Do not stereotype. The meaning of face may vary between the Chinese. It depends on the balance between Confucianism and Daoism along with factors like Buddhism or belief in the Christian, Islamic or Jewish God.
Face is why most Chinese mothers ride their children hard to earn good grades in school while telling everyone they know that their kid is stupid and lazy and has no chance to succeed. Chinese mothers may often tell their children the same thing. However, if the child is accepted to a prestigious university, that Chinese mother has now earned bragging rights and gained much face for the great job she did as a mother.
We had a house full of my wife’s Chinese friends over for dinner. After eating, the children gathered in our downstairs TV room to watch a movie. They picked “The Joy Luck Club”, and during one scene, when the Chinese mother was acting very Chinese, all the children looked at each other, nodded a ‘yes’ and laughed ironically. Since my wife is Chinese, I knew why they reacted that way. They all had Chinese mothers.
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