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Globalization Impact on Chinese Culture

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 4186 words Published: 31st Jul 2018

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Globalization is an irresistible trend in the progress of society. From the introduction of the concept of globalization and widespread use among mainstream press, the lives of most people in the world are affected by the impact of globalization. Globalization can be regarded as “a process which is essentially multifaceted and intimately related to free trade, technological innovation and information communication, demographic change linked to the development of global societies, socio-cultural, economic, and ideological convergence” (Thomas, 2005, p. 138). In recent years, the impact of globalization is more obviously reflected in the exchange of goods, technology, and culture. Although globalization recedes the constraints of geography on economic, political and cultural arrangement (Water, 2001, p.5), integration and confliction still company in the process of globalization due to the diversity of values and ideologies hold by people from different countries. Generally speaking, globalization brings positive and negative impact on peoples’ daily lives, which is not only changing the living styles, but also challenging traditional culture values of a nation.

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Global culture inevitably uniforms and standardizes peoples’ day to day lives. As Waters suggests that there will be a single society and culture occupying the whole planet in a globalized world (Waters, 2001, p.5). It is believed that the global marketing of artifacts is not only to maximize profits, but also to disseminate and reinforce culture influence of an economic power (Oliver, 2005, p.10). There are many phenomena can be observed as the influence of global culture. English is used as a dominant language in global communication, commodities of famous brands such as Coca Cola, Nike, and Adidas are sold in shops around the world, fast foods like KFC and McDonalds become popular among young people, and Internet transfers the whole world into a “village”. According to Thomas (2005, p. 143) socio-cultural dimension to globalization involves changes in attitudes to cultural and religious beliefs. Thus, it is likely that the uniformity and standardization of global culture leads to a potential danger of challenging identities of a nation.

China receives challenges and opportunities through globalization, which has a great impact on China’s economy and culture. After carrying out the reform and opening up policy in 1978, China gradually involved in the flood of global market. During over thirty years’ development in the global market, China achieves significant accomplishments in the aspects of economy, international competitiveness, and the improvement of people’s lives. According to the speech at the meeting marking the 30th anniversary of reform and opening up in the year 2008 by Chairman Hu Jintao, the total import and export of China raised from $20.6 billion to $2.17 trillion during the period from 1978 to 2007, which ranked the third in the world and became the No.1 country in terms of foreign reserves, and the paid-up overseas investment amounted to nearly $1 trillion. Therefore, it is obvious that globalization and international cooperation speed up China’s economic development while contributing a lot to the world economy.

As to the culture aspect, Chinese traditional culture is inescapably affected by global culture. In the process of globalization, western world takes dominant position in advanced technology and economic system, therefore, the global culture is mainly composed by the western culture, which is characterized by free markets, consumerism and individualism (Arnett, 2002, p.777). In contrast, countries such as China and Japan have tradition of collectivistic values (Natio & Gielen, in press; White, 1993 cited in Arnett, 2002, p.776). When traditional Chinese values meet global culture under the circumstance of globalization, there will be some extent of conflicts and integrations, which will generate the crisis on the issue of identity. Identity crisis can be regarded as a new phenomenon brought by globalization. In the following essay, it will critically analyze the issue of identity among some Chinese young people under the influence of globalization and global culture.

Chinese culture also has reaction on global culture. In recent years, China is making an effort to introduce its traditional cultures and values to the world and laying some extent of influence on the global culture. By the end of 2009, there have been 282 Confucius institutes and 272 Confucius Classrooms established in 88 countries, and the Confucius Institutes/Classrooms adopt suitable teaching styles to teach Chinese language as well as promoting Chinese cultures (http://english.hanban.org/node_10971.htm). Chinese cultures and values are gradually recognized by western society, which is a consequence of cross-cultural communication in globalization. Byram (1989) suggests that “Culture is knowledge which is shared and negotiated between people, belonging to all of them and not being idiosyncratic to any single one.” It is necessary to develop an understanding and appreciation of other cultures meanwhile critically thinking about one’s own culture and other cultures (Byram, 1996, p.25).

The following essay will mainly focus on two aspects, the impact of globalization on Chinese culture and the reaction of Chinese culture to the world. In the first section, it will critically analyze the issue of identity among Chinese young people, how it is formed, affected and reinforced through the global culture brought by globalization, and the efforts by government and schools to strength students’ notion of identity. In the second section, it will discuss the intercultural communication and culture exchange between nations in the world under the circumstance of globalization, and illustrate the importance of intercultural competence in globalization.

