Cultural Biases - East & West


#1

taipeitimes.com/News/edit/ar … /28/192746

Sure … there are no cultural biases against Westerners, encouraged and promoted by the media (and even the government) here every day in Taiwan … before so easily lashing out at the West perhaps this “scholar” from Academica Sinica should take a closer look at the prejudices here when it comes to “foreigners”. I hope Taiwan doesn’t become as xenophobic as other places in Asia.


#2

Just read the editorial. A bit hypersensitive, I’d say.

I agree with you, LittleBuddhaTW. Seems Taiwan’s media has figured out that when things are a bit slow, all you have to do is broadcast something that casts Westerners in Taiwan in a negative light, and your ratings suddenly go up. The really sad part is that ma and pa sitting at home believe that kind of drivel. Only in his final paragraph does Mr. Wang turn the analysis inward, to his credit.

For me, the jury is still out on whether Taiwanese society as a whole is moving toward a greater or lesser degree of anti-foreigner sentiment. Take a quick scan of the BBS systems at a few universities in Taipei, and you’ll quickly see that many among Taiwan’s younger generation are just as given to anti-foreigner sentiment as older generations are. On the other hand, I have been lucky enough to meet many people of various ages who view me as an individual, and not some kind of threat, member of a mysterious group of outsiders, or interesting museum exhibit.


#3

When have Asians especially Confucian inspired society not been racist and always talking about there feelings? This is just Taiwanese being Taiwanese. You see and hear about this all over China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan.

I think the fact is. Westerners can not compete on a level playing field in such societies, mainly because such an idea as a level playing field doesn’t exist. Everyone knows Taiwan did and still does make a lot of shoddy crap. The cheap car parts used by insurance company body shops to fix wrecked cars in the US are known as “Taiwan tin”. Eventually the gov’ts. in these countries will have learn how to deal honestly and openly with the problems and challenges their countries face. I don’t see it now and I probably won’t see it in my lifetime either.

Blame the racism and backwardness on anything you want. I’m not going to take part in any more of that mental masturbation. The time for talking has to come to an end and the time for action/change needs to take place. I think we’ll see this more as WTO negotiations progress and Asia and Europe have to come to terms with liberalising their markets.

Okami


#4

All groups of people tend to be exclusionary and xenophobic, whether they be athletic teams, professional organizations, social cliques, political parties, ethnic groups or nationalities.


#5

. . . except for the Game Club. All are welcome. :wink:


#6

MT, what about many regions in America? Growing up in an racial mix that was about one third Hispanic/Latino/Chicano, one tenth Native American, and one tenth African-American, I never bought into the whole “we’re white, they’re not” mentality. Nor did most of my friends, whether their background was northern European, Mexican, etc. It was just boring, and boorish, behavior. Nowadays, despite what people might believe from watching the Jerry Springer show, most American’s I’ve worked and socialized with couldn’t give a fuck where you’ve come from.

I think that Taiwanese society is a bit behind the times in this regard. I went out the other night with a group of local business partners. They are supposed to be my friends, but boy was the night filled with comments about laowai. I hit the bathroom at one point and they, not realizing I could hear, let loose a torrent of narrow-minded commentary. I came out and let them have it, in a good natured way. They were embarrassed, but I don’t think they have any way of understanding just how foolish their values are. To me, they reflected the typical Taiwanese take on foreigners. Even though we had a good time together, I left feeling a bit discouraged about the fact that for many Taiwanese, we will never been seen as people, but as strange, mysterious outlanders who infiltrate their society. People who are both admired and resented.

Rare indeed is the local friend who views me as just another person. Someone no better, and no worse, than he or she is. I truly appreciate those individuals who realize that we are all just people, to be taken for how we behave rather than for how we look.

Of course, i am objective enough to realize that my bitching has very little relevance in light of the discrimination piled on black people, or Southeast Asian workers here. Tonight, a black guy at the bar who had the attention of two hotties was repeatedly referred to as the equivalent to “blackie” in Mandarin, and SEA workers are repeatedly called “servants.” That sort of shit would be ridiculed as right out of the dark ages back home.

T.


