China interests people from every corner of society: bankers, teachers, economists, military officials, politicians, business people, linguists, archaeologists, and human rights activists, among many others. These professionals spend much of their lives trying to understand the Chinese society.
The nation’s long history, recent dramatic increase in power, and current dynamic shift in international relations makes China one of the most discussed nations around the world. The global community is fed up with the Chinese, yet enthralled and driven by curiosity to them; many have witnessed their uncivilized behavior, yet also know them for being the most tenacious and diligent people in history.
The Chinese Contradiction
Modern Chinese historians and social commentators (i.e. for the last 150 years) have used the word “contradiction” (矛盾 máo dùn) to describe what has happened to China during the last two dynasties (i.e. the last 500 years). Prior to the advent of the Western-spurred Industrial Revolution, China was the strongest power, with some of the most advanced technology in the world.
During the 1800s, European powers discovered the “Chinese contradiction” and exploited it as fiercely as ever, cutting China up like a watermelon. The situation was most shameful because the Chinese leadership knew they fell behind the Western powers, yet stubbornly refused to acknowledge the foreigners’ greatness. At the same time, China demanded these stronger Westerners to bow down to the Chinese emperor.
The Chinese were ashamed to be the losers of the Colonial-era, and they still are today. Unfortunately, during the post-colonial era, China’s suffering has continued. The worst contradiction is perhaps the source of China’s recent agony and struggles. Since the end of colonization, China’s agony has been a product of their own misunderstanding of the world and of themselves.
The fact that democracy stuttered in the country in the early 1900s, that Chinese people killed each other in a civil war that lasted for over 20 years, that after Mao Zedong’s triumphant victory he murdered millions of his own people, that Chinese leaders would continue a policy of extremely restricted rights in the Internet age, and that the uncertainty of the future with a the new emerging Chinese Super Power, proves that China has been incapable of shaking off that stigma of “contradiction” that has plagued the minds and lives of Chinese for nearly two centuries.
The Economic Allure – Selling a Toothbrush
More than in any other way, China’s market has given interest to millions of people around the world to move to China. A Chinese sayings goes “just by selling one toothbrush to everyone in China, you can become a rich man.” These days, everyone and their buddies from business school have a “master scheme” to become rich in China.
Even English teachers are planning major business operations to profit off of the economic boom taking place and particularly the recent emphasis on English studies. Some have claimed making more than they could imagine while others have detested these claims, stating that government regulations make business an impossibility there.
What is certain is that most will work harder for that dollar than back home; the difference is whether that opportunity even exists for you back home or not. The question stands as to whether you are a believer in the Chinese Dream?
The Yin and the Yang
Looking back onto some of the most basic principles of Chinese culture can help make sense of all the fluster and confusion that makes up the last 200 years of China, the Yin and the Yang (阴阳 yīn yáng). The concept dates back to ancient times, when thought and speech were much simpler and baser.
In this concept, everything in a person’s life must be in order; when something is not in balance, so will its opposite: as light goes away, darkness shall take its place. When happiness leaves us, only sadness will be near. For more than a thousand years, China saw greatness and prosperity: according to the principles of Yin and Yang, China will experience an equal time in weakness and struggle.
Ask any Chinese and they will say,“The life of a Chinese is the life of the struggle.” This is the stamp of the imbalance between the Yin and Yang within this society. There has been many years of destruction of this balance, and it shall take many years to reconstruct that balance of harmony. And, despite these negative ripples in China’s modern times, many believe that it is only a small segment in the long record of China’s history.
Mao and Communist era devastation, Western colonization and imperialization, government official corruption, the havoc of pollution, and so forth, are all a temporary struggle and gloom, soon to be succeeded by peace and radiance.
Divulge in the splendor that is China; discover something that slakes your curiosity. Be diligent and cautious as the traps associated with this country and its people are numerous, yet by increasing your China IQ, you will be prepared and ready to leap over these obstacles. I say with the peculiarity associated with this culture in mind: