One (Bad) Approach to China: Unbearable Arrogance

Fair warning: if you dislike or cannot understand sarcasm, you will want to ignore portions of this post.

I recently read, with some displeasure, this translation by Alice Poon in the Asia Sentinel. It’s worth reading all of if you’re the sort of person who likes making yourself angry, but in case you aren’t, it’s an essay written by a Japanese teacher visiting China, lecturing Chinese students about manners and morality, and talking about how the Chinese education system is flawed because it doesn’t contain a moral component. Where did he get the idea Chinese students had no manners?

One evening after school, I was walking and chatting with another young Chinese teacher in the senior high section. Students were leaving the school premises – they were wearing school uniforms and back-packs; some were chatting loudly, some were eating snacks, while others were flirting with each other. I felt very lonely – not one student paid any attention to us.

Dear God, how could they? Those heartless Chinese bastards. Everyone knows when you’re a student, and you see a teacher walking and conversing with his colleague, you should interrupt them to say goodbye! He continues:

If I behaved like this in Japan, the first time I would be warned; after a couple of times, I would be considered having bad conduct, which would adversely affect my school report. If no improvement was made after several times, my parents would be summoned to the school to attend a ‘three-way’ meeting with the teacher and student. If there was still no change, the student would be expelled. In Japan, students are required to say goodbye to their teachers, basically accompanied by a bending of the body, preferably at 45 degrees.

Ah, yes! Because as we all know, the degree at which one bends one’s body is a direct reflection of one’s level of respect everywhere, not just in Japan! And if the body isn’t bent properly, it stands to reason the student should be expelled. After all, school is about bowing and saying goodbye to teachers, right?

As if being subjected to the barbarism of the Chinese in school wasn’t enough, the poor fellow got on a subway, and what did he see but — horror of horrors — “a child eating a hamburger and speaking loudly and dancing on the seats.”

Ah, yes! Children eating and playing in public — how dare they! What morally bereft parents would allow their child to run around a subway eating and making noise! Surely, in Japan, no such thing would ever happen:

In Japan, parents would probably use the occasion to teach the child a lesson and let him know what is proper and what is not. In my family, my parents would spank my butt, let me reflect on my bad behavior by making me stand outside the house for the whole night, and make me go hungry for a day.

Ah, yes! Exposing your child to the elements overnight, and then starving them for a day! Truly this is the technique of the educated, morally upright parent! What China needs is more child abuse!

OK, I’m all sarcasmed-out. In all seriousness, I could break the logic here down and rip it to shreds but it’s not even worth it. Obviously this guy is, at best, seriously self-absorbed and, at worst, in need of psychiatric help. But it’s worth noting because (1) it’s kind of funny to read things written by morons and (2) expecting China to conform to your own cultural norms is a pitfall that’s very easy to fall into (although few ever fall as deep as this man).

For a much better assessment and discussion of the education system in China, check out this much longer translation and commentary we wrote earlier today. I fear it will get ignored because this one has more swear words.

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0 thoughts on “One (Bad) Approach to China: Unbearable Arrogance”

  1. watch the movie 24 Hours in Shibuya, a HK film fest award winner. The things that Japanese schoolgirls get up to! Hilarious, and insightful of at least big city society, ie, Tokyo.

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  2. China-Japan cultural comparison is Kato Yoshikazu’s stock in trade. Usually he’s a little more insightful than this, but his columns generally consist of observations about various mainstream aspects of Chinese culture set against his own experiences in Japan and don’t offer all that much that’s truly thought-provoking.

    And if you clip his name and certain first-person details from the article, it could very easily have been written by a Chinese commentator contrasting declining Chinese social morality with lessons gained during a brief stint in Japan. Lots of readers will agree with the author’s sentiments, I suspect (check the comment threads here and here, for example). What’s wrong with the younger generation? Not enough traditional culture and too much indulgence by the older generation, that’s what!

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  3. 1) what can you say? lots of people come to China and make unfair criticisms. It makes them feel superior.

    2) but the wider point is more interesting. Could China benefit from being a more polite society? I think so. (And I’ll caveat that by saying that the same goes for many other countries!)

