A European Discovers China: 3 First Impressions

Written by Hanneke, NL

China Unlimited Europe 2015

Some time ago I boarded an airplane to discover China.  Flanked by my husband and two teenage boys, I traveled around in north and south. I visited big cities and tiny rural villages. I came back with a truckload of impressions!  There were moments of wonder and admiration.  And there were moments of profound confusion.

‘How will China influence the world?’  Since I experienced China ‘from within’, and talked with many people born and raised in China (in English, but on a next trip hopefully in Mandarin), the question keeps popping up in my head.  ‘How will Chinese and Europeans/ Westerners engage each other in the years ahead?’  I am not sure if I have found the answer yet.  But some impressions I collected during my discovery of China (impressions, not conclusions or judgments) help to shine a light.  Let me share 3 of those impressions with you here.

The overriding impression I got while visiting this fascinating country was the extraordinary way China is dealing with change.  Sure, it is struggling with a variety of challenges: for instance the increasing gap between rich and poor, the gap between the new and the older generations, environmental challenges that come with its growth, etc. But through this all I witnessed people that are creating, building, moving forward, improving, lifting themselves. This is not change forced by a crisis. This is change driven by a passion to create progress.

It made me think: What if we in Europe are busier with trying not to lose what we have than with trying to create our future in this changing world?  What if we are more occupied with ourselves than with what is happening around us? What if we are hindered by a certain cynicism that is triggered by a fear of letting go?

A second and profound impression was the importance Chinese attach to establishing and keeping harmony in almost everything. In human relations; in what and how to eat (and do I love Chinese food!); in the way the Chinese approach health and medical issues; in the way they design houses, gardens, buildings; in the way they use the public space together. Even when observing the chaotic traffic, where nobody seems to pay attention to any kind of rule, you begin to see the harmony after a while (e.g. everybody is more or less moving with the same speed, and the honk is used to warn each other rather then to scare each other off).

Chinese people (I know I’m generalizing here) seem to put harmony and balance above individual needs and aspirations. Showing yourself by openly sharing a blunt personal opinion will probably not be seen as being brave or honest, but as being reckless, naive or even stupid.  And I will never forget what one Chinese lady explained to me in earnest: ‘We don’t like to say no.’

It made me think: What if we in Europe/the West have the tendency to engage the Chinese with an individualistic orientation? What if we implicitly value the individual more than the group? Could we perhaps learn something from China here?  Does the new generation in China (coming from ‘one child’ families) value this concept of harmony as much as their parents do? Are we Europeans sufficiently aware of these differences and potential evolutions?

Last but not least. My third impression, which left me speechless on several occasions, was that the Chinese know a lot about the West (let’s say USA and Europe).  Asking me where I came from, answering “Brussels”, and than receiving the reaction: “Brussels? But you say you are Dutch, so you left your country?” Knowing geography on such a detailed level. But also knowing a lot about how Europe evolved, being able to name important events and dates in history, and describing differences between the US and Europe.  And I am not talking about those Chinese who lived or studied in the West. I am talking about Chinese people who never left their country in their entire lives. When I enquired how they knew all this, the typical reply was: “At school. We learn a lot about Europe and the USA at school.  And we have internet of course. Internet is great.”

It made me think: What do we in the West really teach our children about China? About its language, its vastness and diversity? About its people and the defining moments in its history? What if the Chinese know much more about us than we know about them? How will that influence our relationship?

Three first impressions.

And there is still so much to discover.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

German stock market is not affected by the Greek debt revolution while Athens is running out of time

Merkel had it her way with the refugees & immigrants but can Greece and Turkey deliver?

Summer pause gives time to rethink Eurozone’s problems

UN and partners appeal for $920 million to meet ‘dire needs’ of Rohingya refugees

Future fit: 3 ways fashion can be more sustainable

Better ID card security to curb document fraud

Monday’s Daily Brief: biodiversity and forests, labour and road safety, women’s rights, and fallen UN staff remembered

The European Parliament hemicycle in Strasbourg (Copyright: European Union, 2017 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Photo: Mauro Bottaro)

EU Parliament sends controversial copyright law reform back to discussion

Industrial products: Lifting the last impediments in the EU single market

EU and New Zealand launch trade negotiations

Four major resources for new European young entrepreneurs

Digital development: technology-enabled, but human-centric

This is what the gender pay gap looks like in eight countries

The Stray

Why people with disabilities are your company’s untapped resource

What brands get wrong about China – and how to put it right

Global Talent – Professional Internships

It’s just electronic cigarette, don’t worry?

What next for Europe? Three (completely) different Davos views

UN chief welcomes re-opening of key Gaza border crossing

A silent killer: the impact of a changing climate on health

Japan should reform retirement policies to meet challenge of ageing workforce

Facts and prejudices about work

“No labels for entrepreneurs!”, a young business leader from Italy cries out

Electronic Cigarettes: Are they really as safe as we think?

TTIP’s 11th round major takeaways and the usual “leaked” document

Germany’s strong anti-bribery enforcement against individuals needs to be matched by comparably strong enforcement against companies

UN rights chief slams ‘unconscionable’ US border policy of separating migrant children from parents

Why this city is paying people to move there

The remote doctor, can it ever work?

This new form of currency could transform the way we see money

These are the fastest trains in the world

1 in 4 Africans had to pay a bribe to access public services last year

Antitrust: Commission fines Google €1.49 billion for abusive practices in online advertising

On International Youth Day the European Youth Forum calls for true youth participation

Want a fairer society? This economist says he has the answer

Permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) on the table of NATO Defense Ministers amid US concerns

Close to final agreement on the EU Banking Union

3 things to know about India’s space programme

Rising insecurity in Central Africa Republic threatens wider region, Security Council told

EU and Australia launch talks for a broad trade agreement

A Sting Exclusive: “Paris is the moment for climate justice”, Swedish MEP Linnéa Engström claims from Brussels

Parliament toughens its position on banking union

UNICEF warns of ‘lost generation’ of Rohingya youth, one year after Myanmar exodus

Central banking in times of complexity

Climate change: ‘A moral, ethical and economic imperative’ to slow global warming say UN leaders, calling for more action

Draghi’s 2018 compromise: enough money printing to revive inflation and check euro ascent

Nordic noir: The unhappiness epidemic affecting young people in the world’s happiest countries

Trump blocks US warmongers from bombing Iran

Trump ostracized by his party and world elites but still remains in course; how can he do it?

Capital Markets Union: Making it easier for smaller businesses to get financing through capital markets

Further reforms can foster more inclusive labour markets in The Netherlands

Afghanistan: UN ‘unequivocally condemns’ attack in Kabul

MEPs criticise “America first” policy

An economist explains why women are paid less

Madagascar: UN chief commends leaders, State institutions following ‘historic milestone’ election

There is a forgotten solution to climate change that we must invest in – nature

Job vacancy data reveal better prospects for Britain, stagnation in Eurozone

Commission adopts €4 billion investment package for infrastructure projects across 10 Member States

EU fundamental rights under threat in several member states

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s