other words, you don’t feel a need to justify your bias with any evidence. You just wait there for me to prove otherwise. You probably think that it is right to believe “guilty until proven innocent”, but living in the US, we know that is not the legal position here. In China, we have also changed from calling somebody a “suspected criminal” (嫌疑犯)to ”criminal suspect” (犯罪嫌疑人)。 That is not perfect, but at least we are moving away from “guilty until proven innocent” towards “innocent until proven guilty”. In any case, I disagree with you on your initial position.

    I am just commenting generally. If you are looking for evidences, there are everywhere. When there is a riot in Tibet, media such as CNN chose to ignore certain facts and broadcast those that make news. People in China were so upset that someone started a “anti-cnn” web site, which you probably can still google. When the conflict in Georgia broke out, most news outlets in the US chose to ignore the inconvenient fact that Georgia started the attack. …

    But why are media doing this? Of course their shareholders want it. But more importantly, many average audiences want to hear it that way. This kind of media practice supply neatly wrapped stories that they would enjoy. It is not natural for the human mind to accept something new, something foreign. So they’d like to hear what they choose to hear, or what media wants them to hear. In fact one of the professors I worked with here (I worked in a university in the US) said he became so frustrated with those lies that he is turning to alternative media. That’s probably why many US friends are reading here. That’s something that we all like to see.

    Citizen Cane tells more about it. “They don’t think. They think what we ask them to think.” Why has critical thinking become one of the top things parents demand from schools now? Because media has numbed people’s ability to think.

    I am pretty certain about media bias in the West (BBC, CNN both, if that makes you happy), but I still have some doubts about the generic existence of bias in the average person in what I have poorly phrased “west”, hence the question instead of a statement. I have a theory, which I explained partially here, that one cannot do without the other. In other words, the existence of bias among people is the fertile soil for media bias to grow.

    Also I like to point out that facts are not truths. Facts can be arranged in a way that can tell distorted stories. I believe it is called “agenda-setting” and “gate-keeping” in mass communication terms. Media memes thus formed got spread far and wide and gradually became known as facts in a way that is unfair to the people they are related to.

    Has Obama said “putting lipstick on a pig”? Yes. But try putting that episode immediately after a speech after Palin…

  88. chinayouren Says:

    It is worrying how many people buy this chinese “exceptionalism” idea. China has a distinct culture alright, and so have many other countries. Even in Europe, between two tiny nearby countries the differences can be vast. East Asia being a very populated region that has evolved relatively isolated from the West, its characteristics are more pronounced, but that’s all. It doesn’t mean that they can’t share the main universal values. Because in the end of the day, admitting to that would equal to say that we are “western” or “chinese” above being humans.

    So, back to Mr. Li’s essay: It has an attractive rythm, cleverly building up emotion as the life of Mr. Li develops towards enlightment, and appealing to the feelings of all the patriotic chinese, who feel righteously identified in its victimism. But the fact is: using basic emotions, recalling yet again past humiliations, and presenting the world as a conflict China -West, rings more like political propaganda than any serious analysis. So indeed, an editor at Xinhua would probably give this text a 90. But that is very different from saying: “for the Chinese people, this essay is worth 90 points”

    So western media is biased? Granted, it is not interested in the truth, but in pleasing its clients. But it is wrong to induce from there that “western” media is working as a block against the chinese. This has nothing to do with West against China. It is mostly a consequence of very bad PR by the chinese government, which is so used to controlling public opinion by force, that it ignores all the subtle mechanisms to earn pubic favour. Perhaps Mr. Li should have spent some time reading all that western media has to say about Bush (another terrible PR) and American politics, which is often much harsher and likely to hurt feelings than anything written against China.

    Life, love, death, family, dignity, all these concepts are universal, not tied to any of your “cultural exceptions”. Quality too is universal, and the quality of that essay is, IMO, closer to a 10 than to a 90.

  89. berlinf Says:

    When I say “westerner”, all hell breaks loose. But that is justified, I admit.

    But words such as “universal values”, “family”, “life”, “democracy”, “freedom”, “human right” are used, why don’t we think what we actually mean by them?

    When Bush says the islamists “hate our freedoms”, what do they exactly hate? Does that include freedom to download porn to your computer? I am very bothered everytime someone used words such as “universal values.” Unless you tell me what they really are, they are nothing but empty talk.

    I think values have universal components, but they are also highly contextualized. Take our attitudes to parents for instance. Yes, people in all cultures say “honor thy parents”, but exactly what do we mean by that is a local thing. In China we have filial piety. Would that apply to an American? It is not an either-or situation in which you either take exceptions or be part of it. Application of such concepts should be a fine chemistry between what is common and what is unique.

    Therefore, I think we should refrain from saying “universal values”. What is universal about what?

  90. Daniel Says:

    Hmm…I too am a little shaky with the word universal.
    Life, love, death, family and diginity is universal, in the broad sense. There’s really no culture which as a monopoly however there are differences. It can be a bit complex.

    I don’t really like how many people want to argue over life, because in a way, it de-sensitizes a lot of the things that makes life worth living. There’s no price tag to it.
    You all probably don’t want to get into what “love” is, so I’ll leave it there.
    Death is self-explanatory. It also has some cultural references, though in a religious-philosophical sense, what could you possibly know about death, since you can’t return from it?
    Family is natural—or unnatural according to some people, but there’s too much to go into there.

    Dignity is a must, but again, no organization, culture, nation, etc. has any authority of determining self-worth in people. A lot of times, we cause so much pain to ourselves.

  91. A Nobody Says:

    berlinf, you are a prophet~!!!

    berlinf says on September 23rd, 2008 at 5:08 am
    “For the Chinese people, this essay is worth 90 points. For western people, this essay is worth 10 points! This is like playing music to a cow!..blah blah blah, They listen. They nod. They forget.”

