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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An Islamic Pilgrimage from China: Part 1 of 2

May 31, 2016

The hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence.

From Xian in China to Mecca in Saudi Arabia it is a distance of 6,812 km or 4,232.781 miles.

This post might be a surprise to many in the West that think there is no religious freedom in China, but China handles religious freedom similar to how Singapore does it. And Singapore is seldom if ever criticized in the Western media for its religious restrictions.

The U.S. Department of State says that Singapore’s government has broad powers to limit citizens’ rights and handicap political opposition, and it does. One of those restrictions is a limited freedom of religion.

For instance, Singapore bans the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Unification Church by making public meetings illegal. The Falun Gong, banned in China, also has problems in Singapore.

China recognizes five religions — Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism but has banned certain new religious movements that are considered cults. China does not recognize cults as religions.

In the video embedded with this post, Al Jazeera follows Chinese Muslims as they prepare to undertake the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca from Xian in China.

The ancient city of Xian in Shaanxi province is home to about 60,000 ethnic Chinese Muslims.

Xian claims it has a Muslim history going back more than thirteen hundred years when Islam was first introduced to China in 650 AD, and the oldest mosque in China was built in 685-762 AD in Xian during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty.

Chinese Imam Ma Yi Ping speaks both Chinese and Arabic. He studied at the Islamic University of Medina and has made the hajj several times. He was taught in secret to be a devout Muslim by his parents when Mao ruled China and the mosques in China were closed.

Despite the persecutions that took place during China Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976) for all religons, Islam survived.

Ma Yi Ping says that after Mao and the Gang of Four were gone and China opened for trade with the world, he did not have to study the Quran in secret anymore.

Since the 15th century, Xian Muslims have been going to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj pilgrimage.

In the past, during the ancient days of the Silk Road, these journeys started and ended in Xian’s Muslim quarter. Today is no different.

Continued in Part 2 starting June 1, 2016

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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Why do most Chinese save so much?

May 25, 2016

Hung Huang, one of China’s four Opras, and the CEO of China Interactive Media Group, the host of China’s TV talk show Crossing Over and one of the top-five most popular Bloggers in China wrote a post for the New York Times Economix Blog about why the Chinese save so much.

She thinks the Chinese save out of fear.

I don’t agree, because China is not unique when it comes to Asians saving money. Galbi Think.org says, “Savings rates for East Asian economies averaged about 35% of GDP.

For a comparison, the long term saving rate in the US has dropped to 5.4% for the last three years. – YCHARTS.Inc.

Another study reported by All Business.com says, “The fact that the saving rate of rural households (in China) is considerably higher than that of urban households—even though their income levels are so much lower—is surprising.”

That isn’t so surprising to me. I married into a Chinese family, and I’ve come to believe the Chinese can out frugal anyone. The less earned, the more the Chinese save.  All it takes is saying no to buying frivolous junk and eating out when the money isn’t there.

In fact, I found the comments to Huang’s New York Times Economix Blog post to be more convincing than what she thinks.

Melvin Chin said in a comment, “Asians, including Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans, are predominantly brought up with the concepts of frugality and saving from very young. … Saving teaches them to be proud of what is accumulated, enjoy the fruits of abundance, and cherish the habit as a virtue.”

Ray said, “The strong family connection is the reason for Chinese to save. It is the same in Taiwan. Almost every elder person I know saves for their descendants.”

Fei said, “Simply look at the generations of Chinese who live in North America, you’ll find out that the majority of them still maintain a lifelong enthusiasm of saving … because saving is a habit that’s deeply rooted in the Chinese culture.”

If all Asian cultures are so good at saving money and are all collective cultures, what does that say about self-centered individualistic cultures like the U.S.?

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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