China’s Cultural Diversity

Article written by Ginevra Bighini, www.interculturalnegotiation.wordpress.com; mentoring by Dr. Daniele Trevisani, www.studiotrevisani.com

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Today I would like to talk about the cultural differences that can be found in the Chinese area, starting with a brief explanation of China’s History.

China is one of the biggest countries of the world and the most populated one. Understanding its history is very important to understand the global development, because some of the most decisive discoveries and inventions took place precisely in this area (e.g.: paper, printing, gunpowder, compass, etc.)

One of the most important elements of Chinese history is the Dynasties.  Emperors and Empresses from the same bloodline ruled China from 150 BCE to 1911 CE. When a dynasty was overthrown, a new one would take its place or China would be divided into different states.  These Dynasties were held together by one of the most influential ideas of though, known as Confucianism. (1)

Confucianism was developed in China by Master Kong in 551-479 BC, who was given the name Confucius by Jesuit missionaries who were visiting there. However, the fundamental principles of Confucianism began before his birth, during the Zhou Dynasty.

At that time, the ideas of respect and the well-being of others were prevalent, but there was also an emphasis on spiritual matters – specifically, the goodness of the divine and the mandate to rule given to those in power. These ideas were meant to unite the people, create stability and prevent rebellion.

Confucius believed his philosophy was also a route toward a civil society. However, he shifted attention away from ruling authorities, the divine or one’s future after death, focusing instead on the importance of daily life and human interactions. This new, refined version of the philosophy did not completely take root until the next dynasty, the Han (140-87 BC). The foundation of Confucianism is an appreciation for one’s character and the well-being of others. 

This doctrine has a complete system of moral, social, political, and religious thought, and has had a large influence on the history of Chinese civilization. (2)

In 1911, China overthrew the Qing Dynasty to form a democracy, however in 1916 the government fell apart.  This caused a great chaos leading to China being divided up into several smaller states.  Eventually, two major parties tried to reunify them: the Nationalist party, that sought for democracy, and the Communist party lead by Mao Zedong, that took control of the country after the 1949 revolution.

Mao Zedong lead multiple cultural and industrial revolutions with varying degrees of success, turning this country into a mix of Communism and Capitalism. (3)

Even though it recently got reunited, china’s cultural differences still live. Due to the many barbaric invasions that got different ethnic groups mixed up, to the different geographical features that can be found in this vast land, to constant political and economic divisions and reunifications, etc. China possesses an incredible variety of cultures.

For example China legally recognizes 56 distinct ethnic groups and 292 living languages. All these languages could communicate thanks to Chinese characters, that could be well understood all over the country.

Concerning religion, the government of the People’s Republic of China officially espouses state atheism, but over the millennia, Chinese civilization has been influenced by various religious movements, such as Taoism and Buddhism, that were combined with the doctrine of Confucianism.

Diversity can be found also in Chinese cusine. In China we have the “Eight Major Cuisines”, including Sichuan, Cantonese, Jiangsu, Shandong, Fujian, Hunan, Anhui, and Zhejiang cuisines. All of them are featured by the precise skills of shaping, heating, colorway and flavoring. Generally, China’s staple food is rice in the south, wheat-based breads and noodles in the north. Furthermore, southern cuisine, due to the area’s proximity to the ocean and milder climate, has a wide variety of seafood and vegetables, that the northern cusine do not possess. (4)

There are many other cultural differences that can be mentioned, but there is not enough space to list them all.

So, to conclude, China is an example that cultural differences do not exist only among different countries, but also inside one country. To negotiate effectively, we must be aware that even our closest neighbour, culturally speaking, can be the exact opposite of us, even though we both share the same place of origin.

Chinese Regions

(1) http://goayc.org/blog/2018/5/17/a-brief-overview-of-chinese-history

(2) https://study.com/academy/lesson/confucianism-definition-beliefs-history.html

(3) http://goayc.org/blog/2018/5/17/a-brief-overview-of-chinese-history

(4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China

Article written by Ginevra Bighini, www.interculturalnegotiation.wordpress.com; mentoring by Dr. Daniele Trevisani, www.studiotrevisani.com

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China and USA: Two World Superpowers

Article written by Ginevra Bighini, www.interculturalnegotiation.wordpress.com; mentoring by Dr. Daniele Trevisani, www.studiotrevisani.com

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Today I would like to talk about USA and China relations, starting from their first official encounter, up to their recent diplomatic problems, comparing them to see why they can be called “superpowers”.