    And TWO DAYS later on 25th, September, 2208 at 3:37 pm chinayouren Says: So, back to Mr. Li’s essay:……blah blah blah
    Quality too is universal, and the quality of that essay is, IMO, closer to a 10 than to a 90.

  92. chinayouren Says:

    Hi, I didn’t intend to pick on your using the word western, we all use generalizations sometimes, otherwise life would be too complicated. I just used the “” to express some doubt on the definition.

    Same goes for “universal values”, I agree that they are not clearly defined. But this is not to say that Universal Values do not exist or that they are empty talk. They exist, and they are an essential part of us being human. Things so obvious as human dignity: abolishment of slavery, torture, etc. The international community should have no respect, IMO, for any culture which approves of these practices. South Africa gives us a good example of how humanity should be always above “our old culture”.

    It is true, on the other hand, that western powers have often used these principles as an excuse to advance their political agenda. This is obvious, and not only regarding China. But the fact that the West does things wrong doesn’t mean that China should turn its back on the whole system. On the contrary, it should participate openly in the debate, criticizing others and accepting criticism, as an important actor in the international community.

    The attitude of closing the country on itself invoking “our old culture” reminds me too much of the late Qings. And we all know that nothing good came to China from those times.

  93. berlinf Says:

    Chinayouren, I agree that we should not close ourselves as a country simply because of the differences or mistakes of other countries. In reality, I hardly think that is even a choice. We have gone beyond the point of no return especially since economy binds us so closely together.

    As for the “global” vs. “local” debate, I think both are needed (just like qualitative and quantitative research methods, which are based on different world views). Let’s assume that there are some “universal” values (which I have deep suspicions about) and we all agree about them. At the end of the day, the devil is in the implementation. That’s when you have to face what is local.

    Unfortunately, I must say, that Chinese polititians make skilled choice among the two whenever it suits their needs.

  94. Wukailong Says:

    I agree with chinayouren that there is a danger in this concept of Chinese exceptionalism, that frankly speaking, I can’t take seriously. I think it would be possible to hold the position if somehow the whole of Asia was similar to China politically, but it doesn’t seem to be.

    “But the fact is: using basic emotions, recalling yet again past humiliations, and presenting the world as a conflict China -West, rings more like political propaganda than any serious analysis.”

    Indeed, though I don’t agree the original article does that. It has some good points.

  95. Michelle Says:

    @ Hongkonger 77: Nope. Rarely get to the south, and though HK and SH are wicked (the good wicked), I haven’t been to either since about pre-SARS. I’m in Beijing- Not a school teacher. I do work in education (it’s complicated!).

    @Nobody 78. Erm, well, what I was saying was that ordinary people are generally not interested in the goings on of the world, e.g. Georgia / Russia. If you want to argue that Americans are more stupid / ignorant than Chinese / other people, fine, but not really my point.

    @Berlinf 81 – Thanks for explaining. I know what you mean by some. Still take issue with ‘we’, unless I can be included in that ‘we’, and if so, I don’t know what my answer is. Do other westerners care what I think about China? Maybe, sometimes. Dunno.

    @Chinayouren 88 – “Perhaps Mr. Li should have spent some time reading all that western media has to say about Bush (another terrible PR) and American politics, which is often much harsher and likely to hurt feelings than anything written against China. ”

    This is a good point. The question that bubbles underneath a lot of these discussions is “is fairness a) applying your standards/rules for yourself on everyone else uniformly or b) using one set for you and others for others, for whatever reason. Western media (and let’s not narrow this term down to “CNN, and if you *must*, BBC too”) can be quite vicious on the west.

    @Berlinf 89 “But words such as “universal values”, “family”, “life”, “democracy”, “freedom”, “human right” are used, why don’t we think what we actually mean by them?”

    A big YES. Better yet, why don’t we define for others what we actually mean by them. (Add “harmonious society” to that list for domestic definition – I’d just like to know.)

    @Chinayouren 92 “Things so obvious as human dignity: abolishment of slavery, torture, etc.” I hate to say it, don’t want to say it, but if there’s anything universal about slavery, torture, etc, it’s that they exist and always have. Not to say these things shouldn’t be totally abolished forever, IMO *they most certainly should*, and we should spare no effort doing it, but looking back at history, sigh….

    Same for democracy – people participating in their government is a very noble, quite good and appealing idea, but it by no means is the default setting of human government – it seems quite a few switches have to be flicked manually to get there, in fact. Anyhow, maybe I’m off topic…

  96. ALC Says:

    I figure it’s better for people to acknowledge their differences and understand they cannot relate on some things, than pretend they do.

    Growing up in mainland China and growing up in the US will create different values. People are people, people have variety. Even if one can’t “walk in another’s shoes”, understanding differences helps.

    >>The attitude of closing the country on itself invoking “our old culture” reminds me too much of the late Qings. And we all know that nothing good came to China from those times.

    They had dignity and self confidence though, it’s a good feeling to believe you’re on top of the world.
    and on the other end, you had disasters like the Cultural Revolution in the belief “our old culture’s worthless! let’s get a new one”

    Of course, hubris and stagnation isn’t good, but that self confidence is very important. The loss of it is the root of animosity towards the West.

    >>But the fact is: using basic emotions, recalling yet again past humiliations, and presenting the world as a conflict China -West, rings more like political propaganda than any serious analysis.

    I think that’s the problem many westerners have with understanding China, the emotions attached to the last few centuries of humiliation.
    we’re not robots, this is how some people feel, this is what motivates them. I’m not going to pretend these things don’t matter, because they do.

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