Section One: The Challenge of Chinese Culture on the Aspect of Identity Issue under the Affection of Globalization

As discussed above, the identity issue of Chinese young people can be regarded as a consequence of globalization and global culture imposes influence on Chinese traditional cultures and values. In order to demonstrate this, this section will firstly focus on the concept of identity and Chinese identity in order to present a framework of the identity issue. Secondly, it will critically analyze the identity crisis of Chinese young people through the process of globalization. Thirdly, in this section, it will suggest that the conscious of globalization and cross-cultural communication should be introduced into education though various challenges and problems may company through the process.

1. The concepts of identity and the formation of Chinese young people’s identity

1.1 The concepts of identity

There are many forms of identities in academic field, but this assignment will mainly focus on three kinds of identities, which are national identity, cultural identity, and social identity respectively. As to national identity, different researchers suggest various models. Smith (1991) proposes a Western civic model, which focused on territory and the idea of “patria” (Smith, 1991, p.10), and a non-Western ethnic model, which emphases on descent and blood tie. However, Kellas claims that ethnic, social an official nationalism are more important than geographical boundaries (Kellas, 1991, cited in Parmenter, 1997, p.24). It is obvious that the definition of national identity is based on some common ideas such as shared territory, shared culture and community for group, and recognition, acceptance and sense of belonging for the individual (Parmenter, 1997, p.26).

Compared with Ting-Toomey and Chung’s definition of cultural identity (2005, p.93), which emphasizes the emotional significance of belonging to a larger culture, Brock and Tulasiewicz’s definition is more precise and recapitulative. Brock and Tulasiewicz indicate that “cultural identity is a world view, constructed and developed by the individual in interaction with others” (Parmenter, 1997, p.27). The elements such as language and religious help to shape cultural identity but these are not the determinate factors. The relationship between national identity and cultural identity implied by Parmenter (1997, p.27) is that national identity is constructed on the basis of cultural identity and involves particular political ideas, attitudes, values and practice in the cultural identity.

The form and development of national and cultural identity can be analyzed by the secondary socialization theory. School education and curriculum such as language and history offer a chance to nurture national and majority cultural identities (Tate, 1994, cited in Parmenter, 1997, p.35). According to Berger and Luckmann’s secondary socialization theory (1966), the assimilation of primary knowledge mush through pedagogic techniques. The education process works as a pedagogic technique, which is strengthen the concept of individual’s fist notion, in other words, is to reinforce the concepts of national and cultural identity.

Social identity is stemmed from individual’s group memberships and social comparison, as to establish self-esteem of individuals which based on the status of the group (Tajfel, 1981, p. 277). The concept of social identity shows the behavior of individuals when they act as a member of a group, and the feelings of being a member of a group. According to Tajfel (1978, 1981, cited in Ward, 2001, p. 103), the social identity mainly includes three features, which are self concept, awareness of membership in a group, and evaluative and emotional significance. These three features work as major element of defining social identity. It is also demonstrated by Tajfel that intergroup bias is irresistible consequence of social identification (Ward, 2001, p.104). Individuals seek status and self-esteem in their own group and judge it as superior than the other groups, which not only leads to prejudice on out-group people and in-group people, but also generates confliction and competition between groups.

1.2 The formation of Chinese young people’s identity

The formation of Chinese national identity can be tract back to 1930s. Through eight-year China’s war resistance against Japan, Chinese people formed a united, patriotic and anti-imperialist national identity. Friedman (1995, p.6) claims that Mao’s communist-led peasant Red Army is regarded as a symbol of library, which unites Chinese people in a defensive order, even Confucius could not achieve such a strong influence in this period of time. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in year of 1949, the Communist Party of China (CPC) takes Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory as the guidance of its actions (http://www.china.org.cn/english/Political/26151.htm). Moreover, most universities in China offer compulsory courses of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory which brings formidable influence on the building of Chinese young people’s national identity.

As to the cultural identity of Chinese young people, it is believed that the heritage of Confucian culture takes the dominant position in Chinese society. Confucianism is one of Chinese traditional culture values, which is formed on the basis of colleting experience of the nation’s exploration and response to the challenge of its national and social environment (Zheng, Yongnian, 1999, p.73). Grown up and educated in such a society, young people form their cultural identity and obtain cultural group membership unconsciously. The culture consciousness is internalized by individuals and finally forms cultural identity (Brock and Tulasiewicz, 1985:4, cited in Parmenter).

