As this week has been a stream of daft posts – or should I say, dafter than usual – I thought I’d end the week on something semi-serious. No really.
Don’t worry, it won’t happen again for a very long time.
One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in China’s attitude in the 5 years I’ve been here is their attitude towards ‘the West’.
When I first came here, the general attitude amongst many was 'the West was better'.
But while there are definitely some elements of the West that are still regarded as being more favourable than China, it has changed significantly over the past few years.
Some of that was due to the global financial crisis.
In some respects, it was the perfect storm for helping the Chinese population see their country with fresher eyes.
The West – a place they had revered so highly – was collapsing.
China – their home – wasn't just thriving, but was being courted by the West to 'help'.
And thanks to internet penetration reaching critical mass, hundreds of millions of people were able to see this 'once-in-a-lifetime' event unfold in front of their eyes.
Suddenly their homeland wasn't so bad after all.
There was the potential for a bright future.
Improved standards of living.
Of course certain Western brands were still highly revered – Apple for instance – but it was no longer a case of 'West Is Best' but 'Whatever Is Best Is Best'.
The final proof – at least to me – was I was seeing the attitudes of students changing.
When I first arrived, many dreamt of going to the US to study and then getting a job there to start a new life. Now? Well many still talk about going to the US to study – especially at an Ivy League School – but instead of staying there, they want to return to China to make their fortune and then maybe return to the West when they want a more relaxed life.
In other words, for many, the West is a place to learn and retire.
Think about that for a second.
But things are starting to change again.
Scandals … economic uncertainty … heightened competition … degrees that no longer have the cache they used to have because so many people now have them … they’re all causing questions to be asked and uncertainty to be felt.
What prods this feeling even more is how the US – for example – seems to be rising again.
Whether that is true is open to debate, but from a Chinese youth perspective, it seems that way.
And this is leading to more and more things being created with a ‘Western model blueprint’.
One of the byproducts of this – and the importation of many Western brands – is that we are now seeing many cities across China become indistinguishable from their Western counterparts.
Sometimes I am in a city – whether that’s Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu whatever – and I realise I literally could be anywhere in the World.
While that brings some sense of familiarity, it also makes me sad.
One of the most wonderful things about China is it’s unique way and perspective on things.
While I am not suggesting that will fundamentally change – at least in the short term – this new energy to replicate the West is definitely going to have an impact and while there are some things in the West that are beautiful, powerful and valuable … China needs to remember the best things of the West have come as a result of time, and simply replicating the ‘end result’ doesn’t mean you get the same effect.
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