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Peter lived for nearly a half-decade in China, including two as a Peace Corps volunteer, and is the author of Socrates in Sichuan: Chinese Students Search for Truth, Justice and the (Chinese) Way. It is the intention of his blog to foster the sort of intercultural understanding necessary for long term relationships.
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Don't Mess with China, Part 1    

By Peter V
1911 Views | 7 Comments | 12/18/2017 9:56:45 AM

Yong and I recently returned from a long delayed honeymoon to Greece. The location was her idea. My occupation has fortunately afforded me numerous opportunities to visit the birthplace of Western thought, many of which I have taken advantage of. As a result I have spent by my calculation approximately nine months over the course of my life wandering the islands and mainland, the mountains and seas of that amazing region. Hence, I would have preferred to explore a new part of the globe. But on matters such as where to spend your honeymoon (and on most other matters as well) I have found it best to defer to my Chinese wife.


Yong’s desire to travel to Greece seems to be part of a trend. Although Greece has long had a romantic hold on the Western mind—a  reputation for passionate and intense living fostered by movies such as Zorba the Greek and Never on a Sunday—as of late it has become the focus of Chinese travelers as well. Or so the number of Chinese we encountered during our trip—and the number of Chinese restaurants in Athens—would seem to imply.


And who can blame them? Combine major sites of antiquity with beautiful beaches and sunshine, throw in reasonable prices, and it was only a matter of time before the Chinese travel juggernaut deposited itself here. But it wasn’t the glittering white marble of the Parthenon or the wine-dark Mediterranean Sea that Yong fixated upon. Instead it was the walls that caught her attention.


History lesson (feel free to skip): Greece developed as a number of small, independent city-states, many of which were founded on hilltops—areas that could be easily defended.  Hence, a city’s first move was to build walls around the perimeter to assist in the defense. The most famous of these walled cities on a hill is the Acropolis in Athens. Another memorable example is at Mycenae, the palace of Agamemnon, the legendary leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War. Although cities would inevitably grow beyond the walls, when things got really dicey, say, when an invading army came marauding through, you could always gather the citizens behind the walls, summon the troops, and settle in for a siege.


And so it was that after visiting our third or fourth walled city, Yong let loose with a phrase whose spirit will be familiar to anyone who has ever dated a Chinese woman. I call it the  “5,000 year syndrome”: the involuntary need to assert the superiority of Chinese culture (which has been around for 5,000 years) to all other cultures that have ever existed on planet Earth. “It seems,” she began, “that the Chinese are more peaceful than other people. We only built walls to protect ourselves from foreigners, not from each other.” To be fair, Chinese are not the only ones guilty of this strategy. Most people no doubt believe their own culture is the best: their fellow citizens more enlightened, their habits more refined, their government more just than all others.


An evolutionary explanation exists for this attitude. Early humans competed for scarce resources, with cooperation, usually in small bands, the key to survival. It takes a village to hunt down and kill a mastodon, and when you accomplished this task, you not only shared the bounty with your fellow group members but fiercely guarded your food against the neighboring tribe who would happily bash your skulls for a meal. Numerous studies by social psychologists have demonstrated the continued existence of what is known as in-group bias—the favoring of one’s own group and an antagonism towards outsiders—as well as its harmful effects. One of the most famous of these experiments was carried out in 1968 by a grade school teacher in Iowa. She divided her class into the brown eyes students and the blue eyed students. First she informed the class that studies had proven the blue eye people to be superior to the brown eyed: more intelligent, more beautiful, more likely to succeed in life. It wasn’t long before the former were ridiculing and taunting the latter. Later, she informed the class she had been wrong, that in fact it was the brown eyed students who were superior. Unsurprisingly, the same cruelties were inflicted by the brown eyed students upon their blue eyed counterparts


Of course, we don’t need social scientists to convince us of the widespread existence and harmful effects of in-group bias. Even the most cursory survey of human history will do. American belief in Manifest Destiny—the notion that God had appointed our country to carry out some special mission in the world—is only one of countless historical examples where we can witness the destructive nature of this attitude in the superiority of one’s own culture on a massive scale.


And though in group bias may have been evolutionarily advantageous, and though it probably makes us feel pretty good about ourselves, there is absolutely no evidence it is true. Indeed, almost any claim of cultural superiority, put under the microscope, will disintegrate faster than that 50 rupee T shirt I bought in Delhi did in my washing machine. Let’s take, say, the belief that inspired this article: the belief that one culture is inherently more peace loving than other cultures. In fact, study the history of any nation—including China—and you will discover it is a history of bloodshed, and that every nation has slaughtered its own, not infrequently, and often on a grand scale.


Why this is so probably has an evolutionary explanation as well. There’s a famous scene in the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey where one group of apes figures out that bones can be used as weapons and soon goes on to use this new piece of information to mercilessly pound the shit out of another group of apes. Yes, it’s only a movie, but its point is valid: we are all descended from the same set of apes that survived both by trying to annihilate each other and by killing and then eating animals that were slower, dumber, and more unlucky than ourselves. Life in the state of nature, as Thomas Hobbes vividly put it, is nasty, brutish, and short.


But of course just because a particular belief about the superiority of Chinese culture is false does not mean you should inform your Chinese wife of this fact. Instead, to put it in Fight Club terms: Rule #1 of marriage to a Chinese woman: Do not ever say anything negative about China. Rule #2 of marriage to a Chinese woman: Do not ever say anything negative about China.


