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Monday, February 8, 2016

How to End the Misunderstanding between the East and the West

There has always been a chasm between the East and the West. I'm not talking about the much publicized and rapped about battle of the coasts in the United States but one that is causing even greater controversy, Westernized Americans and the Easternized Chinese. We always hear about people becoming more westernized but rarely do we hear about people becoming easternized. Perhaps it is because I live on the western hemisphere but the general consensus is that being westernized is a sign of progress while being easternized is almost viewed as being "backwards".

So why the conflict between the East and the West? Misunderstanding

The main difference between Western and Eastern thinking that is causing this rift is the western idea of individualism. Although this is the backbone of our free society, it is often misunderstood in Asia and especially China. This is because in the Eastern Confucianistic society of Asia, success is measured by the fullness of human relationships. This is in direct contrast to the emphasis placed in Western society for individual achievement. To the Chinese, westerners seem to merely cultivate human relationships as a means to further their individual success thus painting an image of a lonely and harsh Western world. Even the word "individualism" when translated into Chinese (個人主義) carries a negative connotation of selfishness and self-centeredness. It is mistranslations and stereotypes like this that fuel these cultural clashes between traditional Chinese and Americans.

The Chinese view Americans and their ideals as being selfish and cold. American young adults who move out of the house or American adults who put their parents in retirement homes are testament to the views of the Chinese. The thing is, from an American point of view, it is accepted and even encouraged to "leave the nest" and become self-sufficient. Dependency including mutual dependency is seen as a weakness in the US whereas such dependency in Asia is actually seen as a validation of a worthwhile relationship. The Americans usually view the Chinese emphasis on relationships as a preface to corruption and also as a dearth to individual thinking. Americans usually view the Chinese as susceptible to group think and worst of all, unable to think for themselves.

These are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of East vs. West conflicts but as you can see, there is much misunderstanding between the two seemingly different cultures. The truth is both Eastern and Western ideology were formed for the betterment of the people in its culture. The motive to create a better and more productive society holds true for both cultures but until people from both East and West realize this similarity, conflicts from misunderstanding will persist.

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