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  4. A post by a rude and arrogant Japanese. A sarcastic reply by another foreigner taking the Japanese to task. Easy points scored his Chinese readers! So, did anyone else say anything rude on the internet today? Perhaps one of those duplicitious Frenchmen, or someone advocating splittism?

    *yawn* – what happened to the thoughtful posts?

    I believe this is called an “open net” goal…

    China thanks you for defending her honor.

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  5. @ goaaaaallll!: Read my other post from yesterday or STFU. I posted this because it’s interesting. You’re criticizing it because it’s not thoughtful enough for you, but ignoring another translation and commentary from the same day that I spent much more time on? Talk about an empty net goal…and yeah, as wooddoo said, there aren’t many Chinese readers here.

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  6. Heh, the vast majority of Chinese brought up in a more traditional environment (including my parents, HK’ers etc) will agree with the Japanese teacher’s sentiments. By old fashioned (ie non-Communist) standards, the modern youth of China today behave appallingly. They ARE outrageously spoiled, especially the children of rich scum. On the upside, they are very very individualistic, adventurous with a sense of nationalistic pride that other Chinese have trouble getting excited about. The state of modern Chinese youth is a subject fills flag waving nationalists like me with a mix of admiration and dread. In many ways, modern Chinese youths are very “Westernised”. I think that China will be “Great” again but I’m not sure it will be “Chinese” as my parents understood it.

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  7. @ mtm, joel, etc.: meh, it all strikes me as a lot of the same kind of old-people-whining that goes on in every culture every generation. That’s not a particular surprise, but what I found interesting here is that the author wasn’t hearkening back to “the good old days” as much as he was just saying “Japan is better”.

    He did attempt to frame it in the context of Japan’s adoption of lots of traditional Chinese cultural stuff, but still…

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  8. Several weeks ago, via the links on an expat blog in China, I visited a blog in Japan written by an American. The man was putting up a series of posts on his first trip to China after living six years in Japan. They were really interesting, seeing China from the eyes of a Japanized African-American. One of the things he talked about of course was “politeness” and expectations.

    That series wasn’t finished, but unfortunately I forgot where I found the links. Damn.

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  9. Isnt this really more about the fact that the guy is Japanese/foreigner? Somehow, I doubt anyone would care if it was a Chinese teacher saying this. A lot of Chinese people I’ve talked to acknowledge the fact that there is a underlying rudeness and selfishness/spoiled kids in modern Chinese society. A trip to a Chinese zoo would exemplify. As for the Japanese teacher’s observations, it may be awfully presumptuous (and stupid) to say on his part, but there is some truth in his words.

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  10. Not enough traditional culture and too much indulgence by the older generation, that’s what!

    I’d say too much Westernization and not enough traditional culture. Some specific cities are bad but they are cleaning up. Those in rural areas, from my experience at least, are very genuinely kind people.

    Preferably government and social measures should be put into place to purge all Western culture from China.

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  11. Of course, with the exception of a few things that can be useful such as language (understanding your main competitors and enemies is crucial). Science and technology should be developed of course, with more pragmatism and transparency than was done in the past.

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  12. See, this is what I never understood about the fenqing. The fact that they refer to those who are not Chinese as “enemies.” Why so much hate? What about western culture is so destructive in China, exactly?

    I must say now, though, that I miss Wahaha because although we disagreed about many things, he, at least, wasn’t driven by vindictivenesss in his fenqing-ing.

    Back to topic, though, I’m not sure if there’s anything good about either of the people being referred to in this post. The Japanese guy is an arrogant asshole and the Chinese translating the post is a sensitive nationalist who is actually hurting the cause of Chinese patriotism by responding to the Japanese in the first place.

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  13. Well, anonymous, you’re certainly winning the popularity contest on this post!

    Perhaps more significant is that what you’re proposing is utterly impossible. Fighting globalization and the mixing of powerful cultures is a losing battle, and isolationism hasn’t served China very well in the past. Not that it matters. We both know Western culture isn’t leaving China anytime soon, and Chinese culture is growing stronger in the West, too. Sorry if that spoils your childish nationalism.

