Saturday, May 7, 2011

Learning More About the Chinese People

The university where I teach, along with most American universities, has seen a huge surge in Chinese students over the past four years or so. Much of this surge -- after many many years of having few if any Chinese students -- is due to the new affluent upper class in China. It has been very interesting to learn from and about these students, and to learn more about China. To learn even more, I have been "reading up" on China a bit, albeit in a rather informal way. One interesting article I read recently was titled "The Grand Tour," and appeared in the April 18, 2011 issue of The New Yorker. If you are interested, you can read it at the web address below (or just Google it).

This article tells of the increasing number of Chinese tourists around the world (a relatively new phenomenon, with the aforementioned increase in affluence allowing more world travel), but particularly in Europe. The author of the article, Evan Osnos, joined a Chinese tour group (most Chinese tourists travel in groups) in Europe, and writes astutely and informatively about what he learned during the tour. The tour guide seemed to do a good job of orienting and advising his travelers, although he passed on a few questionable stereotypes about Europeans. The tour tended to pack a lot of cities and a lot of sightseeing into a short time period. The group members were genuinely interested in learning about differences between China and Europe regarding culture, thinking, and lifestyles. Among other things, they compared the benefits of China and of the West; some felt that China's one-party system allowed the government to get things done quickly, something that didn't always happen in the West. On the other hand, some travelers felt that the Western system allowed young people more freedom to choose their futures. The travelers were an interesting mixture of being frugal and being willing to pay for luxury goods that would be much more expensive in China. Osnos had some conversations about the United States with some of his fellow travelers, in which it was diplomatically but clearly intimated that China would soon overtake the U.S. as a world power. This eight page article just describes one author's experience over a short time period, but I found the article very interesting and revealing. I will continue to read about China, in academic journals, magazines, memoirs, and fiction.

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