We Need a Bridge, Seriously

I ended my 6-day (150 hours) trip in United States of America.

During the trip, I had the opportunity to drive to many places in the Silicon Valley on Saturday, and had the honor to be invited to two typical American homes, and chatted with guys from different companies, include MBA class of Stanford University… We have the opportunity to talk on the difference between the two great countries: United States of America, and the People’s Republic of China.

The more I talked, the more I feel we need a bridge between the two countries, seriously. Not one bridge, but thousands of bridges that connects the two country and help to promote mutual understanding.

People in U.S. Don’t Understand China

It is clear that people in U.S. are interested in China, but based on the limited information on newspapers, TV, and even on Internet, it is very hard for them to get a full understanding of China. People often get confused about what is happening in China (while they are very curious).

On the facts part about China, what people in U.S. get is typically correct. The problem happens in the reasoning logic.

For example, people understand the terms of law in China, but are lack of information about how laws are enforced in China. So they interpreted in U.S. way.

People may see something terrible, but may ignore the fact of improvement (or becoming worst) over the last few decades.

People may see the fact some business fails in China, but don’t know the deeper reason and propose remedy that follows the same way that caused the failure.

I don’t think it is any one’s fault. It is just the nature of how the world works.

What we need is a bridge, to connect people and to promote understanding. I was continuously encourage by how people in America are willing to learn more about China and surprised by how little or how inaccurate people’s knowledge about China. Again, it is just the nature.

One typical example is the controversial about Google’s censorship in China. It is a long story and I promise I will cover this topic later in another entry.

People in China Needs to Understand American As Well

I think generally, people in China know U.S. better than people in U.S. know about China. The hollywood movies and Internet familiarize Chinese people of what is happening in America. However, movies and news reports are always misleading. For example, the frequently appeared street gun fighting in movies is not common in U.S, and Kongfu fighting is as rare in China.

I am among the group of people who know U.S. better than average. But I was often surprised by how people live with laws, and freedom in U.S. I understand it better only after I personally visit U.S. for many times, and had the chance to see the society in a closer way (for example, going into families). I saw with my own eyes that many assumption I made before the visit was wrong.

For example, many people in China don’t understand why freedom is so importance to the people in the States, and don’t understand why American are so “simple-minded” when dealing with laws.

These are long stories again, and I will cover in details in future blogs.

Building the Bridge

I repeat it for the third time: We need the bridge, seriously.

I am so happy I stumbled into the area by starting this blog. It may become one of the bridges connecting the two worlds, two cultures and the two people.

The advantage is, I have both Chinese and English blogs. I hope I can use English blog to talk more about China, like Hukou system and use the Chinese blog to describe about what I saw in U.S. (for example, how on earth does freedom work in U.S.). The effort is limited, but anyway, this must start from some where.

P.S. Thanks again for everyone who hosted me at home and for meal. To protect their privacy, I am not going to list their names. But my appreciation for letting me to understand more of the country is never less.

P.S. 2: I created the category named “West Meets the East” and put all related article on this topic under this category. At the time of completing this entry, there are already 14 articles in it. I hope there will be more.

24 Comments

  1. nice to read your blog while surfing the internet, had been san jose twice, what you wrote is what I felt, also nice to know you are from the same university.

    do you have any informations about preschool informations in San Jose?

    You can write more informations about daily life in US, like house rental , stock market, supermarket…

    will keep eyes on your articles, keep going, buddy!

  2. I agree neither country understands each other well. I saw an article where a shanghai girl had an American boyfriend who was in the Iraq war. She posted it on her blog. The amount of angry comments and misunderstanding about America was very suprising. Even she who is native Chinese from Shanghai was so suprised about the comments and ignorance of the people regarging the USA.

    I have been traveling to China for 12 years. I am engaged to a Chinese lady and have lived in China and its still very hard for me to understand the thinking. The whole concept of “face” is very alien to Americans. Also the fact that China is a group society and Americans are individulaistic is a big gap to understand.

    For example if Americans go on a bus or plane if they dont know the person they will always sit separate and hope no one sits next to them. So the middle seat in an airplane is very unpopular.

    China is the exact opposite people will enjoy sitting with strangers. While in China its not uncommon for strangers to just sit next to me and start a conversation this would rarely happen in the USA. I know Chinese dont have the concept of “personal space” that we have in the USA. This can make it very uncomfortable for Americans when walking around in China as people will grab and bump into you.

    More understanding will be needed.

  3. Chinese Speaker?

    June 14, 2006 at 1:51 am

    Jian Shuo,

    I found your blog a couple of weeks ago and really enjoy reading it – and it’s great to see your blog is so popular with so many people.

