It is no secret that China has undergone an unimaginable transformation in recent years, both socio-economical, and cultural. The same magnitude of development that many Western countries have undergone over centuries, was achieved in the span of just a few decades, through a combination of political liberalization and economic freedom.
Foreigners who have lived here more than twenty years ago, can testify to China’s dramatic and sudden surge. From a poor, developing country 60 years ago, China is now a giant on the way to becoming the largest economy in the world. It goes without saying that such drastic changes also have their own negative implications on a society, and present a myriad of difficulties, especially for such a massive country.
Concurrently, throughout its transformation, China has been subject to endless criticism by the West, in many different aspects, and even foreigners living here, often express extreme and negative views. The validity of some of the complaints can be justifiable, as China – like any country – is not perfect. However, putting all criticism aside, there are in fact many areas where China has excelled in throughout its incredible reform, and can serve as a good example for the rest of the developing and even the developed world. How else then would China be able to boast more than a third of the world’s billionaires?!
Yes, everyone knows China is the copying capital of the world. But without anyone noticing, what began as reckless copying, has slowly but surely developed into groundbreaking innovation in various fields, especially in technology. By taking European technology, African raw materials, and adding their own inexpensive and efficient labor, China has created a unique system of manufacturing and exporting goods to the rest of the world at unimaginable rates. Capitalizing on one’s own strengths and competitive advantage, while using those of other nations, is not copying, it is economics 101!
Today, however, Chinese corporations are beginning to dominate and take over global markets, through their own innovation. It seems unbelievable to the rest of the world, but China is well on the way to becoming a cashless society, and has seemed to perfect concepts of e-commerce in many aspects, putting much of the rest of the world behind. Alibaba and Tencent, for example, have initially started out by copying simple business models of their Western Counterparts, but have developed in their own way to produce a more efficient and successful version of them.
China's meteoric economic rise began in 1980 after Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms.
Image: Ohio State University
Without going too deep into politics, the dissatisfaction much of the West often shows towards China’s one-party system and other political affairs is no secret. Democratic Pluralism has been considered the superior model for much of the developed world for some time. However, whether you agree or not, and putting issues of rights aside, the system seen here in the Middle Kingdom has proven to be a more efficient one when it comes to wealth-creation, poverty reduction, smoother political processes, and actively, quickly, and decisively progressing the common goals of the state. Not focusing time, energy, and capital on things like political campaigning, election cycles, etc. (as we often see getting out of control in the West), allows the government to use its’ resources on other, more beneficial issues that directly affect China’s development.
Another benefit of such a system, is the unification of the people. Having two political parties with extreme opposing views will often see their respective supporters become increasingly harsher to their opponents, creating a social divide within the nation, despite everyone ultimately wishing for a common goal. In a one-party system, the population does not witness the same divide, and is able to maintain its stability and growth. It can be strongly argued that China would not have succeeded in achieving such growth without this system.
The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
Foreign Policy and Military
Since China’s recent reform, the country has been an active stabilizer in regional affairs. China tends to stir away from involvement in disputes and conflicts that lead to wars, and does not spend nearly as much on its military capacity as it can, due to not creating threats for themselves. China has put forth drastic measures in taking actions that are in the best interest of its people, regardless of constant criticism from the West. Unlike what the West has been doing throughout history, China’s take on modern-day-imperialism is one which is business and trade oriented, allowing for mutual benefit, rather than forceful exploitation and violent regimes.
A Chinese infantry battalion participating in a peacekeeping mission in South Sudan.
Image: International Relations Insights & Analysis
Attitude towards friends and family in China is truly admirable. Surely, everyone has witnessed friends arguing at restaurants over who will pick up the bill, but in a good way. In Chinese social affairs, treating each other to meals, presents, or anything else, is not only common, it’s almost a given! With a culture that places very high value on money, it seems like “who paid what” doesn’t get in the way of having a good time, and splitting the bill is an unnecessary waste of time!
The respect and care shown towards elders, especially in one’s family, is also something that the West is slowly beginning to forget. Here, when children grow up and earn money, it seems out of the question that it is their duty to care for those who brought them up in the first place, and provide for them both financially, and emotionally. This shows a level of gratitude that is very hard to find elsewhere.
Chinese families often include three generations living under the same roof.
Religion in China for the most part is free to practice. Any major city will have a variety of Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, and of course, plenty of Buddhist and Daoist temples. The majority of the native population, practices some form of Chinese folk religions, however do not claim to be religious. The main key in China’s attitude towards religion, is that it is not only separate, but completely non-existent when it comes to government and politics. Unlike many parts of the developed world, China does not see the significance in spending energy and resources into satisfying and catering to religious forces, and do not allow religion to participate in decision making of national affairs.
A Catholic mass celebrated in Beijing on Christmas Eve. China's population includes Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, other faiths, and non-believers.
Image: The Times
Humility, Admiration, and Pride
It is very apparent that admiration of Western Culture is integral in Chinese society. Everything from fashion to music, or the fact that so many are working their whole lives to study English to be able to go abroad, is proof to that. Perhaps it has begun as a way of “catching up” to the West due to years of being behind, but has developed into somewhat of a cultural thirst for understanding. However, it is also very evident, that it is accompanied by unconditional national pride, which goes to show that the admiration comes from a place of curiosity and a thrive to learn and explore, rather than from a place of envy. The acceptance of different ways of life is something unique in this country, and very rarely seen elsewhere. There are very few countries where people are proud to be who they are, while at the same time applauding the way of life of others. This humble and positive attitude is certainly something that many of us can learn from, especially while living abroad.
Chinese for the most part, are well-aware of the problems their country faces, on larger scales, or in smaller daily-life affairs. But regardless of that, China as a whole is always viewed by its population as the Middle Kingdom, and as a superior force in global affairs. Subsequently, it is very rare to see bragging or putting down of other nations from the locals, but instead, interactions with foreign nationals are normally approached with respect and curiosity, with a very evident sense of humility.
China is still in many ways a developing country, and like any developing country, there is a lot of work and progress to be made on the road to success. But China’s success in many ways, has already been achieved through its spectacular rise from the bottom. As this progress is being made, Western nations of higher development, seem to be trailing behind, not being able to keep up with the newly-set pace of development. Despite all the struggles China faces, this country can serve as an outstanding example of growth and development for the rest of the world.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not represent the views of GuideinChina.