Can we integrate?

I want to have a thoughtful discussion on this topic, and as moderator, if I think the comments are becoming racial instead of cultural, I will delete the offending comments.

Note: Where the word “Chinese” is used in this topic, we will be talking specifically about Chinese people in the Peoples Republic of China and not all Chinese in the world. If you wish to talk about another Chinese group please use a descriptor: Chinese Americans, Singaporean Chinese, etc.

After three years living in Hong Kong and traveling to the PRC regularly, I am hit on a fundamental question:

Can Chinese culture and Western culture truly integrate. I know we have found the ability to work relatively well together, at least when the language is money. But do we have such fundamental differences in our cultures that true integration will never be possible?

A reason this has come up is that I see a certain subtext in western news that seems to believe that “One day the Chinese will change and be like us?”

My personal opinion is that we will have to continuously search for a common ground but it will be small. So I think this subtext is fundamentally ignorant.

I also realize that this is a cultural issue and not race issue because of two scenarios:

  1. Racial Chinese who have spent many generations in the west.
  2. Westerners who have spent many years in China. Especially their children.

I also realize that I am opening myself and this site up to a real conflict potential. If I have offended anyone already I am sorry.

I hope we can create a good dialogue on this topic.

And I also that this can be a worldwide discussion.

TimF, this is a good discussion point. As much of this post tend to degenerate into them vs. us type of mud slinging.

From my experience as an “Asian”, I much prefer this term, as Chinese as you have mentioned is often mistaken, it has entirely to do with culture.

Put it this way, till date the majority of design education is based on western structure, and invariably has it roots in western culture. Much of it does not go down well in a culture or environment such as China.

I firmly belief that China is finding a way or a solution that will work for them. They are good at that, learning from the west and adapting or applying it to local conditions. Check out this link from the Design Altrusm project if you have not:

Not long now before it will happen.

Integrate? Why?

The term “cultural integration” puzzles me. Since the beginning of time, it’s always been “cultural domination” or invasion. I personally don’t think it is possible for true mass cultural integration to take place. Even in the US where the society consists of multiple cultures, each stands out, and that’s exactly why they exist. If cultures “integrate” like you said, then what’s the value of culture after all? IMO it is the differences that give different cultures values. It is the differences that we learn from about each other. It is the difference that we should accept and embracet.

So why would you want the east and west to integrate? What real value is there?

A reason this has come up is that I see a certain subtext in western news that seems to believe that “One day the Chinese will change and be like us?”

I think the more important question to this statement is, who is “us”? It’s easy to say, but exactly what does “us” mean? This is a question that applies to everyone, not just to the “westerners”. I guess my point is, we tend to get caught by the thought of getting the others to be like “us” without even realizing what that really means. And for what? I can only think of selfishness related reasons.

Why not be like “them” instead?

Japan, Taiwan and Singapore would be good examples of east and west cultures integrating.

Don’t know enough about Taiwan to comment so I’ll skip it.

The Singaporean populace at large is basically living a western lifestyle in an asian setting. Very welcoming to trends and technology from all over the world, like a sponge that absorbs and abosrbs. Not much output though. Seems they just accept stuff as is and not much localisation really occurs.

Japan is kind of weird. After America threatened to bomb them unless they trade with them back in the late 1800s, they’ve very readily accepted western technology and thinking, and turning them around to suit japanese tastes, a true sense of integration, taking what works from another culture to fix or improve something from their own.

Taiwan is good example, they are Chinese and very easy going people. I went to Taiwan last year and i really thought I was in a western country. I truly believe that China will change but it will take a very very long time.
I think it all comes down to the government and what people are exposed to in the media and at school. I don’t blame the Chinese the way they are, instead i try to adjust to them. You have to know that most them can’t travel to other countries and it’s very difficult for them to get a Visa, so all they know is what they see on TV or read in the newspapers.
We can integrate because countries like Taiwan, Singapore and Japan are good examples.