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

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

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

As tech disrupts our jobs, it’s not too late to turn pain into gain

This Dutch company has devised an innovative way to deal with food waste

EU and World Health Organisation team up to boost access to health services in developing countries

These forms of exercise are best for your mental health

Industry 4.0: Championing Europe’s fourth industrial revolution

The European Brain Drain: a truth or a myth?

How digital can transform healthcare in Asia for millions of people

Raw materials use to double by 2060 with severe environmental consequences

FROM THE FIELD: ‘Eco-warriors’ fight climate change in South Africa

“None of our member states has the dimension to compete with China and the US, not even Germany!”, Head of EUREKA Pedro Nunes on another Sting Exclusive

Opponents of constitutional change in Burundi face torture and execution: UN investigators

COP21 Breaking News_08 December: Cities & Regions Launch Major Five-Year Vision to Take Action on Climate Change

DR Congo: Strengthened effort against Ebola is paying off, but insecurity still major constraint – UN health agency

This Mexican company is making biofuel from cactus plants

The challenges of the universalization of the health system in Brazil. What can we change?

‘A new chapter’ dawns for democracy in Guinea-Bissau: top UN official

EU unveils plan to accelerate Capital Markets Union ahead of London’s departure from the bloc

Mental health at stake: A silent epidemic of 21st century

Does the EU want GMOs and meat with hormones from the US?

Youth platforms call on German Government to break down legal barriers for young volunteers and pupils

France v Croatia: How the World Cup finalists stack up off the pitch

Draghi will not hesitate to zero ECB’s basic interest rate

EU leaders agree on 2030 Climate and Energy Package: is “flexible” brave enough?

Air quality: Commission takes action to protect citizens from air pollution

Gaza: deadly violence continues to escalate, top UN officials work to restore calm

UN experts voice ‘deep concern’ over Iran’s ‘consistent pattern’ of denying life-saving medical treatment to detainees

Cutting money transfer fees could unlock $15bn for developing countries. Here’s how

‘Still time’ to stop a ‘bloody battle’ for Libya’s capital, insists Guterres

THE COMMITTEES: From the colonies to the space race – past, present, future converge in Fourth Committee

We need to measure innovation better. Here’s how

Brexit: new European Parliament reaffirms wholehearted support for EU position

India is a latecomer to AI. Here’s how it plans to catch up

In Yemen, Special Envoy sees UN role in preserving ‘essential’ aid pipeline at country’s major port

A Valentine’s Special: heart has nothing to do with it, it’s all Brain

China’s 13th Five Year Plan and the opportunities for Europe

5G mobile is nearly here – but we should share networks to make it affordable

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

Parliament approves EU rules requiring life-saving technologies in vehicles

Here are 5 of the biggest threats to our oceans, and how we can solve them

Girls hold the key to Zambia’s future

The EU pollution rights trading system frozen

Latin America’s cities are ready to take off. But their infrastructure is failing them

Car-free day – and the other 364 days of the year

Overseas investment falling, developing countries largely unscathed: UN trade agency

10 months were not enough for the EU to save the environment but 2 days are

Why is the EU launching a doomed policy in stopping immigrant waves? What are the real targets?

Greece did it again

Commission and ECB prepare new financial mega-tool in support of SMEs

The scary EU elections result and the delayed Council’s repentance

Technology can help solve the climate crisis – but it will need our help

State of the Union 2018: The Hour of European Sovereignty

Is this a turning point in the fight against slavery?

China’s lead in the global solar race – at a glance

The Council unblocks all EU budgets

Amid ongoing fighting in northeast Syria, hundreds cross Iraqi border in search of safety

Local innovation, international impact: SMEs and the ITU Telecom World Awards

We can save the Arctic if we follow the Nordic countries’ lead

Impossible Brexit options: WTO or new referendum?

Fisherwomen of Lake Chad show optimism in face of multiple challenges

Countries must make teaching profession more financially and intellectually attractive

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