The first representatives of the Unites States visited China in 1784. A ship called the Empress of China arrived in Guangzhou (Canton) in August. The vessel’s supercargo, Samuel Shaw, had been appointed as an unofficial consul by the U.S. Congress, but he did not make contact with Chinese officials or gain diplomatic recognition for the United States. Since the 1760s all trade with Western nations had been conducted at Guangzhou through a set group of Chinese merchants with official licenses to trade. Some residents of the American colonies had engaged in the China trade before this time, but this journey marked the new nation’s entrance into the lucrative China trade in tea, porcelain, and silk. (1) 

From that moment onward USA gradually started its diplomatic and trade relations with China: sometimes they were successful and both countries gained money, obtained refined and exotic products and learned from each other, but sometimes they were not, leading them to misunderstandings, conflicts and wars. 

Nowadays this complicated relationship hasn’t changed much, meaning that successes and failures continuously interchange. 

Let’s look for example at what happened 3 years ago when the Trump administration announced sweeping tariffs on Chinese imports, worth at least $50 billion, in response to what the White House alleged was Chinese theft of U.S. technology and intellectual property. (2) 

Furthermore, in that same year U.S. Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech marking the clearest articulation yet of the Trump administration’s policy toward China and a significant hardening of the United States’ position. Pence said the United States would prioritize competition over cooperation by using tariffs to combat “economic aggression.” He also accused China of stealing American intellectual property and interfering in U.S. elections.  

Facing these accusations China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced Pence’s speech as “groundless accusations” and warned that such actions could harm U.S.-China ties. 

The trade war intensified until January 2020, when president Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed an agreement, that relaxed some U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports and committed China to buying an additional $200 billion worth of American goods, including agricultural products and cars, over two years. China also pledged to enforce intellectual property protections. (3) 

And then, again, we all well witnessed the Covid-19 Crisis and we are still witnessing its consequences.  

The fact that these countries’ diplomatic relations are evolving nowadays, indicates that both of them have reached a high level of economic, financial and political power, that force them to compete.  

In other words, both of them are superpowers. 

But what is a superpower? 

As Wikipedia well explains:  

“a superpower is a state with a dominant position characterized by its extensive ability to exert influence or project power on a global scale. This is done through the combined means of economic, military, technological and cultural strength as well as diplomatic and soft power influence”. (4)  

And what makes them world superpowers? 

Let’s start from the US.  

United States have a huge lead by the most important measures of national power. It is the wealthiest country with the greatest military capability. Furthermore, it has the best long-term economic growth prospects. Economists have shown that long-run growth depends on a country’s geography, demography, and political institutions and the United States have an edge in all three categories. 

Demographically, America is the only nation that is simultaneously big, young, and highly educated. The U.S. workforce is the third largest, second youngest, most educated in years of schooling, and most productive among the major powers. (5) 

And what about China? 

China, home to almost a fifth of the world’s population, is a country of superlatives. Forty years of economic growth, at an average of nearly 10% a year, has transformed the country into a global leader in technology and manufacturing. 

Its economy is now second only in size to the United States – larger if trade is taken into account – and it is home to six of the world’s megacities. 

Despite its trade dispute with the US, China enjoyed first-quarter growth of 6.4% this year, more than double the UN’s forecast for the rest of the world, and life expectancy has risen to 75 for men and 78 for women, according to the World Health Organisation. (6) 

Obviously, there are not only positive aspects, but also negative. 

USA, as well as China, must fight against corruption and inequalities. 

In USA, in the last few years, poverty has increased and democracy has been weakened by corrupted powers. China, on the other hand, still remains a dictatorship: people must endure censorships and ethnic and religious minorities still suffer repressions from the government. China’s rapid growth made it the world’s biggest producer of CO2, damaging its citizens health. 

I could go on forever talking about their pros and cons, but I must come to a conclusion. 

There are no more powerful countries than China and USA today, and we can grasp their power by looking at their complex economic and political relations, made of failures and successes. One question remains: what will the future superpower be? 

(1) https://history.state.gov/countries/issues/china-us-relations

(2) https://www.cfr.org/timeline/us-relations-china

(3) https://www.cfr.org/timeline/us-relations-china

(4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superpower

(5) https://now.tufts.edu/articles/why-united-states-only-superpower

(6) https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/06/china-by-numbers-10-facts-to-help-you-understand-the-superpower-today/

Article written by Ginevra Bighini, www.interculturalnegotiation.wordpress.com; mentoring by Dr. Daniele Trevisani, www.studiotrevisani.com

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