#7

I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that Taiwan and the Taiwanese got “rich” so quickly … not so long ago, much of the population were farmers, and then within a very short span of time, they made it big. Now, you have former rice farmers driving BWM’s and Mercedes. The clothes and transportation might have changed, but the perceptions of the world haven’t. (I think the Chinese saying would be


#8

[quote=“LittleBuddhaTW”]
Sure … there are no cultural biases against Westerners, encouraged and promoted by the media (and even the government) here every day in Taiwan … before so easily lashing out at the West perhaps this “scholar” from Academica Sinica should take a closer look at the prejudices here when it comes to “foreigners”. I hope Taiwan doesn’t become as xenophobic as other places in Asia.[/quote]

Littlebuddhatw, how do you reconcile your concerns above with this essay from your website? Love the first sentence BTW.

A CRITIQUE OF FOREIGNERS LIVING IN TAIWAN

By: David D. Evseeff (Ho Ta-wei)


One of the most pervading problems I see in Taiwanese society today is the influence of foreigners (Ch. Laowai). This has been a serious problem in both Taiwan and mainland China since the 19th century when Western colonial influences began encroaching on China out of greed and jealousy. With China unwilling to open it’s doors to foreign imports, Great Britain decided to flood the Chinese market with opium, destablizing the society and government. When the Qing government attempted to end the opium trade, war broke out between China and Britain, ending with a humiliating treaty and China being forced to cede Hong Kong to the British. This also paved the way for numerous foreign “concessions” to be set up in China - including Shanghai and Tianjin. In these “settlements,” Chinese were looked down upon and treated like low class citizens in their own country. Following the defeat of the Kuomintang (KMT) in the Chinese civil war and their retreat to Taiwan, the West intervened to support the Nationalist government both economically and militarily. This had a very positive effect on Taiwan, allowing for rapid modernization and industrialization (in stark contrast to the cultural and economic regression of the mainland under Communist rule). With numerous investment opportunities becoming available in Taiwan, more and more foreigners traveled to Taiwan to do business and settle there. International trade is not a bad thing, and initially the foreigners who came to Taiwan did a great deal of good for the Taiwanese economy and allowed for a relatively healthy interaction between the two cultures.

As time went on, however, the foreign population in Taiwan increased rapidly. Many foreigners found Taiwan to be an excellent place to make money quickly teaching English, and it also became a prime market for more and more foreign investors, Christian missionaries, and other foreigners who had either become disenchanted with life in the West or, sadly, those who merely had a sexual interest in Asians boys or women. With the demand for qualified English teachers and “foreign experts” growing rapidly in Taiwan, and the possibilities for making lots of money, thousands and thousands of foreigners have converged on Taiwan. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these foreigners can neither speak Chinese nor have any serious interest in Chinese culture. Other than the foreign students and a few long-time residents, they have never made any attempt to learn the language, understand the unique culture, or acclimate themselves to the way of life. Many Taiwanese boys and women have naively entered into romantic relationships or friendships with foreigners, only to be severely disappointed and taken advantage of. The foreigners bring with them their ego-centric attitude that all things Western are superior, including their language, way of life, Christianity (one of the greatest evils of the past 2,000 years), as well as a deluge of Western societal problems. For all of its advancements in technology, democracy, and individual freedom, the concept of “the West” carries with it a multitude of problems - violence, the disintegration of the family (a hallmark of traditional Confucian culture in Taiwan and China), egotism, hedonism, and a belief that the individual is more important than the society as a whole (again, quite contradictory to the traditional Chinese way of life). However, this is not to say that all things “Western” are bad, nor all things Taiwanese are good. Taiwan has its fair share of problems, some of which I will discuss in another article later. But, the behavior of many foreigners in Taiwan hasn’t helped the situation, and have given the local population the impression that foreigners are only interested in sex, money, and beer. For those who are here for other reasons, such as seriously studying Chinese, doing legitimate business, etc., it makes it all the more difficult for us to gain respect and trust.

