This is a thought-provoking two-part documentary, titled, “Culture Shock – Chinese Americans in China,” produced by Stephy Chung featuring Chinese Americans’ experiences in China with Beijing Foreign University Professor Li Jinzhao (Center for Diaspora Studies) providing analysis from an identity point of view. Professor Li says that Chinese Americans in China are “constantly weighing the values [Chinese and American] and trying to decide which is better.” The documentary also features Kaiser Kuo, who explains how these Chinese Americans could channel their energy and perhaps embrace this idea of dual culturalism, which then allows them to bridge China and America.
Kuo is Director of International Communications for Baidu and spends part of his time engaging Western journalists covering China. Given the lack of scathing coverage by Western media about Baidu (with so much junk about everything ‘China’ and ‘Chinese’ in general), perhaps Kuo’s dual culturalism has merits. It seems to work for Baidu after all.
Chinese Americans who felt torn between the two sets of values or felt discomforted by any of the dimensions in the identities Professor Li speaks of, Kuo offers a solution. The challenge there is of course where to draw the line – how much of the values from the Chinese experience and from the American experience does one embrace?
For example, the American (and European) experience was one of tyranny by the monarchies, and hence distrust for governments. Their colonial domination of the world shielded them from pillage and exploitation, so they lack appreciation for the need for a strong government to repel foreign invaders. That’s precisely the Chinese experience in the last few centuries. The Chinese experience desires stability and unity, and above all, a strong government to block external meddlers. How does one draw the line?
For the most part, the Chinese Americans featured in the documentary generally seems to be embracing the Chinese culture while in China whereas while in America they were pressured to distance from their first generation Chinese parents. They are all working in China now due to growing economic opportunities there, and in order to maximize career success, they naturally must learn more Chinese culture and values.
My personal conclusion is therefore simple: the strength of Chinese culture and values on the global stage really comes from China’s economic might. Water flows because of gravity. China’s economic might is the gravity.