The obtaining and challenge of social identity among Chinese young people can be analyzed under the circumstance of globalization. Social identity is a much broader concept which can include cultural or ethnic membership identity (Ting-Toomey and Chung, 2005, p.101). The process of globalization is not only an exchange of merchandise, but also an interaction between western and eastern cultures. Some Chinese young people appreciate and accept western culture and values. In this sense, the in-group and out-group in social identity theory can be categorized as follows in this essay: Under the influence of western culture to Chinese traditional culture, those people who hold traditional cultural values of Chinese collective culture can be regarded as an in-group, and the out-group can be regarded as those Chinese young people who are westernized through the process of globalization.

2. Identity Crisis of Chinese Young People through the Process of Globalization and Efforts to reshape identity

2.1 Analysis of Identity Crisis among Chinese Young People

The identity crisis towards Chinese young people under the circumstance of globalization can be mainly analyzed in two aspects, namely cultural identity crisis and social identity crisis. The cultural identity crisis is a crisis of Chinese traditional world view and cultural values, which produced in the process of western cultures and values invading into Chinese traditional culture values, while social identity crisis is stemmed from how individuals categorize themselves and others in terms of their belonging to groups (Tajfel, 1981), thus, in the circumstance of China, the follow essay will analyze how Chinese young people categorize themselves in terms of groups. But first, the essay will discuss the unique characteristic of Chinese young people under the influence of globalization and global culture.

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Those Chinese young people who are experiencing their adolescence year are a unique group in the formation of identity. Adolescence is a certain period of year between childhood and adulthood, which involves psychological revolution, uncertainty, curiosity towards the new trend, and the willingness to learn (Erikson, 1968, p.128). Those Chinese young people who were born after the Reform and Opening Up policy carried out in China have experienced a totally different growing environment from the generation of their parents. Under the influence of globalization, Chinese young people find themselves in a wave of technological, economic, and global cultural trend. It is the characteristic of adolescence determines that Chinese young people have a willingness to learn and accept the western values promoted by globalization as well as traditional values hold by Chinese collective culture. It seems likely that the intimacy of western values in the process of globalization leads to a vagueness of Chinese young people’s identity.

It could be argued that the period of adolescence is also a period of operating the function of secondary socialization as to form a world view, which is a proceeding process of internalizing the primary concept of ideology. The secondary socialization deals with the already formed self and an already internalized word (Berger and Luckmann, 1966, p.160). In the context of China, traditional cultures and values hold by the society can be regarded as circumstance for Chinese young people to form primary socialization, while education offered by school and society contributes to the effort to form young people’s secondary socialization. Under the influence of globalization and invading of western values to Chinese society, the building of concept through second socialization of Chinese young people is receiving more outer influence and challenges, because of the values promoted by global culture and western values may contradict to their primary concept. Erikson (1968, p.162) claims that the ego’s function to “integrate the relation of newly added identity element with those already in existence”, but if the newly added identity elements is conflicted with the former one, there will be an identity crisis come into being.

Globalization accelerates the communication around the world, although China is famous for its conservative culture, it is cannot be denied that Chinese traditional culture is affected by the western values. Chinese culture is built in the society of collectivistic values, in which the “power of the group” is emphasized (Hofstede, 1991, p.50). Chinese people think highly of the family tie and the values such as filial piety, which implies the proper relations of parents and children in Chinese traditional culture. Parents have absolute power in the family and should be respected and reverenced by children, children are taught that they are in duty bound to take care of their elder parents. However, nowadays it is reported that the empty-nest homes (where old couples live alone) make up 49.7% of households in urban areas (Seniors first, 2010), and 74% of young Chinese people feel incompetent to tend the old duo to various reasons (74% of young feel incompetent to tend the old, 2010).

Chinese young people are in a danger of losing traditional values. It is widely believed that western values such as individualism and materialism introduce into Chinese culture and trigger a series of changes in Chinese society in the process of globalization. Chinese young people are facing the challenges of maintaining traditional values and internalizing traditional cultural consciousness while accessing to the global culture. Brock and Tulasiewicz (Parmenter, 1997, p.27) suggest that the cultural identity is “a certain world view, constructed and developed by the individual in interaction with others.” It is obvious that Chinese young people’s world view is challenged and different from the world view hold by traditional larger Chinese culture duo to the accessing of global culture. Therefore, the globalization and western values challenge Chinese young people’s cultural identity.

Through the process of globalization, western festivals such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day become well known among Chinese young people. In contrast, some Chinese traditional festivals such as the Dragon Boat Festival, Pure Brightness Day, and Double Ninth Festival are forgotten and even ignored. There is a tendency for some of Chinese young people to take on western values and pursue self-esteem by behaving differently. According to Tajfel (1981, p.277), “social identity understood as deriving in a comparative and ‘relational’ manner from an individual’s group memberships”. It can be assumed that some Chinese young people regard some western values are better than Chinese traditional values through comparison. Thus, there is a crisis in the aspect of social identity among some Chinese young people to define their place in a social system.