With the mass migration of all of these foreigners to Taiwan in the past 10 years or so, the market has become flooded with unqualified and less than “moral” English teachers who care more about their salaries and sex drives than they do their students (although this is not to say that there are not any good ones, because there are!). This makes it more difficult for qualified people to find jobs, let alone good paying ones. The masses of foreigners living and working in Taiwan has lowered the average salary considerably. The influx of foreigners has also made it difficult to develop sincere friendships with many Taiwanese who have had negative experiences with foreigners. It is sad that so many Westerners think that just because they are from the West that they can do whatever they want, behave irresponsibly, and will be respected simply because of their nationality.

My advice to foreigners is that if you are sincere about coming to Taiwan, you should have a genuine interest and love of the culture, be able to communicate in the Chinese language, and be careful of how you behave here. Unfortunately, many foreigners come to Asia (not just Taiwan) because they can’t find jobs, boyfriends/girlfriends, or respect in their own country. They come here and suddenly feel like gods, and take advantage of their new found popularity. If you are this type of person, then Taiwan is not the place for you. Resentment against these types of people is growing rapidly, and will not be tolerated for much longer.

In traditional Chinese culture, the focus is on the good of the society as a whole, not the good of the individual as in the West. Western society, in some respects, seems to be moving in a downward spiral. We need to be careful about how we present ourselves and our countries & cultures to the East. While there are many opportunities for positive cultural exchange, they do not need the ills of Western egotism, hedonism, selfishness, and Christianity forced on them. Although, perhaps it is already too late. Materialism and selfishness have already become quite deeply entrenched in modern Taiwanese society. But, adding adding salt on top of the wound won’t make things any better. If it continues in this way, it will one day come back to haunt us. I just hope that the Taiwanese government will take a serious look at these foreign influences and tighten the controls on allowing just any foreigner to come to Taiwan to live, while welcoming those who are qualified and sincere about helping the advancement of Taiwan and Chinese culture


#9

Tomas, I do believe that most groups of people, including Americans, can be exclusionary and xenophobic. When my family moved from the East Coast to San Diego many cars bore bumper stickers reading, “Welcome to California; now go home,” and that sentiment was prevalent. A few years later, I moved to northern California and felt the resentment northern Californians have towards southern Californians because, “they’re stealing our water and are all vain, self-centered pricks down south.” Then, I moved to Oregon, where dislike for all Californians is common.

Of course, such attitudes are stupid. My family was displaced from Nazi Germany due to exclusionary, xenophobic sentiment, and I’ve lived in enough places that I consider the whole world to be home, I don’t buy into that territorial bullshit, and it doesn’t bother me greatly because I know that it results more from ignorance than from malice.

But it’s not just geographic. I was on athletic teams in school and enjoyed the comraderie of being on teams, but looking back I realize we were often obnoxious to outsiders. Same for various groups of friends I had over the years. Even the most well-intentioned groups, such as churches or meditation groups can act snobby and superior.

After all, groups are defiined not only by inclusion but by exclusion. To validate the existence of a group, and the reasons for belonging to it, one must point out how others are different. . . and inferior. Are bigotted Taiwanren worse than the surfers in southern California fighting over a wave, or politicians stating that if you don’t support our war you’re not a patriot? So, welcome to Taiwan foreigner; now go home.


#10

[quote=“Mother Theresa”]
… it doesn’t bother me greatly because I know that it results more from ignorance than from malice.

After all, groups are defiined not only by inclusion but by exclusion. To validate the existence of a group, and the reasons for belonging to it, one must point out how others are different. . . and inferior. [/quote]

I agree with the first point re: the source of malice. However, I don’t excuse prejudice based on ignorance, because ignorance is a problem that an individual can solve with a little work on the inner self. That’s why I have such appreciation for Taiwanese who manage to break out of the groupthink approach to waiguoren.

While I agree that exclusionary attitudes exist in every nation and culture, I think that these attitudes are still a stronger part of the societal ethos in Taiwan than they are back home. I’m not one of those who believes that as America’s racial makeup becomes more diverse, prejudices become stronger. I see a great deal of progress, evidenced in part by a sharp spike in interracial marriages, children of mixed blood, and a drop in church attendance. Most of the college classes I taught back home were racially mixed. These kids worked and socialized together with no consideration given to race. I don’t think Taiwan is ready for that yet.

As for your second point, quoted above, re: groups being exclusionary, I also agree. That is why I don’t belong to any formal groups. As you wrote, exclusionary thinking is nothing more than bullshit.


