Germany – A Land of Immigration

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

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Today’s article will be about Germany and its immigration history, past and present. By observing what happened during the last 70 years, we will try to understand if people are really able to learn from their mistakes. 

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country at the intersection of Central and Western Europe, situated between the Baltic and North seas to the north, and the Alps to the south; covering an area of 357,022 square kilometres, with a population of over 83 million within its 16 constituent states. 

Germany is a great power with a strong economy. As a global leader in several industrial, scientific and technological sectors, it is both the world’s third-largest exporter and importer of goods. As a developed country, which ranks very high on the Human Development Index, it offers social security and a universal health care system, environmental protections, and a tuition-free university education. (1)

But what about immigration? 

In 2011, Germany had 80.3 million residents. Of those residents, 15.96 million – almost 19% of the entire population – had a migration background. 

Incessant wars, religious conflicts, famines, political grievances and a lack of prospects forced many people to leave Germany over the centuries. The land’s relative population loss was enormous. An estimated six million emigrants left Germany between 1820 and 1920. The tide of emigration only began to ebb, beginning in 1890, as the industrial era brought economic success to the German Empire. From that point on, the number of individuals immigrating to Germany surpassed the number of Germans who left. Foreign laborers found employment, above all, in the booming centres of the coal and steel industries. 

During the national socialist dictatorship the camps and the daily sight of forced laborers were simply part of everyday life for the local population.  

The years after 1945 were shaped by people in motion as well. The forced mobility of diverse groups of people (refugees, people expelled from their homes through territorial exchange and other so-called displaced persons) altered the structure of the German population, giving rise to tensions and conflicts with local residents. The number of refugees and expellees only first began to decline at the end of the 1940s. Simultaneously, the growing demand for labour soon outstripped the capacity of the labour force.  

In order to offset labour shortages, the federal government turned to a traditional model of recruiting and temporarily employing foreign workers, who took on jobs that German laborers considered unattractive. After the 1966-7 economic crisis, the immigration process decelerated until the early 1990s, when the numbers rapidly grew again and are continuing to grow even now. (2)

As a result of immigration, people with different cultures and traditions and greater religious diversity are now living together.  

Attitudes about successful coexistence in an immigration society differ significantly across generations: the younger the person, the less the wish for adaptation. While 66 percent of the population over 70 years of age express the opinion that immigrants should culturally adapt, this proportion gradually declines among younger groups, to 22 percent among respondents under 25 years of age.  (3)

There are still many prejudices and stereotypes about foreigners, but, in the end, the truth is that Germany profits from the immigrants. They boost the economy, contribute towards the welfare system and help reduce the lack of professionals. (2)

This doesn’t happen to Germany alone: immigration remains a profitable asset for all countries, even though many people haven’t understood that yet, and continue to regard this phenomenon as a destructive cancer. 

To those who think that I can only say that if you look at your family tree and go back to centuries, you will surely find that your ancestors migrated from a place to another. The fact is that we are all children of migrations and we must never forget it. 

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

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(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germany

(2) https://domid.org/en/service/essays/essay-migration-history-in-germany/

(3) https://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/en/our-projects/religion-monitor/projektnachrichten/how-do-germans-deal-with-cultural-diversity/

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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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USA, an Interesting Melting Pot

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 its incredible melting pot. Starting for US history, I will introduce the concept of melting pot, underling its pros and cons in the business field.

US Multicultural History

The United States are famous for the wide variety of cultures that live inside their borders. But how was this melting pot created? Let’s look at some interesting passages in the history of this country.

Before 1600 A.D. North America was inhabited by many indigenous peoples (Native Americans) with different identities, religions, beliefs and cultures, who lived in tribes. Thanks to the Atlantic Ocean, these people lived in their own world, apart from all other societies.

This period lasted only until the European colonization. In 1492 Christopher Columbus, financed by Spain, made the first of four voyages to the New World, landing in the Bahamas. From this point onward, European countries started a gradual colonization of North America. English, Spanish, French, Dutch, etc. moved to the new world in search of a new life of prosperity, each of them bringing his/her own personal culture. These many cultures got into contact with native Americans’ cultures, giving birth to a multicultural community.

Furthermore, many African slaves were forced to these areas, where their culture was added to the already existing cultural mix.

All these cultural differences brought improvements and conflicts, especially conflicts. Wars between Natives and Europeans, as well as fights among different European colonies, were quite frequent.

As we all well know, after years of inner and outer wars, USA became an independent nation in 1776, but being independent wasn’t enough to stop all conflicts derived from multiculturalism. In fact, from 1861 to 1865 America fought its Civil War, which began as a result of the unresolved controversy of the enslavement of black people and its disputed continuance.

Even though the loyalists of the Union won, putting an end to slavery, African American people had had to suffer abuse, violence, racism and racial laws for many years. Even now there are people, who are not able to accept other identities and cultures that refuse them without a concrete reason.

Before and after the two World Wars, the US welcomed a great number of immigrants from all the continents and what we have now, after years of cultural mixing and wars, is an incredible melting pot.

Melting Pot

In order to describe the concept of “melting pot” I’m going to use the perfectly summarised definition of Wikipedia:

The melting pot is a monocultural metaphor for a heterogeneous society becoming more homogeneous, the different elements “melting together” with a common culture; historically, it is often used to describe the cultural integration of immigrants to the United States. The exact term “melting pot” came into general usage in the United States after it was used as a metaphor describing a fusion of nationalities, cultures and ethnicities in the 1908 play of the same name by Israel Zangwill.” (1)

US melting pot is linked to cultural assimilation or Americanisation. This means that instead of maintaining cultural differences, USA politics prefer mixing them up, while creating a unique culture based on these multicultural features. This new unique culture represents the US identity.

But what are the pros and cons related to this attitude to multiculturality?

As we saw in US history, bringing culture together means generating innovative and original world views, as well as creating conflicts, misunderstandings and rejection. The same happens in business.

We live in a complex, interconnected world where diversity, shaped by globalization and technological advance, forms the fabric of modern society. In this era of globalization, diversity in the business environment is about more than gender, race and ethnicity. It now includes employees with diverse religious and political beliefs, education, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientation, cultures and even disabilities.

Diversity in the workplace is an asset for both businesses and their employees, in its capacity to foster innovation, creativity and empathy in ways that homogeneous environments seldom do. Yet it takes careful nurturing and conscious orchestration to unleash the true potential of this invaluable asset. (2)

If these differences are not rightly managed, conflict is inevitable. Cultures will clash and business performances will be affected by this tense working atmosphere. For this reason, it is important to create a business environment that minimizes intercultural disharmony (3), while giving all employees the possibility to freely express their ideas and values, without prejudices.

To conclude, looking at the US history and at its melting pot, we can understand that without cultural awareness, there is no cultural respect. So, open your mind, feel free to express your own cultural identity, but be aware that your view of the world can be different from others and you have to accept it. Do not impose your ideas and opinions, just share them and be happy if others share their own personal cultures with you, because this cultural contact will enrich you and will give birth to a person able to see the world in many different ways, thus capable of finding original solutions to every problem.

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melting_pot#Melting_pot_and_cultural_pluralism

(2) https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/04/business-case-for-diversity-in-the-workplace/

(3) https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2013/12/09/how-cultural-conflict-undermines-workplace-creativity/

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

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