In the next entry, I will try to justify this maxim in light of what contemporary research tells us about cultural adaptation.

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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#2017-12-18 09:56:29 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Peter, believe me I know whereof you speak.

My Chinese born and raised wife moved to Australia in her mid twenties on an education visa and then stayed there and became a citizen of Australia. She remained in Oz for roughly 20 years and then came back to live in China when she married me, but retained her Australian Citizenship.

At that time she loved Australia but was a little down on the China she remembered. However, she quickly realized that China had changed a lot since she'd left and had become more open and free than she'd expected, and then with the passage of time and the coming to power of President Xi Jinping, things got even better. She takes great pride in China now. And she repeatedly tells me how great it feels to be able to be proud of her country, after so many years of feeling ashamed.

Unfortunately for me, and everyone we know, like most Chinese she has no idea how tiring it gets to never stop hearing about every detail of how great China is. The only people I've ever heard rattle on, and on, and on about themselves and how great is their country, as much as Chinese do, is Americans. But frankly, the Americans have become a little more circumspect over the last decade, what with Obama endlessly preaching to them about how bad they all are. So I think the Chinese have now surpassed them in the endless bragging about themselves.

This is not to say I don't like Chinese or Americans, nationalities that are among my favourite people - but lighten up little with the self congratulations, would you.

Just to make matters worse, though, my wife doubles down because she is equally proud of her adopted home, Australia. So when she's not telling you how they do things in China so much better than the rest of us, she's telling you how much better they do things in Australia than the rest of us.

And this is beginning to take a toll, as I have noticed a marked reduction in the number of invitations we receive to attend social get togethers, a substantial increase in the number of phone calls to friends that go unanswered, and my own inablity to keep my eyes from glazing over and my wife's voice from turning into white noise the moment I here the word "China" or "Australia" spring form her lips.  

Nonetheless, like you, I do not ever tell my wife that China is somewhat less perfect than she describes, nor that her neverending bragging about it is anything less than fascinating. There would be little good come of that. 

#2017-12-18 12:28:59 by RWByrum @RWByrum

While I don't doubt this at all, it still does not change the fact that so many Chinese nationals want to move to America that there is a 10 to 12 year waiting list for immigrant visas in most catagories.  That doesn't seem consistent with the idea of China's superiority.

#2017-12-18 12:34:50 by RWByrum @RWByrum

@JohnAbbot  Interestingly enough, my ex-wife isn't like this.  She frequently criticizes China.  Then again, she is not a typical chinese woman in many ways and she frequently crticizes America, too.  As a matter of fact, she freely critizes everything and everybody ;)

#2017-12-19 21:16:49 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

@Peter V


During my 3 years living and working in China, I got sick-and-tired of hearing about their '5000 years of culture'

I was born and raised in the UK. StoneHenge is reportedly 4500 years old, so I have as much 'culture' as the Chinese say they do.

What annoyed me most is the fact that they brag about it, yet pay no heed to it....

The largest race of people on the Earth - and probably the most beautiful human beings - but they are just 'sheeple', like the rest................


#2017-12-21 03:51:00 by anonymous16745 @anonymous16745

Peter you wrote these words that I would like RWByrum and most guys here to read and pay close attention to " Hence, I would have preferred to explore a new part of the globe. But on matters such as where to spend your honeymoon (and on most other matters as well) I have found it best to defer to my Chinese wife."

In my reply to RWByrum on his blog "Dating Chinese Women: My Ideal Match Part 1" I stated Chinese women will "push" you in the direction they want you to go, this also applies to decisions on most matters, their opinion is the one that counts and should be followed (in their opinion lol) they dont give up and will usually get their way. Western dudes need to pay attention to this fact as it is real.

Loved your blog keep them coming!

#2017-12-21 08:32:35 by woaizhongguo @woaizhongguo

@JohnAbbot: It is good to find a kindred soul to commiserate with. It is especially true what you said about Chinese attitudes towards China in the last five years or so. My wife informs me that most of her friends and herself as well will say that , although in the past things were not so good in some way, since Xi came to power things have gotten exponentially better, and almost all their friends see China as a preferable place to live. More to come on this in the continuation of this series.

@RWByrum: The behavior you describe from you ex-wife is  typical. I did not say that Chinese do not criticize China. In fact, there are a number of studies demonstrating East Asian countries are more self-critical than other nations. What I said was that YOU--i.e., the non-Chinese partner--should not criticize China. Chinese can and do criticize thier country, even though as I mention above that behavior has lessened somewhat as of late. But there is a world of difference between a non-Chinese partner criticizing China and a Chinese criticizing China. It is safe to chime in when your partner criticizes China. Just do not be the first one to go there.

#2017-12-22 22:45:30 by sandy339 @sandy339

“5,000 year syndrome”hehe that is hilarious(rofl), I am lucky my hon doesn't know that yet.   

Although Greece has long had a romantic hold, it is dangerous and full of a lot of refugees from Sybia to me, I am much influenced by the current news.  For the walls they are so understandable in China if you have ever been in the Great Wall, Xi'an,etc you would know how they defend themselves back then.

Interesting association(y), but recently I am stuck with a problem: how could we solve the poor or injured street dogs? should we let them be, because the fittest suvive or we should let them live at least at  some level of living condition, my search and conclusion is we, human, should be guarded more moral standard rather than let the most vunerable die miserably, we should care in one way or another, hehe, that is relevant?  thanks for sharing I need to watch the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey bye for now(hi)



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