#11

Yeh, good post, little Budddha, I read that op-ed piece, too, by Wang Ming-Ke and said to meself: What the fuck is this guy talking about? He seemed to completely miss the james bond humor in that ad? But then again, maybe I missed something too, and I was glad to read his musings, and it helped me to see something I never would have thought about exactly in that way. He sounds like a rightwinger, but maybe his heart is pure gold. Let’s watch him in his future essays.

Yeh, people are just people. Get used to it, Taiwan. And guess what, they will. But give it time. This is not the West. Another 500 years maybe… no problem, i am patient (or maybe I am too much of a [mental] patient)…


#12

A CRITIQUE OF FOREIGNERS LIVING IN TAIWAN

Great guns! When I first read this I thought it was a parody. Is this guy serious?

One of the most pervading problems I see in Taiwanese society today is the influence of foreigners (Ch. Laowai).

Me too. Take those Han Chinese for instance…look at the way they just shoved the aborigines aside…

This has been a serious problem in both Taiwan and mainland China since the 19th century when Western colonial influences began encroaching on China out of greed and jealousy.

Greed, yes. Jealousy, no. Also, China and Taiwan were part of an empire ruled by…foreigners: the Manchus, who had been there since the 17th century.

It appears your construction of “foreigner” is quite naive, to say the last.

with China unwilling to open it’s doors to foreign imports,

Yes, the foreign emperor of China forbade certain foreign imports. Did he or the British ask the people what they wanted?

Great Britain decided to flood the Chinese market with opium, destablizing the society and government. When the Qing government attempted to end the opium trade, war broke out between China and Britain, ending with a humiliating treaty and China being forced to cede Hong Kong to the British.

Yes, the treaty resembled in many ways the treaties the Ching Dynasty had forced on its dependents, for example, the abusive 1793 articles that codified Ching rule over Tibet, or the various structures set up by the Ching to consolidate their conquest of Mongolia. Must have been tough to be treated in the same high-handed way themselves.

This also paved the way for numerous foreign “concessions” to be set up in China - including Shanghai and Tianjin. In these “settlements,” Chinese were looked down upon and treated like low class citizens in their own country.

Yes, certainly they were treated with the utmost fairness and civility by their own government, whose impartial judicial system, efficient bureaucracy, enlightened social policy and respect for civil rights were light-years ahead of the horrible British Imperial system.

Following the defeat of the Kuomintang (KMT) in the Chinese civil war and their retreat to Taiwan, the West intervened to support the Nationalist government both economically and militarily. This had a very positive effect on Taiwan,

Whoa! I thought us foreigners were a cultural virus!

allowing for rapid modernization and industrialization (in stark contrast to the cultural and economic regression of the mainland under Communist rule). With numerous investment opportunities becoming available in Taiwan, more and more foreigners traveled to Taiwan to do business and settle there. International trade is not a bad thing, and initially the foreigners who came to Taiwan did a great deal of good for the Taiwanese economy and allowed for a relatively healthy interaction between the two cultures.

You know, I’m going to get serious here. Just how many cultures do you think are interacting here? Are there two cultures, one of outsiders and one of Chinese? Or are there several different identifiable cultures on the island, with cross-cutting class and ethnic issues, that interact with hundreds of foreign cultures? Do you think that Japanese and American cultures interact with the local culture in the same way? How can anyone who lives here be this naive?

As time went on, however, the foreign population in Taiwan increased rapidly.

Yes, for example, about 1.5 million mainlanders came over all in a bunch.

Many foreigners found Taiwan to be an excellent place to make money quickly teaching English, and it also became a prime market for more and more foreign investors, Christian missionaries, and other foreigners who had either become disenchanted with life in the West or, sadly, those who merely had a sexual interest in Asians boys or women.

ROTFL. Please explain what is sad about being attracted to Asian women as opposed to others! That last line is so incredibly fucked up it is hard to imagine how you wrote it with a straight face. First, you wrote “boys and women” as if “men” don’t exist, a strange pairing of groups you seem unconsciously to consider identical in status. Second, you seem to imply the incredibly racist position that people should only be attracted to members of their own “race.” Third, you regard it as sad that people should find members of other ethnic groups attractive and seek to fuck them. This is perfectly normal and should be beneath comment.

