How misunderstood is
China by the outside world?
Robin Daverman, World traveler
Written Jan 3
Well, let me put it this way -
If a Chinese person says "I know China", every other Chinese will fall down laughing like an apoplectic hamster! Basically, you can not find any Chinese person alive who is so audacious as to claim that s/he knows China.
So all the people who claim they "know China" are foreigners. They don't know what they don't know, and there is nothing that reinforces Certainty as well as Ignorance.
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Kris Lim, Overseas Chinese
Written Jan 3
I feel that the most significant disconnect between foreign perception of China vs. reality is the over-generalisation of China based on media reports and the false assumption that somehow the Chinese hold a greater monopoly on negative things in the world.
China is a big, populous country and the Chinese are a 4,000 plus year old civilisation with numerous different dialects spoken today, even though most are able to speak Mandarin. There are a lot of news about China that gets reported in the foreign press that over time paints a specific picture about the country depending on how one subconsciously wishes (or as influenced by one's family, friends or colleagues) to see them as:
Chinese products are inferior and unsafe. While there are more than enough real incidents backing up this view, many don't realise that the inferior goods are produced precisely because foreigners are willing to buy them at inferior good prices. The Chinese manufacturers are asked to produce low cost goods and so they produce low cost goods! If you pay them to produce iPhones, they will produce iPhones for you. You get what you pay for. Most laptop chargers are made in China and they don't break down or fry your laptop much. China runs half of the world's high speed rail network and they experienced the Wenzhou accident where 40 people died. There were 3 other high speed rail accidents involving fatalities, in Germany, Spain and France. This suggests that given their share of the world's high speed network, their track record seems to be on the positive side.
中国产品是劣质的、不安全的。虽然有足够多的真实事件支持了这种观点，但许多人并没有意识到，劣质产品的产生正是因为外国人愿意以劣质品的价格购买它们。中国制造商被要求生产低成本商品，因此他们照做了！如果你付钱让他们生产Iphone，那他们会为你生产iphone。一分钱一分货。 大多数笔记本电脑充电器是在中国制造的，他们不会毁掉或炸了你的笔记本电脑。 中国拥有世界高速铁路网的一半，他们经历了40人死亡的温州事故。 另有3起其他高速铁路事故涉及死亡的发在德国，西班牙和法国。这表明鉴于他们在世界高铁网络中的份额，他们的记录似乎反而是积极的一面。
The Chinese are stealing our manufacturing jobs. The Chinese are currently willing to work for longer hours at lower salaries than people in developed countries. You can choose to see it as they are job stealers or that they are hungrier than you and you have to think of how to be more productive via automation etc. Or you can see it as the Bangladeshis and Vietnamese work for even lesser manufacturing salaries so they are worse job stealers.
The Chinese eat dogs and other disgusting things. Yes some Chinese eat dogs but the vast majority just don't eat it. Also the Vietnamese, Koreans and even some farmers in rural parts of Switzerland also eat dogs. And what about food eaten outside China like Casu marzu (rotten cheese), Rakfisk (fish fermented for up to a year), Smalahove (boiled lambs head) for Christmas etc. that are stomach churning for most of us.
So it's not so much misunderstanding as the reports in the foreign press are for the most part true but rather, the taking of some negative reports or incidents and assuming that most of the Chinese are guilty of them or have the same negative traits.
Guillermo Cedeno, Sociologist & film addict, lives in Panama and is resident of the world...
Updated Feb 13
Guillermo Cedeno, 社会学家和电影迷，住在巴拿马，是世界居民。。。
I agree with Ian and Vorn. I have a Chinese grandfather and live in a community where there is a large Chinese component. My two sons went to elementary and high school at a Chinese-Panamanian school here. They graduated from the university in China and both read, write and speak fluent Mandarin. They now work and live just outside Shanghai. I have visited and stayed with them for extended periods of time and have been able to see and experience different regions of China. I still feel there is A LOT I don’t know about China.
Needless to say, I have a few opinions about China I would like to share in Quora. First of all, China is growing economically and more importantly developing at an incredible speed. In many places social development is falling behind economic development. But in many large and medium size cities you feel already more comfortable and sense a quality of life above that of many western cities. One of the biggest barriers between China and the west is language. For a westerner, the task of learning another European language beyond his own represents an insignificant challenge compared to learning Chinese, whatever the dialect. And yet, the task of gaining an insight into Chinese culture itself, represents an even greater challenge. As much as we would like to think we are all creatures that resemble each other more than we are different from each other, we are invariably products of our own culture. And make no mistake; I shouldn’t have to remind you NOT to think of ourselves as more civilized than the Chinese. Chinese civilization is almost twice as old as western civilization and many of “our innovations” of past centuries were perfected earlier in China.
There is more. To learn about China you have to learn about diversity first. There are many ethnic subcultures within China, with different dialects and languages of their own and the history is such that they’ve had to learn to become a unified nation early on. For the west, national unification is a process usually associated with the past two, at the most, three previous centuries. The unification of China’s different nations, cultures and languages is a matter of the history two millennia ago. The sense of being Chinese itself is almost ungraspable for most westerners. In my view it’s wrong to talk about Mao unifying China, it’s more that if Mao hadn’t talked about a unified China, he would't have been able to hold on to power at all. In order to grasp what the word China means we would do well to heed British scholar Martin Jacques’ words: China is not a country it’s a civilization.
