If you are visiting America, you might get a feeling America’s moms have just been slapped in the face by their Chinese counter-parts. All this started with a recent article by Amy Chua (see my prior post A bombshell at the WSJ by Amy Chua: “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”) at the Wall Street Journal.
Thanks to our reader Chops for alerting us to an article out today in the San Francisco Chronicle by Jeff Yang. It turns out, the original article was really a Wall Street Journal spin or creation, including the title. As I concluded in my prior post, Amy Chua is not that same mother portrayed in the article nor is her book. Yang writes:
Chua responded to a brief message I sent her introducing myself and asking for an interview by saying that she was glad to hear from me, as she’d been looking for a way to discuss her misgivings about the Journal article. Apparently, it had been edited without her input, and by the time she saw the version they intended to run, she was limited in what she could do to alter it.
“I was very surprised,” she says. “The Journal basically strung together the most controversial sections of the book. And I had no idea they’d put that kind of a title on it. But the worst thing was, they didn’t even hint that the book is about a journey, and that the person at beginning of the book is different from the person at the end — that I get my comeuppance and retreat from this very strict Chinese parenting model.”
While the Journal article was unquestionably good for sales and awareness of the book, which has already hit #7 on Amazon and is only headed upward, it has been painful for Chua. “I’ve gotten scary messages. Death threats. All from people who haven’t yet read the book,” she says. “And while it’s ultimately my responsibility — my strict Chinese mom told me ‘never blame other people for your problems!’ — the one-sided nature of the excerpt has really led to some major misconceptions about what the book says, and about what I really believe.”
She points out that while she uses the term “Chinese motherhood” as shorthand for her neotraditionalist style of parenting, she states early on that many people of Chinese background don’t subscribe to such methods, and many non-Chinese do. She also asserts that this is meant to be her own tragicomic story, and not a recipe for others to follow.
All the exaggerations, abusive parenting, and children becoming robots (you essentially will need to be brain-washed to believe them completely true) aside, the underlying values of sacrifice, not me first, deferred gratification, and hard work are absolutely valid. Obviously the WSJ wants to continue the theme of abuse, children robots, and exaggerations, because they know such resonate with American’s view of ‘China’ and everything ‘Chinese,’ including the moms. They expected this bombshell to go off across America, and it did. What a brilliant idea to attack all those loving American moms.
We are not talking about an all or nothing approach to those values. The degree to which the Chinese and American moms differ in those values is what we are talking about. In the prior post, a reader commented, “He said it’s obvious that Chinese mothers love their children and American mothers don’t because love means sacrifice.” In reponse, I said:
I also meant to say, sacrifice is polar opposite to “freedom” and “individualism.” So, I don’t think the conclusion is Chinese mother love their children more than their American counter parts. The key is that the Chinese mothers perhaps moderate “freedom” and “individualism” more than the American mothers do.
Some of you might have read William Hooper’s essays (some directly authored by him on this blog and others on his theoligarch.com); all these really boils down to “individualism” vs. “collectivism” at the society level doesn’t it?
If you think a bit more deeply about individualism, do you also accept this idea that it fosters materialism? Individualism and “freedom” mean unchecked self-indulgence. Consume all you want. In a society like the U.S., politicians cutting spending on any constituent generally is equal to political suicide. In fact, the U.S. grand strategy is to encourage consumption; domestically because it generates more tax revenue, in China so Chinese buy more American stuff.
I have mentioned this in the past, I asked Chomsky once what he thought is the biggest threat to mankind today. His answer was the developing countries consuming resources at the same level as the developed countries do will destroy humanity. Chomsky is perhaps the biggest American foreign policy critic in the world. I was initially a little bit surprised by his answer, because I thought his answer would be something related to war. Well, perhaps the competition for resources due to unchecked consumption is going to create more conditions for war.
We have blogged a lot too about the U.S. politicizing the Chinese currency. (See Allen’s article, “The Politicization of the Yuan“) It is extremely simple, actually. The U.S. wants China to consume more American goods. The easiest way (to the Americans) is to simply raise the value of the Yuan against the USD so American goods become much cheaper overnight.
Lets consume until there is nothing left. This is what Chomsky feared.
In the prior post, Hooper left these comments to me:
Yes we are looking at overwhelming negative reactions, but her book is a best seller and the article is the most popular ever on the Wall Street Journal. Rome was not build in a day. She is changing the underlying psychological makeup of America, she is part of the process of striping away everything they believe in. This creates a state of nervous breakdown which provokes extreme reactions and violence. The political shooting is typically symptomatic of the psychological change occurring in America. Did you think the transition from Judeo-Christian values to Eastern Philosophy would be easy? Look at Germany, now the most Chinese like nation in the West. This change from individualism to collectivism tore apart the society and created Hitler. Today America has Sarah Palin, the question is will they find the good behind collectivism quickly, or will it take death and destruction to make that change? Think the American Civil War. Ultimately it depends on how smart the Americas are. They will change, but they can do it quickly or they can resist.
A person to read about is Yukio Mishima. Now he was far from a perfect person, he was infected with individualism and hedonism himself. But he was torn between the immoral life and the Japanese idea. He saw Japan moving away from goodness, becoming a deeply materialistic place. He killed himself to send a message to Japan – reform before it it too late. Ten years later Japan blew up in an orgy of materialism. Today Japan is changing course, inspired by China.
The big theme of history today is two fold – will the West change their values system, and will China destroy itself the way the Japanese did. I am hopeful for China, but it is walking a tightrope. The vast size of China, and the lack of real philosophical direction, could take it toward materialism and individualism.
Indeed, how does China avoid going down the same path of extreme materialism and individualism?
In some ways, I am really encouraged by the amount of investments China is making towards renewable energy. Just recently, Chinese scientists announced breakthroughs in 60x efficiency in nuclear fuel technology.
Conversely to what Chomsky said, I hope the developed countries find a way to reduce consumption.
We have gone from Amy Chua’s parenting all the way to “currency manipulation” with “individualism vs. collectivism” in between. A lot of territories covered, but everything is really intertwined.
Back to Amy Chua and the Wall Street Journal, I have a final thought for this post. I think it is rather sad for the West what is happening to their media. The media is someways the national conscience. Day in and day out, they are only interested in exploiting differences and turning our complex world into caricatures and conflicts. The recent political shootings hopefully won’t be a common occurrence.
U.S. President Obama said this to the American public about it (quote below). This very message is equally applicable to the Western media when it comes to international affairs, because world peace depends on it.
“The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better,” Obama said. “If, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy. It did not. But rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud.”