2.2 Efforts to Reshape Chinese Young People’s Identity

It has been shown that the issue of identity crisis is raised from the influence of globalization on Chinese culture. The essay above has analyzed cultural identity crisis and social identity crisis among Chinese young people under the influence of western culture. This section will critically analyze the efforts to reshape Chinese young people’s identity mainly from the aspect of education, and focus on the curriculum of Chinese literature and history.

It is widely believed that school is in the position of promoting the development of the identity (Parmenter, 1997, p.34), therefore, it is can be assumed that school also plays an important role in reshaping of identity. Chinese education is carried out under the guideline of Education Law of the People’s Republic of China. The Law (1995) points out the aims of China’s education, which is to improve the quality of the whole nation and construct socialist material and spiritual civilization in accordance with the Constitution (Article 1), meanwhile, the Law also indicates that education should be carried out under the guideline of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and the theories, moreover, education should also inherit and expand fine historical and cultural traditions as to achieve civilization progress of human beings. (Article 3, Article 7). Thus, it is can be seen that education in China has been politicized as to reinforce identity among students.

Tate shows that language and history are two major curriculums that foster national and cultural identity (Parmenter, 1997, p.35). The Chinese literature curriculum is a course teaches students Chinese languages as well as Chinese traditional cultures and values, especially the Chinese Classic literature, in which contains Confucian’s classical works, such as The Four Books (The Great Learning, The Doctrine of the Mean, The Analects of Confucius, and The Mencius) and the five classics. Confucianism is the core value rooted in Chinese traditional culture and formed cultural identity among Chinese people. As to the language teaching in Chinese literature curriculum, despite the language helps Chinese young people to shape a world view, it is seemed likely that language is a much weaker factor compared with Chinese traditional values hold by the Chinese literature in reshaping cultural identity. Besides, language is not a direct factor in building cultural identity (Parmenter, 1997, p.27). However, it is cannot denied that Chinese Literature curriculum plays an important role in reconstruction of Chinese young people’s identity.

As to the aspect of history curriculum in China’s education, the reason of giving a prior consideration of history has argued by Goodson (1998, p.153), history is considered as “revive and refocus of national identity and ideology”. In the efforts of reshaping identity among Chinese young people, history curriculum operates the same function as Goodson discussed. Although the focus of Chinese history curriculum changes slightly, from historical materialism to Chinese dynastic and cultural heritage, from socialist people to national people, from socialism to nationalism (Jones, 2005, p.95) The function of history remains to the role of “transmission of state-authorized memories” as to support ethnic, regional, or political identities in both Nationalist and Communist China (Jones, 2005, p.94).

2.3 New Problems rise from the reshaping of Chinese Young People’s Identity under the circumstance of globalization

One issue that should concern us is the national curriculum under the influence of globalization. In the process of reconstruction of Chinese young people’s identity through national curriculum, there may be a tendency of ignoring the influence brought by globalization to China’s society. The globalization brings significant changes in the aspects of social and cultural life to Chinese young people in and outside school, however, the designers of curriculum seem to ignore the phenomena and continuously draw up exam-oriented curriculum which focuses on building student’s national and cultural identity within the nation (Mccarthy, C., Giardina, M. D., Harewood, S. J., & Park, J., 2003, p.454). It is likely that the over-emphasizing of national and cultural identity in national curriculum will bring negative effect on the awareness of the diversity cultural values in the world.

Encouraging an understanding and appreciation of other cultures is the concept promoted in the international education (Cambridge, J., & Thompson, J., 2004, p.162). While, Blaney (cited in Walker, 2000, p.200) suggests that ‘Education systems rooted mainly in national concerns and constrained by national ideologies cannot educate young people to live meaningfully in a world society which is global’. In the circumstance of globalization, it could be suggested that popular culture should be added into education. The popular culture should be understood as ‘crucial terrain of political and social contestation, negotiation, and resistance that makes up the ever-shifting boundaries and alliances of youth identity formation’ (Mccarthy, C., Giardina, M. D., Harewood, S. J., & Park, J., 2003, p.463).

This section mainly deals with the challenge of Chinese culture on the aspect of Chinese young people’s identity under the influence of Globalization. A framework is built through concepts of identity, the formation and crisis of Chinese young people’s identity. Then, identity crisis of Chinese young people is analyzed and the ways of reshaping identity is presented. At last, it is critically analyzed the problem in the process of reshaping Chinese young people’s identity.


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