The perils of being associated with China

China’s unhealthy obsession with foreign education and degrees is a turn-off for many foreigners


BEIJING – The marketable and exploitable obsession of the Chinese for everything “Western” is legendary and has reached planetary proportions, as everything Made in China is deemed low-quality, archaic, and never quite good enough. Whether it is Western cars, Western medicine, Western architecture, or Western education -the people are flying for it. Here’s a famous analysis from China’s cultural master JI Xianlin, dating from 1996:

“We virtually worship all that is Euro-American. Hamburgers, KFC, Pizzas, and the fabricated California Beef Noodles. Anything, if labeled with foreign words, turns glamorous and shines; and multitudes of people fall over each other to get it. Even some names take on a foreign savor, individual as well as business names. As to cosmetic products, import goods have established their authority, while goods made in China have also crowned themselves with foreign appellations, to add to them a massive consumptive luster. Not strange that very patriotic mind is stricken with pangs and shame, condemning such an adulatory fad and behavior of fawning upon things foreign.”

This Chinese worship of foreign things played into the hands of big brands and multinationals who rake in huge profits and benefits from the total Westernization of China.

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All this has the inevitable consequence that Chinese products and Chinese thoughts are largely marginalized, including knowledge about China, the Chinese language, and all Chinese certificates, credentials and degrees. -as your author recently told The Korea Times:

"Ironically, this is even true for the so-called "China experts.’’ Henry Kissinger (U.S.), Helmut Schmidt (Germany) and Hans Kung (Switzerland) are self-declared and respected global authorities on China ― none of them speaks a single sentence of Chinese. Strikingly, even the West’s most famed sinologists that I know of have not mastered the Chinese language, let alone earned a Chinese education.

As our university administration in the U.K. used to say, “You can spend 20 years in China and recite all the classics if you want, but it won’t earn you a degree from a Western university in Chinese Studies.”

If Western expatriates spoke Chinese and lived like the locals do, they would eventually be treated like them, with horrible consequences for the entire Western mission. They would jeopardize their entitlement to higher salaries, expat perks and Western exclusiveness. Western peers would find the natural order endangered and quickly eject those “spies” or “cultural traitors.”

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Westerners who go native with Chinese ideas are called "eggs" -outside white, inside yellow-, and are often systematically excluded from their expat community's activities, letting alone the financial support system, mostly because nobody knows what might eventually happen to them if they associated with their "brainwashed" friends. Meanwhile, the Chinese elites will quickly spot the exposed and abandoned foreign outcasts and bully or exploit them too, for the "eggs" no longer have any Western money and seem to have lost their aura of cultural superiority.

Millions of East Asians dream about going to the United States or Europe and work or study there. It's the ultimate social upgrade to them. Naturally, they will look with disbelief at those very few Westerners who chose to come to China and complete their education here in local schools and institutes of higher education. How could anyone in their senses abandon their (Western) privileges and lower themselves to the standards of a developing country -letting alone getting a Chinese university degree?

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In a nutshell, whereas the Europeans, Americans, and the Japanese may encourage their students to spent a recreational exchange semester or two abroad, yet ultimately they look at their own country's education as the pinnacle of intellectual achievement, tested loyalty, and the secret to personal success, while the Chinese are often suspicious of home-grown talent and even highly reward those fellowmen who completed their full education in the West. This is not uncommon in colonial dependencies and further ministers to Western world hegemony -but is it healthy for China?

Here’s the original article entitled ‘The perils of being associated with China‘ first published in The Korea Times on May 1st, 2014.

Image credit: ChameloensEye/Shutterstock.com

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