    I have a question for you that isn’t exactly related to your entry, but I couldn’t find your e-mail address anywhere on the site, so I’m posting my question as a comment.

    I’m an American that has been studying Chinese since 1990, and living and working in China since 1999. My Chinese is fairly fluent after nearly 8 years in China, and I can read and write Chinese too. Until 6 months ago, I lived in Beijing and grew accustomed to living most of my life in Chinese, speaking Chinese with friends and colleagues most of the time.

    When I moved from Beijing to Shanghai about 6 months ago, I found that the people I work with and interact with in Shanghai are very aggressive about learning English, and ask me to speak with them in English so that they can practice and improve their English.

    The English level in Shanghai is higher than in Beijing, and I understand that English is a valuable skill, especially in Shanghai. I have to admire the ability of those around me to study English hard and to learn it quickly, and I want to be fair too. Many people in China have helped me to learn Chinese, it feels like I should help Chinese people learn English too.

    The problem is that I am trying hard to belong to the local team at work (50 people and I am the only foreigner) and to local friends in daily life. When someone speaks to me in English, it leaves me feeling isolated and “left out” of the team or out of the mainstream. We hold meetings in Chinese and run our business in Chinese. Most people speak to me in Chinese, except for a couple of my colleagues that have a special language (English) to use with me and a natural language (Chinese) to use with everyone else.

    The colleagues that speak to me in English don’t have the best English either – they are just the most aggressive ones and they make it awkward for me to turn the conversation to Chinese. Sometimes the conversation is just for “practice” and not very interesting at all. It embarrasses me.

    I sometimes imagine that everyone in the office wishes I would only speak with them in English so that they could all improve. But I am the only native English speaker and they are 49 people speaking Chinese to each other all the time.

    They want to speak and learn English and I want to speak and learn Chinese and feel that I belong to the group.

    Jian Shuo, you have so many great insights on cross-cultural issues like this, I just wanted to ask whether you might have some advice for me on how to think about this issue. How do you think my Chinese colleagues view me and the language issue?

  4. the dragon needs not be “bridged” with the eagle, leave them be, you can do whatever you want with your bridging…..by yourself

  5. HI, Mr./Mrs. Chinese Speaker. I’m afraid I have to tell you, it will be getting worse before it can get any better. Not before the Chinese find the confidence in themselves.

    You can find out what WAS Mr. JS Wong’s stand on this issue by reading his article posted in May 17th, 2005 title “Language Exchange Partners Wanted”

    BTW, It was not an accident that Mr. JS Wong can speak/write very good English. The difference is that he offers something-great back, like this Blog.

  6. Nice job. I look forward to hearing more.

  7. this is very disappointing. However, it is no surprise that China and Russia both refused to join in a statement of threatening sanctions against Iran if it doesn’t stop work on developing nuclear weapons. China wants oil to continue to flow from Iran and other trade.

    the Islamic extremist regime in Iran with nuclear weapons capability will be a horrible threat to world peace and security….a horrible one.

    why is it that the Chinese fail to recognize the threat if Iran acquires nuclear weapons? the Europeans are very much opposed to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons making capability and also the US.

    I don’t see the world on the road to peace with this stuff going on. the big difference in thinking is causing more conflict, not less.

    Wednesday June 14, 2:45 AM

    China, Russia refuse to join Iran sanctions statement

    AFP Photo

    China and Russia refused to join with other world powers in a statement that would threaten sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program, during diplomatic jostling at the UN nuclear watchdog.

    In a further blow to US efforts to present a united front at a meeting here of the International Atomic Energy Agency, non-aligned nations were preparing a text reaffirming Tehran’s right to enrich uranium.

    Diplomats played down the significance of the cracks, however, saying member states on the IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors would try not to hinder an international offer to Iran of benefits if it reins in its nuclear ambitions.

    “Everybody feels they want this package (of benefits) to have every possible chance of success,” a Western diplomat told AFP.

    China and Russia — both Iranian allies and trading partners — had joined Britain, France, Germany and the United States on June 1 in urging Iran to halt enrichment and join talks offering trade and other benefits in return for it guaranteeing not to make nuclear arms.

    The offer threatened UN Security Council action, including sanctions, if Iran failed to comply.

    A second Western diplomat said the United States had been seeking a new statement in Vienna from the six world powers calling on Iran to accept the June 1 offer and setting out both possible benefits and sanctions for Iran.

    But Russia and China were reluctant to sign up this time.