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  14. “Mixing of powerful cultures”? And you talk about globalization as if it’s an inherently good thing. It’s a tool to be used, like guns, knives, or what have you.

    It can be very, very bad in the hands of wealthy Westerners.

    I’m not talking about just China either, I rarely ever am- I am talking about a worldwide movement that is against flawed “Western” worldviews. Clearly, a lot of Western systems do not work for other cultures especially the core value- white, Christian, supremacist thinking that puts the interests of Western corporations and instruments of thought control ahead of the interests of everyone else.

    Neither isolationism nor xenophilia have not served China well at all. Both were disastrous. China did the best when it was pragmatic and evaluated foreign entities realistically.

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  15. Neither isolationism nor xenophilia have not served China well at all. Both were disastrous. China did the best when it was pragmatic and evaluated foreign entities realistically.

    OK, so where did “government and social measures should be put into place to purge all Western culture from China” come from?

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  16. GaijinSmash! Oh man, I remember reading that guy all the way back in college. I always wondered what happened to him. I forgot his original website URL too but I remember how hilarious his stories were (kancho!) but got much less funny when he first attempted to make money off of his writing. It looks like he’s gone onto something new with a normal blog now.

    Anyway, tangent aside, hilarious post, Custer!

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  17. OK, so where did “government and social measures should be put into place to purge all Western culture from China” come from?

    You can remove foreign cultures without cutting off diplomatic and economic ties. The loss of China’s culture along with the introduction of Hollyweird is like a second cultural revolution.

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  18. >You can remove foreign cultures
    Why? The RoC and the PRC together spent about 70 years trying to stamp out a culture they felt was backward superstitious and held back progress and development. This project started as early as the much sainted Sun Zhongshan’s efforts to destroy traditional places of worship.
    Communism, Democracy and Nationalism are all imported ideas. To say nothing of Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. You are hankering after a state of “purity” that never existed.
    As a Chinese nationalist, I would rather see China embrace foreign ideas and produce a uniquely Chinese synthesis and interpretation of those ideas to give Chan Buddhism as an example of “Chinese characteristics” at work.

    If all you mean is banning Western garbage culture like MTV then I sympathize with you.

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  19. >You can remove foreign cultures
    Why? The RoC and the PRC together spent about 70 years trying to stamp out a culture they felt was backward superstitious and held back progress and development. This project started as early as the much sainted Sun Zhongshan’s efforts to destroy traditional places of worship.
    Communism, Democracy and Nationalism are all imported ideas. To say nothing of Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. You are hankering after a state of “purity” that never existed.
    As a Chinese nationalist, I would rather see China embrace foreign ideas and produce a uniquely Chinese synthesis and interpretation of those ideas to give Chan Buddhism as an example.

    If all you mean is banning Western garbage culture like MTV then I think there will be plenty of Westerners who will agree with you.

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  20. If all you mean is banning Western garbage culture like MTV then I sympathize with you.

    Definitely. I’m talking about everything unnecessary. Language, technology, of course have their pragmatic uses. So sick of seeing Western models and luxury brands in Asia. Can’t stand people who think “Flench” or “Itarian” food is trendy. Every time I hear “East meets West” I vomit in my mouth.

    Islam and Christianity I’m not going to comment because it will get me banned, but Buddhism has been thoroughly Sinicized so I’m not hostile to it.

    Communist authoritarianism and democracy are both crap in my opinion. A perfected form of China’s old meritocracy would be better.

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  21. As for nationalism, China had nationalism and proto-nationalisms. However, they just did not “draw borders” as distinctly even though there were indeed many markers that could constitute national borders.

    Throughout history Chinese people have always valued race and culture, and this is evidenced even in the Yellow River Valley neolithic where genetically and culturally different invaders and encroachers were beheaded as human sacrifices or used as slaves.

    That is something truly beautiful and divine.

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  22. >…beheaded as human sacrifices or used as slaves.
    >That is something truly beautiful and divine.

    You had me there, superb trolling Sir!

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  23. related note, I get really bitter when I hear Westerners accuse us of “Chinesifying” pure and innocent Tibetan culture as if we were somehow defiling it when in reality we are defiling by “Westernising” it. Yet still much better than the way we spent decades trying to “Westernise” ourselves by gouging out pathetic inferior Chinese culture because it was worthless against Western gunboats and opium. Change was necessary and everything old had to be destroyed. See the scars? We cut ourselves because of you.

    Back to poking fun at the Japanese, hohoho…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_syndrome

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  24. I hear Westerners accuse us of “Chinesifying” pure and innocent Tibetan culture as if we were somehow defiling it when in reality we are defiling by “Westernising” it

    Yep. Western culture is the biggest threat to all world cultures, and must be diminished and contained in Europe.

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  25. “The loss of China’s culture along with the introduction of Hollyweird is like a second cultural revolution. ”

    I wonder how many victims of the cultural revolution wouldn’t take offense to something like that considering that you don’t usually hear about westerners demanding Chinese to accept their culture lest they be tortured or beaten to death.

    All the same, what I found funniest in what you said, besides the part about the beheading and the slavery of course(!), was this bit:
    Preferably government and social measures should be put into place to purge all Western culture from China.

    “So sick of seeing Western models and luxury brands in Asia. Can’t stand people who think “Flench” or “Itarian” food is trendy. Every time I hear “East meets West” I vomit in my mouth.”

    Communist authoritarianism and democracy are both crap in my opinion.

    I think this is what the staff at the Daily Show must feel like before they make Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, or Bill O’Reilly look like racist morons.

    Also, so you know, I don’t think Custer will ban you for commenting on religions. He must just disemvowel you if you’re too trollish, but in the past, I think it’s only happened to one or two people I can think of. But, you might make yourself look like an even bigger idiot than you already have! Fair warning!

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  26. Don’t respond to trolls. Remove Chinese cultural influence by abandoning their primitive script, useless loanwords and emphasizing native culture over theirs. It’s worked wonders for us, and we’ve done it in less than 50 years.

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  27. >westerners demanding Chinese to accept their culture lest they be tortured or beaten to death

    If you substitute the word “culture” with “values”, and replace “tortured or beaten to death” with “bombed back into the stone age”, I’m sure I heard variations of this aplenty in mainstream media since the early nineties. Not so much now days but there’s always Ann Coulter with “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”

    Modern Western Culture itself of course is very popular and well accepted with no need to make any threats at all, yet somehow the US Navy with 12 giant carriers and countless smaller ones has managed to keep itself busy through the years. You know sailing. Flying the flag. Just to let them know we here if they need us. For humanitarian missions. Naturally.

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  28. >It’s worked wonders for us, and we’ve done it in less than 50 years.

    Sadly, South Korea and Japan still uses too much primitive Chinese script. You should emulate proud and independent North Korea who doesn’t need it at all. Hopefully, one day if you study harder at school you will finally rid South Korea of all these awkward reminders of how your entire “culture” was never much more than an uncreative 3rd rate debased copy of the original. Only then can you ascend to become a majestic cultural superpower like North Korea.

    Hey Kids, Did you know——-?
    The Korean master race brought civilization to the world: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOqKZptYOyU&feature=channel_page
    Genghis Khan was Korean: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayZFhB5nGEE&feature=related
    Proof of Jesus Christ was Korean: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARntHwTONN0&feature=fvw
    Korean Created The World’s Civilization: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjIfWtCp29M&eurl=
    Korean Created Modern Technology: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DGTzG1KPC8&feature=channel_page
    Japan is Korean Territory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJsRaD7qzeA&feature=channel_page

    >Don’t respond to trolls.
    ho hum.. Too late.

    Hey General Custer, before you decide to BAN me, bear in mind you tagged this thread with “IDIOTS”.

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  29. Yes, as the saying goes, let’s not feed the trolls.

    And for the record, I don’t really ban people, though I will disemvowel or outright delete the text in comments. Anonymous, you’re welcome to talk about religion so long as you can do it respectfully and without attacking others. There’s not much about your contributions to this site so far that lead me to believe you can, but surprise me!

