G. E. Anderson, The China Tracker, takes a post from Computerworld about “China is getting ready to clean America’s technological clock,” and expresses an opinion that even if China graduates more scientists and technicians than the US, nothing is being done to nurture the kind of creative and critical thinking that produces innovation. He goes on to say that few in China have a passion for what they are learning.
Anderson is wrong.
The Chinese Collective Culture at Work
An example of cooperation!
The Chinese collective culture has a long history of innovation. The Chinese invented the compass, paper, the printing press, gunpowder and the multistage rocket. Without those Chinese innovations, I doubt the West would have the civilization it has today.
In December 2009, the Cornell Daily Sun reported that 45% of foreign students at American graduate schools are from India and China. In 2008, some 672 thousand international student attended U.S. colleges and universities. Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education
Comparing the motivation of Chinese to American students is like comparing Red Delicious apples to Chinese dumplings. To a Chinese student, the pressure to measure up is always there, which explains why our daughter (my wife is Chinese and grew up in China during Mao’s Cultural Revolution) graduated from a US high school with a 4.66 GPA and straight A’s since she was five. Stanford University accepted her as a Biology major and she has plans to pursue a medical career. Since she speaks both languages fluently, she may take her skills to China one day.
Most American parents could care less and say, “Go have fun. Do what you want to do. Follow your passion.” If anything, this type of thinking will be the downfall of America. I know. I taught in the US educational system for three decades and this self-esteem cancer is still spreading.
Most Chinese students set goals and work “hard” to gain “face” for his or her family, while most Americans don’t set goals since they are too busy having fun and chasing passion. In fact, China has been a collective culture influenced by Confucius and Laotse for more than two thousand years.
While China graduates more than 30% in the sciences and engineering, America graduates that percentage in psychology and the arts and less than 5% in the sciences.
If creative and critical thinking isn’t being focused on in China, it is in the US and hundreds of thousands of Chinese students return to China each year after graduating from US institutions (mostly in the sciences), and many teach in Middle Kingdom universities imparting what they learned in the US to the next generation of Chinese.
For example, a Chinese immigrant friend of ours came to the US in the 1980s and earned his PhD in the sciences. Today, he is the department chair in the Chemical and Materials Engineering Departments of two universities—one in China and the other in the US. His innovative skills are so valuable that both universities cooperate so he can fly between countries sharing his skills and knowledge in NanoScience in Biomedicine. He’s published two books on the subject in both countries and languages.
If that isn’t enough, recently China built a super computer that equals what the US has and China is the only nation with a viable space program. On top of that, China is the leader in green technology (solar and wind) and has developed an all-electric car ahead of the US.
This all happened while the US has been mired in partisanship and Tea Party Politics while the children are out chasing their passions.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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