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Student Blog: US and China – A Cultural Divide

Elise’s invaluable contributions to the masterclasses in Chinese politics during the China Enterprise Programme provided great insights into how Americans view China. We all learned a lot from her experiences and frank views about Sino-American relations. In Elise’s blog below she highlights her experience in the United States and how Americans perceive China. This is the third part of a series of student blogs in which our former China Enterprise Summer Programme students relay their personal experiences of living and studying in Shanghai and Hangzhou with Oxford Bright Scholars.

Cultural misperceptions

There are many prominent issues surrounding the relationship between the United States and China that create tension in the international arena.  These challenges are not only about trade disputes or the Chinese government’s claims over dominion in the South China Sea.  These issues are all very important, but perhaps more important are the negative myths and stereotypes about China that are commonplace among Americans. However, I have to stress that not all Americans view China negatively.

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In the United States, I work as a waitress for a local diner on the weekends to help pay for my rent and the extraordinarily expensive tuition that comes along with earning an American private university degree (this a whole another issue that I will have to come back to at another time).

First of all, I absolutely love my job. I am blessed to receive amazing tips, the people are friendly, and the chef even tosses me some free food from time to time. Despite these benefits, there are some things I do not like about my job.

I live in a blue collar town right in the middle of the United States and many of the people that come into my the diner aren’t the most educated bunch or if they are educated, they are generally old and slightly stubborn. I mean these are the same kind of people that honestly believe that America is the God-sent nation that is superior to all the rest. Whole heartily, I believe that most of the customers that come in are good people but they have had very little real world exposure to China or its people.

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But, sometimes they leave me in shock by the kind of things they say when watching the news on the television while I am serving them their morning pick-me-up or their pancakes. They say things that I believe to be ignorant and uneducated opinions, which sadly I also believe that these opinions are widely held throughout the United States.

When asked about what I am studying in school, I often hear some back-handed comment about being an Asian Studies Major and Chinese Minor.

Breaking the cultural divide

The lack of compassion that some people of the United States have towards the eastern world astonishes me. Many people associate the nation of China with the concept of outsourcing of jobs and American unemployment.

In the United States, especially among the less educated and less travelled, there is a sentiment that the US is the best country there ever was and that no other government style or culture can challenge that of the United States. Now, in the twenty first century China is gaining political and economic power, which challenges the United State’s ethnocentrism. To many in the United States, China’s swift climb up the international power ladder has been a source less of wonderment than of increasing concern.


Now, in the twenty first century China is gaining

political and economic power, which challenges the

United State’s ethnocentrism.


Even my college friends often ask me “Why do you want to go to China?” or expect that the country is a scary and dangerous place plagued with communism.  Only the 1950s Red Scare Era of the United States can explain this common fear.

The China Enterprise Programme will challenge your perceptions of China. Not only will the programme directors, Li and Lucien, try to challenge you and the rest of the student cohort on issues facing China and the rest of the world, but they will also give you a new perspective through the masterclasses in Chinese politics. Through these masterclasses and discussions, you will get the opportunity to learn about the politics, culture, and the economics of China.


The China Enterprise Programme will

challenge your perceptions of China.


 

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The grass is greener on the other side?

When I was growing up in the United States, I was always taught that “communism” is bad and there is not one good aspect that can be pulled from it. But then, how does one explain the economic phenomenon that is China? The economic growth of China is a precedent in itself and has never been seen before. China grew at an outstanding rate along with pulling millions of Chinese people out of poverty.

After decades of the recurrence of hunger and famine, China is building a middle class that has purchasing power and who are able to send their children to college in the United States. All of this success does not correlate with the notion that where “communism” is present a nation cannot be successful.


The economic growth of China is a precedent in itself and has

never been seen before. China grew at an outstanding rate along

with pulling millions of Chinese people out of poverty.


Challenge your preconceived notions

The masterclasses in Chinese politics will present you with unique modern ideas that will help you understand and appreciate the economic phenomenon that is China while understanding the political implications behind it. If you are looking for a summer programme that will give you a leg up in the business or political world, the China Enterprise Programme can be that summer programme. You will leave China having a new appreciation and understanding of this often misunderstood, but fascinating culture and country.

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By living and studying in Shanghai, China, you will learn to love Chinese people. They are some of the most helpful and kind people I have ever met, and they are the reason I will continue to visit China. This experience with Oxford Bright Scholars and my travels throughout China has really helped me to have a clearer vision of my future career goals and how China can be a large part of it.

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About Elise

Elise is currently a senior at Augustana College in Illinois, USA and she will be graduating in the spring. She has consistently been placed on the Deans’ List, having achieved a grade point average of 3.5 and higher. She is pursuing a major in international business with a minor in Chinese Mandarin and has recently spent five months at Lingnan University in Hong Kong as an exchange student. Having maintained a strong interest in business, Elise has completed an internship at World Relief where she reported directly to the finance specialist.

Elise is particularly interested in the Chinese business environment and wishes to improve her Mandarin speaking skills and to expand her knowledge about China and its policies.