The Chinese and the Americans

Cultural Insights — By on June 29, 2006 at 11:56 am

The Chinese are busy with preparations for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.  Apparently, they are planning for every contingency in an effort to make an impression on the world.  According to this article in the International Herald Tribune, the government is even involved in a campaign to improve the manners of the Chinese people in advance of the games.

The Chinese government is determined to make just the right impression, and befitting an authoritarian system, is leaving little to chance, down to the manners of its citizens.

The unfolding war against the boorish, brutish and slovenly is so ambitious that it even has precise timetables, with a countdown to the Olympic Games that includes benchmarks of civility and politeness for citizens to meet. As a starter, 4.3 million copies of a new book on manners have been delivered to households in Beijing.

The author of the article, Howard French, suggests that this effort indicates the Chinese and the Americans “share more than is obvious at first glance.”  Each country, he believes, wants to effect change in the world, but in different ways.

Each believes with apparently inexhaustible optimism in the ability to change people.  For America, that often means converting the world to its values of democracy and private enterprise. For China, at least since the time of Confucius, the urge to remake people is turned inward, and since the start of the Communist era in 1949 this urge has done nothing but intensify, with campaign after campaign to make a New Man.

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