  8. Are you on business trip? Then you should be allowed to fly business class if the trip is longer than 7 hrs

  9. Yes, Jianshuo, you already contributed a lot to the building of bridge

    A good start point for foreigners to learn China :

    http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/china/history/index.htm

    Hao

  10. Great post, Wang Jian Shuo!

    I have to say that great minds think alike :) Here is a shameless plug to my blog, the Ji Village News at HaidongJi.com. One passion of mine is to sharing my experience/perspective/observations as a Chinese living in the US for more than 10 years now. And I try to share that on my blog, because better understanding is crucial for the future of US, China, and the world at large.

    Great job, way to go!

  11. Boremanm, What a surprise! You just can’t figure it out why can’t people think the way you think.

    May be its time for you to put your foot into other people’s shoes. That is why JS Wang is talking about building bridges. Trying to understand others are better then simply pointing finger at them.

    My wife and I can’t agree on most things most of the time. But we are still loving each other, living in the same house, and running the household together.

    Have you talk to the people around you about their views on the “Iraq war”? I did. I can tell you that even the Americans can’t agree with each other on that “War”.

    Iran nuclear issue is not about right or wrong. It is about power! It is a power struggle. It is about domination.

  12. Yeah right ILH. Guess you believe that everyone should have nuclear weapons, even those who have already announced they will use them to destroy a neighboring nation.

    Good thinking ILH.

  13. seasonature@hotmail.com

    June 15, 2006 at 12:51 pm

    to Chinese Speaker? ,

    I am a chinese young lady lived in Shanghai more than two years. When I graduated from university I went into a sino-Italy company in Suzhou city. Like your colleagues I was eager to chat with some Italian technicians with English and Italian. Because it is almost my only chance to learn oral language.But the difference is the Italians didn’t know any Chinese. when I came to Shanghai I found that it is unpractical to learn language in spare time.espacialy for the people who has family. As me for example,6:00 wake up, 1hour bus,8:30 start work,17:30 go back home,1 hour bus,prepare dinner, take care of my baby till deep night. I have no time and spirit to take english class or other way to learn language however I like this language and want to master it.so i really understand your feeling and your colleague’s feeling. My suggestion is why not speak out your feeling to them? maybe you all can find a better way to solve this problem.while entering the office only chinese is permitted. While be out oif office english is ok or vice-versa.

  14. talking about the need for better ‘bridging’. Can you tell me what ‘offending’ parts were excised in China from the Tom Cruise movie Mission Impossible 3? If you find out, let me know the parts that were excised as a result of ‘cultural controls’.

    Cultural controls

    For reasons that are still unclear, The DaVinci Code was pulled from mainland theaters after three weeks, despite being on track to be the highest-grossing movie ever in China. The China Film Corporation stated that the cancellation was to make way for more domestic films, but no reason was given why other foreign films which are not making as much as DaVinci were not axed instead. Meanwhile, Mission: Impossible 3, which was partially filmed in China, was finally released, after offending parts were edited out of the movie. No matter that the unauthorized version has been widely (and illegally) available on DVD for weeks

  15. Let’s give some due credit to Taiwanese gooks, or Taibazi as Shanghaiis often refer to. People like Kaifu Lee and Jerry Yang. They seem already know China (and US) so well, that they can capitalize on Corporate America’s greed to help Communist China gain ruthless control over its own people, make money at expense of Chinese people, and get away with it.

  16. Bovemanm: Of course China refused to join in a statement against Iran. Instead, China welcomed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Shanghai and invited him to a cruise tour in Huangpu, ended in a fireworks gala. Iran is now the pawn in China’s great game against US and the West. Read any Chinese BBS, and you know right away how Chinese are excited to fight for the eventual victory over ‘Yankee Imperialism’, after years of official brainwash. We really need to bridge this knowledge gap and put more Americans in the know.

    BTW, you’ll never read news about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Shanghai shaking hands with Hu Jintao from this blothug wangjianshuo, since news as such would not serve his purpose here: to put a human face on an inhumane communist regime.

  17. Bovemanm, fromyour posts it is very clear that you are from the States and let me ask you, since when does Iran actually make nuclear weapons?? In my opinion this shows, again, that the propaganda from the US works… In Europe they are not talking about ‘Iran making nuclear weapons’, they are talking about ‘Iran working on their nuclear technology’ which Iran could use later on to produce weapons, and they are affraid that they will have the possibility to make them later on, not that they are actually making them at this very moment.

