Globalization And National Culture: A Chinese Dilemma Essay
Globalization And National Culture: A Chinese Dilemma
The authors have discussed transformation of Chinese culture and its impact for Chinese individual in the wake of modernization and economic growth. The authors are concerned about the ethnic minorities that make up modern China; and the changing Chinese cultural landscape where ancient traditions are becoming obsolete in the wake of modernization. The article depicts the two sides of a nation; individual wish to retain the older traditions; while the state wish to maintain one super culture for all Chinese people. They cite the example of 2004 Athens Olympic, where Chinese Stage Director Zhang Yimou staged a grand spectacle for global audience presenting the “cream of Chinese culture”.
Despite the glitz and glare of the event, it was dubbed as pseudo Chinese show developed for the Western audience only by Chinese government. The spectacle may not portray 100 percent Chinese culture perhaps staged to China to the world. However there is nothing wrong in marketing wrong one’s country to world. Being a part of the global economy, it is not China; any other country would do the same. One similar example can be seen in Egypt, where every year a grand event related to Egyptian culture is conducted to attract global audience. The emphasis is on the era of Pharaoh, which is appealing to the West, but less attractive for its own population.
Egypt is an Islamic country; Islam clearly prohibits any kind of association with pagan rituals. For normal Egyptian any events related to Pharaoh are clear pagan rituals; which are unacceptable in a Muslim society. However the Egyptian government is bent on promoting a culture that is far removed from mainstream society. The main purposes of such events are to promote Egyptian culture to attract business and visitors to Egypt. Thus it would be wrong to assume that the China is promoting a pseudo culture, the basic purpose of such kind of events are to promote China and Chinese culture.
According to the authors China has preserved the traditions for thousands of years and now every aspect of life is going under change that for many Chinese individual is creating an identity crisis. Many are questioning the cost of change and the loss of the traditional Chinese culture. Many individuals want to retain the old values; while the state is promoting one grand culture through control and coercion. In such situation the authors believe that individuals are taking drastic measure in various ways to defend their culture.
China is going through the same level of change as European nations faced in the wake of industrlization in 18/19th centuries. It’s natural for people with old school of thought to resist change; while other will push for change. The issue is that all cultures change through time; Chinese culture is no exception. For any change to take place, there are forces that resist change, even if a culture is no longer working and instead creating stagnancy in global world. Some individual resist change and advocate for preserving the past as authors have mentioned. Others want the amalgamation of traditions and new ideas to form a culture that is more practical and workable in the changing world; Chinese government is working on second option.
The resistance to change is not some thing new. For example French government has forbidden the use of English words except for words which French equaling vocabulary. An example of such resistance is the failure of star bucks in France, but is successful in rest of the Europe. China is the past two decades has been changing a lot by adopting Western technology and cultural ideas to become part of modern world. It can no longer afford to remain in a world which constantly changing and demands new way of living.
It would be wrong to assume that Chinese people do not want to change and government is forcing them to change. Change is not becoming worse, but Chinese people have become wealthier than ever. It’s natural to come up with high-rise buildings that are better equipped sophisticated modern structures compared to older style slums and squatters which makes city crammed and over populated.
The authors seem to have nostalgia for the past; where every thing looks perfect and grand, but the reality is far from true. Just two decades ago majority of Chinese people were barely surviving with meager resources. The reason for such way of life was traditional way of living dependent on agricultural economy. The change from traditional way of living to modern era has brought some problems, but it has also given rise sophisticated sky scrappers; modern infrastructure equipped with better facilities to cater for the international and local entrepreneurs. The State is now offering modern homes to its people that are located in ideal environment with better sewerage facilities and higher standard of living; which were unthinkable 10/15 years ago.
The authors mention that millions of Chinese are resisting change in their surroundings because they feel a sense of belonging to the old way of living. Most of them according to authors are striving to maintain change and are busy in initiatives to resist state sponsor change at grassroots level. They mention the example of XU Yong photographer who preserved the pictures of local architecture and courtyard life in 10 years long movement.
Similarly another writer Feng Jicai is mentioned who is fighting the government to preserve the old squatter and came up with idea of preserving it through maps and photos. The authors are trying to portray that perhaps state government is bent on running the Chinese tradition and culture, and people have no choice but to fight for it. The reality is far from true. For example China is now more open to ideas compared to the past. In 2006, for the first time Chinese Christians celebrated Christmas openly.
Another change is the re-establishment of the older Chinese traditions. For example the annual homage service of tomb sites of emperors and high official have been institutionalized to celebrate the ancient Chinese culture, which was stopped after the 1940s revolution.
In mid 1980s, these traditions have been re-assumed by non-governmental and some government officials to promote such activities at national level which was unthinkable a few decades ago. Chinese government is also promoting the old Chinese tradition of Confucius and special books have been included in curriculum of the children to let them know of the past. The reason for Chinese government to come up with a homogenous culture is that China is composed of countless minorities, if all ethnic groups want their ways, there would be little room left for central government to rule.
WU Mei and GUO Zhenzhi, “Globalization, national culture and the.” University of Macau and Tsinghua