China is the polar opposite of America in many ways. In China, as a collective culture, the child is an extension of the parent and is not seen as an individual.
China has been this way for thousands of years where the family is more important than the individual is and the country is more important than the family and the individual.
The rules of Confucianism emphasized this cultural structure and these behaviors were practiced, endorsed and enforced by the Han Dynasty centuries before the birth of Christ.
In contrast, the American brand of individualism, which is represented by the rudeness and rebellion we see in America today has only been in practice for about fifty years.
Contrary to popular opinion, Americans have not always been rebels. That image was born and reinforced by 20th century Hollywood films that often depict rebellious children and criminals as clever, popular heroes while turning hard working authority figures such as the police, teachers and parents into idiots and oppressors.
In fact, if you read the history of child labor in the United States, you would discover that forms of child labor, including indentured servitude and child slavery, have existed throughout American history.
It wasn’t until the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, which set federal standards for child labor that the US moved toward providing a free, compulsory education for all children instead of children working in factories or coalmines or on farms as young as five.
Before 1938, instead of going to school, most American children went to work at a very early age and often labored twelve or more hours a day six days a week with only the Sabbath off.
The cultural concept that earning an education is worth the sacrifice of hard work that it demands has never existed in America.
However, China has a long history of providing an education to children of all classes as far back as the Han Dynasty since that is what Confucius taught.
In China for more than two thousand years, teachers and parents have been the heroes and are respected for the sacrifices they make to better a child’s future, which does not translate into encouraging a child to chase his or her dreams since, in reality, fantasies seldom come true and only a “few” achieve such dreams
After all, not “everyone” can become the next Bill Gates, Oprah or Selene Dion.
The collective concept of Confucianism has no room for an individual’s rights or dreams. What an American sees in China as oppression, most Chinese don’t even think about because that way of thought doesn’t exist in China’s Confucian dominated collective culture.
Hence, a Tiger Mother, such as Amy Chua, is respected for doing her duty as a Chinese parent. Being a SAP (the Self-esteem arm of Political Correctness) parent would be unthinkable.
I suspect that even if Amy Chua doesn’t sell the Chinese rights to her book, a publisher in China will steal the book, translate it and it will be a massive bestseller as Chinese parents buy and read her book to discover tougher methods of parenting.
That means Chinese mothers will be reading Chua’s book to learn what it takes to raise a child that performs in Carnegie Hall, while those mothers criticize Chua in public instead of praising her while secretly trying out what she learned from Chua.
That sort of behavior to say one thing while doing another is also common in China since Taoism is the other side of the Chinese character.
Bragging is also not acceptable until you have earned the right to brag by achieving the goals you set for yourself that no one else has ever heard of since bragging that you will be the next Bill Gates when you are a child is considered stupid and maybe a sign of a mental illness.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.
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