Why aren’t we all the same? Part 5 of 5

March 18, 2017

Individuals in a collectivist culture tend to view themselves as members of groups (families, work units, tribes, nations), and usually considers the needs of the group to be more important than the needs of an individual.

Most Asian cultures, including China, tend to be collectivist.

Another example between individualism and collectivism is Piety (respect for elders). In the West, evidence suggests that the young are being spoiled to the point where many Western children are rude to elders expecting them to be invisible and silent, while in China that same behavior is often the reverse—at least it was before Western fast food and consumerism appeared in China.

In China, when there is a conflict of interest between individuals and the collective, individuals are expected to sacrifice their own benefits for the sake of the collective well-being.

On the other hand, an individualist culture is one in which people tend to view themselves as individuals and to emphasize the needs of the individual over the well being of the group. Source: Travel China Guide – a discussion about individualist and Collectivist Cultures

Are there exceptions?  Of course, but those exceptions seldom represent the average or the majority.

Return to Part 4 or Start with  Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Why aren’t we all the same? Part 4 of 5

March 17, 2017

The Research Digest Blog asks, “Are children from collectivist cultures more likely to say it’s okay to lie for the group?”

The theory says that yes, they might say it’s okay to lie for your team than children from individualistic cultures, such as the US, which places more value on self-interest.

The surprising finding was that children from China actually found lying to protect one’s team less acceptable than children in the US did.

“This is not to suggest that Chinese children were acting in an individualistic manner,” the researchers said, “but rather that they were acting based on what they believed to be a more salient moral aspect of the situation.” Source: Research Digest Blog

Collective cooperation may explain why China has a long history of innovation.

After all, the Chinese invented the compass, paper, the printing press, gunpowder, the multistage rocket and much more.  Source: The Growing Gap Between the US and China

In addition, I read in the September/October 2012 issue of Foreign Policy Magazine that the Chinese are doing it again. for example: inventing a modular method to build energy-efficient skyscrapers —China plans to use this innovative method to built the world’s tallest building (220-stories) in ninety days compared to the current tallest building in Dubai that is 160 stories tall and took six years to build. Other innovations China is developing is the straddling bus in addition to safer, cleaner nuclear energy.

Continued on March 18 in Part 5 or go back to Part 3

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Why aren’t we all the same? Part 3 of 5

March 16, 2017

When I wrote why China is studying Singapore, my goal was to show Westerners why China couldn’t model itself after an individualistic culture such as the United States, because copying the United States wouldn’t fit China’s culture.

Even Dr. Sun Yat-Sen – China’s Democratic Revolutionary, said any democracy in China would have to fit China’s culture saying, “An individual should not have too much freedom. A nation should have absolute freedom.”

Individualism promotes individual goals and encourages each person to express him or herself freely.  Each person is encouraged to be unique. Rules and laws attempt to ensure independence, choices, and freedom of speech. Relying or being dependent on others is often seen as shameful, and people are encouraged to do things on their own, to rely on themselves. Source: Psychology – Collectivist and Individualist Cultures

However, James Surowiecki says, “We once accused the Japanese of being copycats and now we turn on the Chinese. But the truth is that we have all become imitators. … In many situations, collective decisions are better than individual ones.” Source: Co-Society.com

Continued on March 17 in Part 4 or go back to Part 2

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Why aren’t we all the same? Part 2 of 5

March 15, 2017

Even in individualist countries, we find collectivism at work. In business, the collective society is often seen in corporate structure.

New Yorker business columnist James Surowiecki says, “Under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent and are often smarter than the smartest people in them.”

An example used by Surowiecki shows that “the TV studio audience of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire guesses correctly 92 percent of the time, compared to ‘experts’ who guess only 65 percent correctly.” Source: Co-Society.com

What Surowiecki says explains why China’s top few-hundred officials use the “Red Machine”, an encrypted communication system, for making quick collective decisions.

In The Collective Will, I mentioned the author of a Wall Street Journal piece as an example of how most people in the West have trouble understanding what goes on in China.

Most Chinese understand their government’s  actions and decisions even if a Westerner from an individualist culture doesn’t.

Some Chinese may not like it. Others may not agree with it.

However, Westerners are not always happy with their governments. Just look at Donald Trump in the United States to understand what this means.

Continued on March 16 in Part 3 or Start with  Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Why aren’t we all the same? Part 1 of 5

March 14, 2017

A few years ago, I debated another author on this site, and he rejected the scientific fact that there are different types of cultures on this planet. He said, ignoring all the studies on this topic, that there was no such thing as a collective or individualistic culture.

In this 5-part series, we will explore the differences between what it means to grow up in a collective versus an individualistic culture.


Sidney Rittenberg says China is a ‘we’ society while the West is a ‘me’ society.

China and America are not the same. China has a collective culture. The United States has an individualist culture.

I’ve discovered that some people from individualistic cultures don’t understand what a collective culture is, and some hate what they don’t understand. Even the Western media often shows its ignorance by how it reports events in China and by judging what happens in China as if it were an individualist culture.

It might surprise many in the West that China is not the only country with a collectivist culture.

Along with China, one list I saw had Argentina, Brazil, Vietnam, Egypt, Greece, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Scandinavia and Portugal on it.

For individualist cultures, there was Canada, Australia, England, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand and the United States.

In Chinese society, collectivism has a long tradition based on Confucianism, where being a community man or someone with a social personality is valued.

In a collective society such as China, each person is encouraged to conform to society, to do what is best for the group and to not openly express opinions or beliefs that go against it.

Group, family or rights for the common good are seen as more important than the rights of the individual. In a collective culture laws exist to promote stability, order, and obedience.