With the demand for qualified English teachers and “foreign experts” growing rapidly in Taiwan, and the possibilities for making lots of money, thousands and thousands of foreigners have converged on Taiwan.

Yes, for example, thousands of persons of Chinese descent from across Asia, and thousands of mainland Chinese…your construction of “foreigner” is decidedly racist.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of these foreigners can neither speak Chinese nor have any serious interest in Chinese culture.

Yes, it reminds one of the many immigrants to the US who could neither speak English nor had any serious interest in US culture and history.

Also, the vast majority of the island’s citizens could not speak Chinese either. They learn it as a second language in school.

Other than the foreign students and a few long-time residents, they have never made any attempt to learn the language, understand the unique culture, or acclimate themselves to the way of life.

Yes, they are just there to make money, much like the Taiwanese who set up shop in Silicon Valley. Is it your position that people should only travel to a foreign country if they have a genuine interest in it? And how is one to cultivate an interest in Taiwan if they are not allowed to come here unless they have an interest? An interesting catch-22 you’ve proposed here.

So I guess you would find it acceptable if someone came here just to learn calligraphy (but not for any other reason) or just to study Chinese or get a PhD, but no other reason.

Many Taiwanese boys and women have naively entered into romantic relationships or friendships with foreigners, only to be severely disappointed and taken advantage of.

Imagine people being disadvantaged and disappointed in a romantic relationship. That never happens in one’s home country. All of the Taiwanese-Taiwanese relationships that I know of are little universes of perfect contentment, and Taiwanese, as we all know, certainly never take advantage of each other.

The foreigners bring with them their ego-centric attitude that all things Western are superior, including their language, way of life, Christianity (one of the greatest evils of the past 2,000 years), as well as a deluge of Western societal problems.

Yes, thankfully the Chinese are completely free of this attitude about their own culture.

For all of its advancements in technology, democracy, and individual freedom, the concept of “the West” carries with it a multitude of problems - violence,

Agreed. Certainly prior to the advent of foreigners in Taiwan, there was never any history of clan on clan violence, never any gangsters, or brutal judicial punishments, or private and village-level armies, and the Ching Dynasty ruled with the utmost forebearance, abstaining from punitive expeditions against the misguided aborigines who opposed its enlightened rule.

the disintegration of the family (a hallmark of traditional Confucian culture in Taiwan and China), egotism, hedonism, and a belief that the individual is more important than the society as a whole (again, quite contradictory to the traditional Chinese way of life).

Yes, one never sees Chinese people behaving in self-centered ways. Chinese always obey the law, and always set social interest about their own. That is why in Taiwan people always obey traffic regulations, never dump waste illegally, pay all their taxes, and never use public land for private structures.

foreigners in Taiwan hasn’t helped the situation, and have given the local population the impression that foreigners are only interested in sex, money, and beer.

And what’s wrong with that…

And certainly no Taiwanese are just interested in sex, money, and beer.

For those who are here for other reasons, such as seriously studying Chinese, doing legitimate business, etc., it makes it all the more difficult for us to gain respect and trust.

Yes, if not for us dastardly laowai, the Chinese would be as good at trusting foreigners as they are at trusting each other.

With the mass migration of all of these foreigners to Taiwan in the past 10 years or so, the market has become flooded with unqualified and less than “moral” English teachers who care more about their salaries and sex drives than they do their students (although this is not to say that there are not any good ones, because there are!).

What are you saying? That people should not care about the salary they make? And what are the “qualifications” necessary to teach in a bushiban?

The influx of foreigners has also made it difficult to develop sincere friendships with many Taiwanese who have had negative experiences with foreigners.

Yes, if it wasn’t for us nasty foreigners who love Asian women, the Taiwanese would all be sincere in their relationships with us, just like they are with each other.

It is sad that so many Westerners think that just because they are from the West that they can do whatever they want, behave irresponsibly, and will be respected simply because of their nationality.

