This is a topic of importance. Many China experts have discussed the topic from a Western perspective. This article discusses China and her difference from the U.S. in three parts covering demographics, economic system, political system, legal system, misinterpretations, religion, and media with the conclusion that China is not a mysterious country, if one compares the two countries in the above dissections.
Whenever the topic of US-China Relation comes up in a conversation among Americans with varied background, inevitably the discussion moves to interpreting current events involving China and the U.S. The fact that more and more people are interested in China-US affairs is a good thing, but very often one only hear these interpretations in a third person voice, namely quoting the media or hearsay. If there were Chinese Americans present, they were expected to engage in the discussion but expecting a first person opinion or knowledge. Unfortunately not all Chinese Americans, especially the second or third generation Chinese Americans, who may have physical Chinese features but rarely can they express their opinions convincingly in a knowledgeable manner with a first person tone. Nothing wrong with this phenomenon except the discussion tend to end with puzzles and question marks to the issues in discussion. This is not a good thing. The end result is that China is hard to understand by the West.
Occasionally in a group conversation, you have Chinese people who possess reasonably good knowledge about China but then they have not been in the West long enough to understand why China is so difficult to understand by the West? Or they don't have a reasonably good knowledge about the West, especially the views of mainstream media which dominate the mass. Or they have a language handicap in English to deliver their opinions in a convincing sound bite manner. Therefore, these Chinese people, being American citizens or residents or recent immigrants, very much wanting to express their opinions, can not convince their friends to accept why China is not so difficult to understand?!
Of course, it is not any single person's fault if the title questions exist among Americans or Westerners and to some extent among many people in the entire world. China is a large country with more than 3.7 million square miles of land not counting her islands and seas. China has the biggest population, 1.4 billion people, in the world, evolved from many races (officially 56 today) over thousands of years. This population consists of a principal language, a fairly universal Chinese culture in terms of food preferences, habits and even mannerism and an uniquely blended Chinese philosophy; but it also contains multiple dialects, different local customs, rich variation of specialty of cuisines, all sorts of religions (despite of an atheist Constitution limiting promotion of religion in contrast to a religious American Constitution but being challenged constantly to remove its religious base by some people), long economic and political history with varied experiences and very different life styles expanding many centuries. This characterization of China alone is enough a challenge for Chinese to understand China completely and you sure can appreciate what is like to Americans.
In a digital world today with Wikipedia, Weibo, Twitter and abundance of search engines in the Internet cloud, such as Google and Baidu, there is no lack of raw data and information about China and the U.S. but what is missing is some honest interpretation of facts with no bias. Unfortunately, to the title questions, the five millennium of Chinese history (a huge literal challenge) and the recent centuries of anti-Communism ideology (a constant intellectual brain-rinse) have created obstacles or biases preventing turning the zillions of data and information (including the Chinese classic literature， (文言文) to fair and honest knowledge about China. Hence, the metaphors, such as a rising China, an awakening lion, a flying dragon and China threat, have been created and interpreted to represent a mystical China and a future threat to the West,
Many people don't believe that, especially the Chinese Americans who have a good understanding of the Chinese history and culture. What can or shall the Chinese Americans do regarding the title questions then? I would like to take an optimist's view to say, it is simple, or at least not difficult, to do a logical analysis on the title questions and tell anyone who cares to listen to your answers. Here is my version of the analysis for the readers of my columns with the hope that it will draw many plausible versions to demystify 'China' and prove that China is not difficult to understand and not much a threat.
China Is Not A Mysterious Country
China is not more mysterious than Japan or India. Americans often say that on a personal level, Chinese is not difficult to get along or become close friends with. Generally, Chinese are hard working employees, devotees to children, considerate in personal relationship or being an understanding boss and especially generous when becoming close friends. Yes, they may have some English language handicap or they may appear to be more reserved or conservative but they are more than willing to receive an extending hand of friendship, nothing mysterious at all. China as a country is not mysterious either recognizing the facts mentioned above: big country, large population, multiple dialects, religion neutral, different inheritance and long history of prosperity but recent century of misery due to the invasion of the West including Japan. There is no real mystery if one logically analyzes China from the above aspects. Yes, China has too many philosophies, some with opposing assumptions, for example, one believes that humans are born 'good' with a kind and compassionate heart, but environment and upbringing will contaminate and lead them to be evil; another believes that humans are born 'evil' with all bad traits such as being barbaric, selfish, greedy, etc, only education and good upbringing will make them good people. Is there anything wrong with these philosophies? Is anything really mysterious? No, one simply has to understand that both may be true. The Chinese people brought up in Chinese families exposed to multiple philosophies do develop a central or a universal philosophy though, that is, be kind to oneself, others and the environment. Yes, love the environment is deeply ingrained in Chinese philosophy. On this point, It is nice to see that the U.S. and China signed a climate change agreement recently (unfortunately the U.S. is backing out). Let's continue the analysis by asking what about China's economic, political and legal system? Aren't they different from ours and do they threaten our systems. Here is my view below.
To be continued