更多的，要了解中国你必须先了解多样性。中国有许多民族亚文化群，他们有不同的方言和语言文字，历史上他们不得不早日学会成为一个统一的国家。对于西方来说，国家统一 一般是过去2个，或者最多3个世纪的一个历程。中国不同的民族、文化和语言的统一是两千多年前的历史问题。中国本身的感觉对于大多数西方人来说几乎是不可能掌握的。在我看来，说 毛 统一中国是错误的，更多的是，如果 毛 不说他自己统一了中国，那他就没办法抓住权利不放。为了理解中国这个词，我们应该注意到英国学者马丁·雅克说的话：中国不是一个国家，它是一种文明。
Beyond these very general thoughts I am amazed at the friendliness I have experienced in China. I think to myself, I don’t look at all like them or speak their language, but I feel well liked most of the time and people seem to want to talk to me in spite they know I can’t understand what they are saying. Once I had the chance to travel with my mother-in-law who was 80ish and she got much more attention than I, simply for being old. I remember many smiles in people’s faces. I think I understood why my boys would remark that when they spoke to any Chinese in their own language they instantly felt the Chinese would automatically think of them as another Chinese.
I still don’t understand a lot about China, but I can’t wait to find out more. And, even at my age, I’ve got to work on my Mandarin.
Written Feb 12
I am a college student in the United States, and I really did not know much about China until this semester when I started taking a history class about modern China.
One misconception I had was that all the people in China were just "Chinese." I did not think of there being any minority groups that had specific characteristics about their own culture. There are 56 recognized ethnic groups in China. That's right, 56! All of these ethnic groups brings diversity to this nation. Spoken language, food, clothing, and housing are just some categories that can differ between ethnic groups. Taking this history class has opened my eyes to the cultural diversity in China.
Another misconception I had was with religion. I thought that the Chinese government had extremely strict laws forbidding any type of religion. However, religion is still allowed. It even seems today that the principles of Confucianism are a great part of Chinese culture, as it has been for centuries. Other religious groups are also found in China such as Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and more. There are still laws regulating what is allowed with the religions. For example, Christian churches who are public churches have their sermons censured by the government and are only allowed to preach basic principles, such as love your neighbor and the 10 commandments. However, private home churches are allowed in which the sermons are not censured by the government. So now I know that there is a way to still keep your beliefs and practice them if living in China.
Another thing I am still learning about is how China is can be run by a communist government. As an American, we have always been taught that communism is bad. So when I think of communism I usually think of a dictator government that oppresses the people. As I've learned more about modern China, I have realized that the Communist government is not as horrible as I had pictured it. To me the government does seem more strict than what I would prefer. However, the Chinese people are not locked inside their country. The type of government actually seems to be okay with most of the population. If it wasn't, wouldn't there be more revolutions or rallies against this type of government?
我还在学习的另一件事是，中国是如何由共 产 党 政府管理的。作为一个美国人，我们通常被教导说共 产 主 义 是不好的。所以当我想到共 产 主 义时，我通常会想到一个压迫人民的独裁政府。 当我更多地了解了现代中国的时候，我意识到共 产 党 政府不像我所想象的那样可怕。对我来说，政府似乎比我想要的更严格。然而，中国人不是囚禁在他们的国家里，政府的类型似乎对大多数人来说是好的。如果不是的话，是否会有更多的革命或集会来反对这种类型的政府呢？
I also did not realize how much foreign nations had abused China with unfair treaties. Especially after the Opium wars, the West had been cruel with their deals with China. They took land, money, and honor from China when they did these deals. This has opened my eyes to why China would resist modernizing until the beginning of of the 20th century. The modern world had hurt them and humiliated them.
Alasdair McAndrew, Mathematics educator, time waster...
Written Jan 4
I'm going to give a foreign view, based on some reading, and a recent visit. I went with an open mind, and spent my time only in cities (Shanghai, Chengdu, Leshan). The first surprise was how little "culture shock" I felt. China is supposed to be very "different" and "foreign", but in fact in wandering the streets, eating at restaurants, it felt like being in a Chinatown of any major western city. Except that the food is better - I didn't have a bad meal once. There's less English spoken than I expected, but as I pointed out out to some Australians who I met at an airport - why should the locals speak English? This is China! As I am a monoglot, I found this tricky, but I managed with an app which is supposed to read and translate signs (and mostly, did a good enough job), as well as a Chinese/English dictionary on my smartphone.
People I spoke to seemed mostly happy with the government - this is supposed to be a surprise to us Westerners, who have been conditioned to believe that the only possible good government is a democratic one. However - and I moved mostly in academic circles - people believe that the government is doing a good job.
Certainly in the cities, there was a greater level of affluence than I expected: shiny new cars, including many luxury ones, excellent quality goods for sale.
And back to food - I was also surprised at the amazing excellent fruit and vegetables. Many many greengrocers, with their wares enticingly displayed. (And also delicious to eat). Compared to what's available at my local supermarket, I'd say that China - at least the bit that I saw - does better.
Superb mass transport. Compared to Australia, where we can't even seem to get a bus system working, in China there was the marvel of the Shanghai metro, as well as the bullet train between Chengdu and Leshan. Even a slightly rattle-trap bus I took in Leshan (on a route which was not yet upgraded) was perfectly quick, and on time.
I must say the only problem with my trip to China was its brevity. I'd love to go back (with an interpreter in tow) and explore more. I think that China is a country worth being interested in, even if (like me) your knowledge is superficial. And there's far far more to applaud and like than otherwise.
Ian Mote, I have lived in Shanghai 7+ years & have been to every Chinese province
Written Dec 29, 2015 · Upvoted by Robin Daverman
Very I would say. China usually has its own way of doing things & it is only by being on the ground that you can appreciate what this is and more importantly why it has evolved that way. Not better or worse, but often different, and from afar this is easily misunderstood, especially when viewed through a different cultural filter
Things are improving now and as China becomes more accessible the gap is closing rapidly, but there remains a long way to go