Hmmm… do you think that this belief of foreigners might be related to an actual behavior of Chinese…say, the habit of deference to foreigners? Naw. Probably not.

because they can’t find jobs, boyfriends/girlfriends, or respect in their own country.

No doubt. That is probably why lots of foreigners go to the US or Australia.

They come here and suddenly feel like gods, and take advantage of their new found popularity. If you are this type of person, then Taiwan is not the place for you.

Mail me a ticket and I am gone. I am just here to make money and fuck Asian women. Did it occur to you that those behaviors are not incompatible with integrity and sincerity?

Also, do you think Taiwanese men have only sincere interest in “Chinese” culture, or do they like to make money and fuck Asian women too?

In traditional Chinese culture, the focus is on the good of the society as a whole, not the good of the individual as in the West.

Great irony, then, given the complete lack of civic culture in Chinese society, and the richness of civic culture in the west.

perhaps it is already too late. Materialism and selfishness have already become quite deeply entrenched in modern Taiwanese society.

Yes, Taiwanese were never materialist and selfish until the horrible westerners taught them.

qualified and sincere about helping the advancement of Taiwan and Chinese culture

This sentence is meaningless drivel. (1) What is “Chinese culture?” (2) What is “advancing” it? (3) Who defines this? (4) Why Chinese culture and not Taiwanese culture, or Hakka culture, or Pingpu culture? (5) What is the benefit of “advancing” Chinese culture? (6) What is excluded from this definition?

Really a great essay. Too funny for words to express…

Vorkosigan


#13

Here’s a little essay on Chinese culture (or the lack thereof):

time.com/time/asia/features/ … essay.html

The Wasteland
Chinese culture sounds like it’s vibrant and refined. One problem: it doesn’t exist
By Wang Shuo

I think it was rocker Cui Jian who mouthed the phrase Chinese culture to me while talking about his music during a party at some German guy’s place in Beijing. Another Chinese friend of mine, his breath reeking of booze, leaned over and asked me, “What’s Chinese culture?” Being well stewed myself at the time, I didn’t say anything. But if you’re going to make me answer, all I can tell you is, “I don’t know.”

You’ll hear foreigners say that Chinese culture is Confucian culture. What is Confucian culture? In the official media it’s the Doctrine of the Mean: elders and juniors each in their places; being tolerant and restrained and yielding; doing unto others and all that. All of which just tells you how to avoid getting the short end of the stick in the world’s most crowded of crowds: keep your head low and you’ll survive. Then there’s the philosophy for retirees: Taoism, unity of heaven and man, becoming one with nature. Sounds great, and every Chinese person can rattle off a couple of paragraphs of the stuff. But if you’ll excuse me, I have to say that the one line of Confucius you just can’t beat is: “I’ve never seen the man who loves virtue as well as sex.” In the end, this philosophy is about telling people to act one way or another. Give someone a chance, and his first instinct is to go straight for the sex. Or the money. That includes me.

I was born under Maoist rule, and the first time I heard the word culture was in “Cultural Revolution.” Our only cultural sage, the writer Lu Xun, who had been dead for 10 years by then, taught us “Don’t forgive anyone” and “A perfect fly is still just a fly.” If only we had listened.

Just look at what passed for culture at the time, and see how little it’s changed today. Back then, children sang, “Mommy and daddy can’t compare with Chairman Mao, the greatness of heaven and earth can’t compare with the great kindness of the Party.” The slogan board on the door of the police headquarters read in big red characters, “Resolutely support the righteous anti-imperialist, anticolonial struggles of all the peoples of the world.” The slogan on the door of the crematorium read, “Increase production, decrease population.” It’s been more than 20 years since those days. Now the slogans are new, but they’re still a series of orders. “Open a bottle of Hennessy and let the good times roll.” “Your choice, Sprite.” In the stores and restaurants, you see, “The People’s Police advise you to keep an eye on your wallet and other personal articles.” In the public toilet the sign reads, “Please urinate in the trough, please flush after defecating.” Jiang Zemin says, “Represent advanced culture.”

A friend of mine says Chinese people are the smartest. I ask my friend, “But what culture do they possess?” Beyond firecrackers and paper


#14

I see. Fight racism with racism. Clever. :unamused:


#15

What are you babbling about? :unamused: