Where Saving Money is a Virtue

May 7, 2013

Hung Huang, one of China’s four Opras, and the CEO of China Interactive Media Group, the host of 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 is less than 7%.

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.”

Not so surprising. 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 post to be more convincing.

Melvin Chin says, “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.”

B. Ray says, “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 descendents.”

Fei says, “Simply look at the generations of Chinese who live in North American, 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 the West and North America’s individualistic cultures?

 

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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 love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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China’s Legal System in Flux: Part 1/2

April 29, 2013

Since China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi (259 – 210 BC), a legal system was established that was relatively modern and forward-looking. Trained administrators were sent across the country to govern by statute. What was right and what was wrong was not subject to the whim of erratic autocrats or juries. Source: Anthropologist in the Attic

In general, ancient China’s legal system attempted to enforce filial piety, to uphold the respect of family ancestors, to avoid legal action when possible, to create deterrents to actions and to “control outbursts” (which may explain why China locks up democracy activists because they are shaking the boat). Source: Kwintessential.co.uk

No matter how much Westerners may disapprove of China’s ancient legal system, it had the acceptance of most Chinese because they understood the traditions behind the laws.


In May 2006, a short documentary of China’s changing legal system was produced.

As part of its economic reforms and policy of opening to the world, between 1980 and 1984, China established special economic zones in Shantou, Shenzhen, and Zhuhai in Guangdong Province and Xiamin in Fujian Province and designated the entire island province of Hainan a special economic zone.

Many of China’s new laws were written after this happened.

The rapid growth in industry led to a large number of work related injuries. For example, In 1998, there were over 15,000 serious work related injuries and industrial accidents.

Zhou Litai, a Chinese lawyer, arrived in Shenzhen in 1995 to work on worker’s compensation cases. He says there are three reasons behind worker’s compensation cases in China.

1. The facilities are old and outdated. Some of the equipment was used in Taiwan, Hong Kong or Korea 20 years ago.

2. The workers don’t get the necessary training before they start work.

In fact, Zhou Litai says, “The government has clearly regulated that workers need to be trained before starting a new job, and working permits are required.”

3. The worker’s health deteriorated due to working overtime on a regular basis.

4. The government control isn’t strict enough (For more than two millennia the legal system avoided legal action when possible).

Many Western legal concepts are foreign to Chinese culture, and “thanks to China’s economic development, the commercial law in China is far more developed than other aspects of the legal system.” Source: Ultravires

Continued on April 30, 2013 in China’s Legal System in Flux: Part 2

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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 love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Peking Opera

March 26, 2013

Peking Opera is a combination of several styles of Chinese opera.

The metamorphosis started during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), about two hundred years ago.

Peking Opera focuses on historical events, legends about emperors, ministers, generals, geniuses and great beauties.

Performances are a combination of singing, dialogue, pantomime and acrobatic fighting and dancing.

Today, Peking Opera is considered the highest expression of Chinese culture.

The origins of Peking Opera did not begin in Peking (Beijing).  The opera had its start in the Chinese provinces of Anhui and Hubei.

Experts say the opera was born in 1790 and was originally staged for the royal family and then the public.

There are thousands of these operas that cover the history and literature of China. Peking operas can be divided into two categories.

“Civil” operas focus on singing while “Martial” operas feature acrobatics and stunts.  Some are a combination of both.

If Peking Opera interests you, see Chinese Yu Opera with Mao Wei-tao

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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 love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The differences between Individualism and Collective Cultures – Part 5/5

December 21, 2012

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 majority.

Return to Individualism and Collective Cultures – Part 4 or start with Part 1

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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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The differences between Individualism and Collective Cultures – Part 1/5

December 17, 2012

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

I’ve discovered from on-line debates that some Westerners from individualist cultures don’t understand what a collective culture is, and he or she appears to hate what they don’t understand. Even the Western media often shows its ignorance by how it reports events in China by judging China as if it were a 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. Laws exist to promote stability, order and obedience.

Working with others and cooperating is the norm.  Being uncooperative is often seen as shameful. Source: Psychology – Collectivist and Individualist Cultures

Continued on December 18, 2012 in Individualism and Collective Cultures – Part 2

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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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Confucian Harmony Today

September 11, 2012

In China, harmony plays an important role in everyday life. Cultural etiquette among Chinese revolves around harmony as Confucius taught. “Confucianism still plays an important role in Chinese society. It is a system of ethics and conduct, the obligations of people toward each other based on their relationships.” Source: Doing Business in China: Cultural Manners

 

The philosophy behind Feng Shui supports this concept since it is how to create harmony and balance in your living and working environment. Feng Shui came about when it was observed that people are affected by their surroundings with some places luckier, happier, healthier or more peaceful than others are.

Even the way the government in China does business is governed by the same concepts. As much as most Americans and Europeans seem incapable of understanding China, the Chinese often see foreigners as barbaric when they do not behave properly according to Chinese standards. Understanding is a two way street.

For example: Last weekend, I got up to wash dishes in the sink while my wife and daughter were still eating. My wife said when we have Chinese guests it is impolite to do that since it signals to the guests that it is time to leave. It is best to soak the dishes and leave them until the guests go.

Discover Honor Chinese Style.

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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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The Kaifeng Jews (960 AD)

July 16, 2012

The Jews settled in Kaifeng, Henan Province in 960 AD after arriving along the Silk Road.  The Jews who first arrived in China were welcomed by the  Imperial government, which encouraged them to retain their cultural identity by building a synagogue, which was finished in 1163 AD.

The Kaifeng Synagogue had a Torah written on sheepskin. The architecture of the buildings reflects Jewish culture. Evidence indicates that  the Kaifeng Jews were very traditional and obeyed Kosher dietary laws and practiced circumcision for males.

The Jewish community in China thrived for centuries before it was assimilated into Chinese culture through intermarriage. By the middle of the 18th century, little survived of the Jewish community.

In 1849, the Yellow River flooded causing what was left of the Jewish community to break apart. Today there are about 500 descendents of the Kaifeng Jewish community who hope to reclaim their Jewish tradition.

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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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Note: This post first appeared July 2010