Working with others and cooperating is the norm.  Being uncooperative is often seen as shameful. For instance, Psychology Today reports how to sell online to individualist vs collectivist cultures.

Nathalie Nahai, writing for Psychology Today, says, “A very individualist country (such as the USA) will tend to form loose-knit social groups, and value autonomy, freedom and personal time. They tend to proactively seek out challenge, and are often motivated by extrinsic factors such as material success.

“In comparison, countries that score highly in collectivism (such as China) tend to develop large cohesive social networks, valuing loyalty, good physical conditions and intrinsic rewards as motivating factors.”

Psychologists have found that intrinsic rewards, an outcome that gives an individual personal satisfaction such as that derived from a job well done can be more powerful motivators than an external reward system such as an employee bonus program.

Continued on March 15 in Part 2

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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A Chinese Beat Cop in Action, and what are human rights

February 21, 2017

China is often criticized for human rights violations through the United Nations and the west’s media based on European and North American values.

For instance, my last trip to China was in 2008, and we heard about an incident from a friend, a witness to an event that involved the police and two Chinese citizens: a single man in his late forties, who lived in the same building our friend lived in, and one of his girlfriends.

The older 40-year-old man’s girlfriend was in her early twenties, and she called the police from his apartment and claimed she’d been raped. After police officers arrived on the scene of the alleged crime, she demanded, “Arrest and punish him!”

The original single family house in what was once the French sector in Shanghai was now shared by several families; each family had one or two rooms divided up between two floors in what was once a three-story house.  The bottom floor was occupied by a clothing shop.

The neighbors, including our Chinese friend, from the 2nd and 3rd floors, crowded the hall outside an open door to witness what was happening. The police officers, who had arrived on the scene, calmly heard both sides and everyone learned that there had been no actual forced rape. It turned out that the woman had discovered her boyfriend, who was more than twice her age, had two other girlfriends and one of them was twenty years older than he was.

“He asked me to strip,” she said. “He is corrupt.”

The officer studied her, and then the man. The woman was several inches taller and at least twenty pounds heavier. “You have legs. You could leave,” the officer said, “But you stripped. Is that correct?”

There was the sound of laughter from the hallway audience.

The soon-to-be former, much-younger, girlfriend nodded.

“No laws have been broken,” one of the police officers said. “He is a single man and can date anyone he likes, even more than one woman. You could have said no. If you feel that you have been abused, there’s a woman’s organization that will help you. Do you want the phone number?”

“I already went to them. They won’t punish him either.”

The officer shook his head. “You will never come to this apartment again,” the officer said, and he wrote his verdict in a notebook.

China’s police do not have to read a suspected criminal his or her Miranda rights. U.S. Miranda rights do not exist in China. Arguably, In China, the police have more power than police in the U.S. We often hear about China’s human rights violations, but how can they be human rights violations when there are no laws that define them; no human rights laws to enforce?

It might help to compare a few crime statistics between the United States and China.

Nation Master.com reports the murder rate per year per 100,000 people

  • China: 1.2 per 100,000
  • United States: 5 per 100,000

Number of Robberies recorded by police per 100,000 people

  • China: 24.5
  • U.S. 146.4

Prisons Population (reported by the BBC)

  • China: 1,548,498 or 118 per 100,000 people
  • United States: 2,193,798 or 737 per 100,000

What did Patrick Henry say on March 23, 1775? “Give me liberty or give me death.” I wonder what Patrick Henry would say today if he were still alive and saw these compared facts.

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

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Chinglish

February 1, 2017

Chinglish is a play by David Henry Hwan that first premiered at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. The play premiered on Broadway at the Longacre Theater. I saw it at the Berkeley Rep Theater, and it was a laugh-out-loud evening.

This is not a review of Hwan’s play as much as it is about how different cultures find common behaviors hard wired in our DNA to make connections.

To summarize Chinglish, this laugh-out-loud play was about Daniel, a former employee of Enron, who almost went to prison with the rest of the Enron crooks. Daniel not only lost his high paying job with Enron, but he’s broke due to the legal battle that kept him out of jail.

In a last desperate attempt at success, he goes to China to find customers for his American company (a business that’s been in his family since 1925), but Daniel does not speak a word of Mandarin. At the beginning of the play, he says, “If you are an American, it is safe to assume that you do not speak a single f*****g foreign language.”

That one line reveals how clueless most Americans are when it comes to other cultures and languages.

Chinglish, through humor, teaches us a lesson about the minefield of misunderstanding and manipulation that happens when people of different cultures attempt to do business with each other.

“An American businessman arrives in a bustling Chinese province looking to score a lucrative contract for his family’s sign-making firm. He soon discovers that the complexities of such a venture far outstrip the expected differences in language, customs and manners.”

There is another implied theme in this play, and that’s about why sex is important, something all cultures and races have in common that often transcends cultural differences.

In the play, Daniel, an unhappily married man has an affair with an unhappily married mainland Chinese woman. Without spoiling the story, this affair provides the link that Daniel needs to succeed in China, and that link is known as Guanxi.

Early in the play, Daniel’s British interpreter, a man who has lived in China for years and speaks Mandarin fluently, tells him he must stay at least eight weeks to have a chance to develop Guanxi, a system of social networks and influential relationships that facilitate business and other dealings. The British interpreter says that for millennia China has survived without a Western legal system of laws, lawyers, courts and judges, and that Guanxi was crucial for China’s success as the longest surviving civilization and culture on the planet.

Without understand how Guanxi works, Daniel struggles to cross the cultural divide, but fails until he has the affair with the wife of a Chinese judge. The sexual attraction and lust that led to the affair opens the door to the Guanxi network of his lover, and her husband.

Discover Anna May Wong, the woman that died a thousand times.

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