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  30. @mtm

    Has anyone said that the US should bomb China back into the stone age? I thought that sort of thing was reserved for the middle east and, a few decades earlier, Vietnam. Of course the thing about Vietnam was that it was all Richard Nixon’s master plan!

    Jokes aside, does anyone really take mainstream media in the US very seriously these days in light of the political climate? Of course there’s always the crazies like Ann Coulter, but there’s a lot of crazies these days. Considering all the distortion (which I must admit is still better than outright lying), I have to agree with recent polls saying that Jon Stewart is the most honest reporter in America.

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  31. There are always ignorant preachy provincial teachers who think things are only done their certain way. This non-local-yokel is making Japan look like some sterile perfectly boring place where every student treats every teacher with the utmost respect… blah blah blah. What an idiot! He’s the idiot teacher that all the students as well as other teachers make fun of and he’s too dense to know it. To me this post isn’t about whether people in one place are more polite than another… this is about whether this guy is an even bigger windbag than the idiot English teacher I once ran into lecturing a group of young people in a very condescending and overly hoity-toity way on the proper ways to use cuttlery. To all the borish teachers out there… stop giving teachers a bad name.

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  32. Josh: Has anyone said that the US should bomb China back into the stone age?

    DEFINITELY, countless times since ’89. You do realize a great number of Americans then and more than a few even today regard China to be an enemy. How do you imagine people like them would conduct “diplomacy”? Add a dash of xenophobia, sprinkle liberally with ignorance and mix thoroughly with Communist-phobia and heat over T1bet-Ta1wan-T1ananmen square and what do you think you get?

    Remember those days?

    >crazies like Ann Coulter
    huh? I’m not American but I understood her to be very popular on the Republican half of America.

    >Every time I hear “East meets West” I vomit in my mouth.
    heh,
    “East meets West”
    “East meets West”
    “East meets West”
    “East meets West”
    “East meets West”
    “East meets West”
    “East meets West”
    “East meets West”
    ….

    Bert: Chinese (and others) generally have no further to go than the nearest mirror to find the culprit of all their misery.

    Agree.
    Weakness at arms, primitive in industry and utter disunity as a nation doomed us to 200 long years of misery and grief.
    If China is to learn from the past, we must invest in MIRVed long ranged ICBMs with advanced penetration aids to defeat any BMD system. We must also support economic growth regardless of the human and environmental cost. Any dissension that challenges stability in anyway must be crushed mercilessly. Bert, you are a genius!

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  33. @ mtm, regarding Ann Coulter, she is fairly popular but that’s mostly because what she says is crazy in a way people find provocative and/or amusing. Even among conservatives, I think there are very few people who, when pressed, would agree with everything she says. Certainly most of my conservative friends consider her to be something of a joke.

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  34. Has anyone said that the US should bomb China back into the stone age?

    No, but you use the WTO to force China, Japan, Korea etc to accept your filthy white supremacist media.

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  35. Even among conservatives, I think there are very few people who, when pressed, would agree with everything she says. Certainly most of my conservative friends consider her to be something of a joke.

    I don’t know about that. Her books are bestsellers and you underestimate just how loony American conservatives are.

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  36. Yes, her books are bestsellers, but that doesn’t mean anyone is agreeing. My brother, a devout liberal, reads Ann Coulter and watches Bill O’Reilly fairly frequently because he likes getting angry and tearing apart whatever moronic point they are making. I do the same thing from time to time. It’s a form of entertainment for a lot of people, I think, not a serious source of political information.

    Plus, Americans don’t read books anymore, I’m pretty sure you only need to sell 4 or 5 to be considered a “bestseller” at this point.

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  37. According to wiki she has sold over 3 million books which amounts slightly more than 1% of the population of the US. Of course it’s possible that this is merely reflective of the average literacy levels of her supporters.

    >filthy white supremacist media
    Don’t forget the evuh Jewish-Liberal-Commie-Banksters Lizards from Space. What country are you REALLY from, trollboy? [The last sentence of this comment was unnecessary and contained an offensive slur -ed.]

    Like

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