You probably missed the phenomenal article on China in the LA Times a while back, which came on the heels of more and more morose news of what’s looking less and less like a recovery of the American economy. Among other points, one of the more central themes the article focused on was that Chinese culture is not American culture:
The Chinese have a powerful sense of their identity and worth. They have never behaved toward the West in a supplicant manner, for reasons Westerners persistently fail to understand or grasp.
China is simply not like the West and never will be. There has been an underlying assumption that the process of modernization would inevitably lead to Westernization; yet modernization is not just shaped by markets, competition and technology but by history and culture. And Chinese history and culture are very different from that of any Western nation-state.
And so far as I can tell, no one protested this observation as bigoted or racist or even remotely controversial. It’s simply a cultural observation.
Chinese culture is not Western culture. It is, as they say, what it is.
Cultures instill different values, they have different norms, they lead to markedly different behaviors. As the article so aptly put it, our “failure to understand the Chinese has repeatedly undermined our ability to anticipate their behavior.” Western culture, it’s often said, is rooted in “Judeo-Christian” values. These values have become imbued in our legal systems and constitutional rights, over thousands of years religion has seeped into our sense of justice – of right and wrong.
This exact same argument of culture dissonance can be made when it comes to religion, between Christianity and Islam, although just about everyone seems terrified to bring up the obvious.