International Perspectives by J.C. Scull



China — Authority — Obedience — Growth

Chinese culture has remained constant and unchanged for the last 5000 years. While China has had its share of internal wars and foreign invaders, compared to other countries it shows amazing historical continuity. How has China been able to remain as such a monolithic culture can only be attributed to its largely homogeneous population, long periods of isolation from the rest of the world, and the ability of those in power to impose a hierarchical system that has demanded obedience from those in lower stations of society.

The notion of obedience can be viewed from the perspective of the contrast between individualism and collectivism. Where in individualistic societies the idea of obedience conjures mixed feelings at best, collectivist societies cannot survive without people’s obedience to the strict social norms, and governmental mandates placed on them. In fact, the Chinese word gexing meaning “individuality” is relatively new. Its first usage dates back to the time of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

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China’s Grandparent Trap

How China’s children are being cared by their grandparents.

One of the major differences between individualistic and collectivistic cultures is the importance of the nuclear family versus the extended family. Individualistic cultures stress self-reliance, the rights of individuals to make their own decisions, and the right to a private life. In contrast collectivistic cultures emphasize an extended family structure in which loyalty is demanded and interdependence is cultivated as well as enforced.

China, being one of the most collectivistic societies in the world has a strong extended family tradition where grandparents enjoy a powerful and influential position within the clan. As China’s economy improves and women enter the workforce at a greater rate, grandparents have taken on an additional role of custodians and caregivers to their grandchildren. Sometimes these roles have extended beyond normal childminding activities during working hours to fulltime adoption or childrearing.

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China We — America I

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A look at collectivist China through the eyes of Individualistic America

Art mimics life. Or is it the other way around. One thing is for sure; when it comes to American individualism nothing describes it better than Hollywood.

Take the 1971 movie Big Jake, with John Wayne playing the title role. When his grandson gets kidnapped by John Fain’s gang, Big Jake goes into action. He packs his six-shooter and his trusty 30–30 Winchester, gets on his horse and heads out to rescue the boy. Needless to say he kills a lot of people and brings the boy back.

And what about Liam Neeson in Taken. Neeson plays ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills who sets out to rescue his kidnapped daughter from human traffickers, all by his lonesome. Do we even need to go into details? Neeson’s character Bryan Mills wipes everybody out and brings his daughter back safe and sound. Needless to say those savvy Hollywood types know what Americans like and filmed Taken 2. There is even talk of a Taken 3.

America loved the real Sargent York, who during WWI, with his army issued Springfield .30–06 carbine in hand, took hundreds of German soldiers as prisoners all by himself. But America loved the movie too, played by Garry Cooper in 1941. In real life, Sargent York exemplified American ingenuity, valor, and modesty. A true American hero portrayed in the movie that followed in a very compelling and realistic way.

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