    Same with that war in Iraq… even though my country is a part of it, almost none of my fellow countrymen wants to be in it, and this goes for a lot of Europeans (yes I’m from Europe) as well but I don’t think this is known by you because of the way how the propaganda in the States works.. I’ve seen it a few times on tv stations and heard it a few times from friends from the States, there is a lot of propaganda in the States which works for the government. Over here we get to see images, for example, from that war in Iraq, that are commented with statements that images like these are forbidden to show in the States from the government, because this will be bad for the people in the States…. right, it probably will damage the general feeling amongst the people about this war. And why, you may wonder, is my own country a part of it? Well simple because they shit in their pants for the US, which has already threatened with sanctions if we didn’t do what they wanted… hell, they even threatened us with an invasion one time lol

    Another example, the US and their human rights… have you ever heard about those prisons in- and outside the states where the US is violating human rights a number of times? For example, the most famous one: guantanamo bay, human rights violations all over that place… and then the US states towards the world that China (and some other countries) should stop their violations against human rights… talking about being ignorant.. Speaking about human rights… there are so many countries which are violating human rights and it is funny to see how the US is only attacking the ones (like Iraq) where it can gain some personal benefits from (like oil)… I wonder when they’re going to do something about their own country and those countries where there is nothing to gain except the respect of human rights.

    I’m sorry to say, Bovemanm, but you shouldn’t believe anything the US is telling you.. it has shown more than once that they’re simply lying to their own people.

    And, to make it clear as some people may get me wrong about some things… I DON’T have anything against the people living in the States (I have many friends living there and they all know how I think about it), nor people living in any other countries… it’s the government(s) that is bugging me.

  18. Another commie blothug, bingfeng, is never too shy to voice his joy over teaming up with another rogue state and welcome a terrorist into Shanghai:

    http://blog.bcchinese.net/bingfeng/archive/2006/06/16/75056.aspx

    Indeed, he is much more candid than this blothug is, namely, wangjianshuo.

  19. To begin building such a bridge, please translate the following into English:

    “那些说”美国月亮都比中国的圆”的先生、女士们,该清醒了一点吧??!!美国是世界上真正的恐怖主义,霸权主义,帝国主义,种族主义,利己主义的总代表。美国人是最不要脸的人—请不要和我讲大道理,什么把人民和统治者分开等等。美国人的生活好,是靠强权掠夺别人财富得到的,是靠不要脸的偷窃抢劫、巧取豪夺得到的,是靠用别过人民的鲜血、生命和泪水换来的。凡是有一点人性、良心的中国人,都不会否认,也不会漠视。这种仇恨永远扎根在我们有血性的中国人心里!!!”

    http://comment.news.163.com/news_guonei3_bbs/2JP897C90001124J.html

    or: http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http://comment.news.163.com/news_guonei3_bbs/2JP897C90001124J.html

  20. Speaking of building bridges…like your other post…..I really think that you should visit other parts of the US…mid sized cities if you have the opportunity. California and especially Bay area is very different from 99% of the US. It would be a good cultural learning experience for your understanding of Americans.

    Most of America would probably appear, to someone from shanghai, to be boaring. But if you live there long enough you would see how ‘good’ a boaring place may be.

  21. Most of the other places in America are adorable, too. The people are just beautiful. Blothug wangjianshuo and the like should visit there and get a real dosage of what America is all about, and quietly put their ambition of defeating ‘US imperialist’ to back burner. The 21st century is just another American one, period.

  22. Jie Lun

    thanks for the feedback. Much appreciated since I am always open to views of others. that’s what makes democracy work.

    I don’t believe for a second that our news here in the States is government controlled and censored like you believe.

  23. Lie Jun

    you mentioned the word ‘Europe’ but I am not quite sure where that is at. I pulled out an old history book which made mention of it but it’s not mentioned anywhere in current text books. Can you enlighten me about Europe and the kind of people who live there? Do they all get along and speak the same language there? Maybe I can book a vacation there if the people aren’t too primitive. Fill me in. thanks :>))

  24. The US has its missile defense system ready for the planned North Korean launch. This is really serious stuff that is going on. If I lived out along the West Coast, I would be very jittery under the circumstances.

    USA Initiates New Missile Shield

    US makes missile defense system operational

    By Will Dunham 2 hours, 40 minutes ago

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has moved its ground-based interceptor missile defense system from test mode to operational amid concerns over an expected North Korean missile launch, a U.S. defense official said on Tuesday.

    The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed a Washington Times report that the

    Pentagon has activated the system, which has been in the developmental stage for years.

    “It’s good to be ready,” the official said.

    U.S. officials say evidence such as satellite pictures suggests Pyongyang may have finished fueling a Taepodong-2 missile, which some experts said could reach as far as Alaska.

    “There’s real caution in how to characterize it so as to not be provocative in our own approach,” the defense official said of the move to activate the system.

    The Pentagon and State Department have said a North Korean missile launch would be seen as “provocative.”

    While military officials also note the United States has a limited missile defense system, they have so far declined to comment on any details about the capabilities or potential use of the system to intercept a North Korean missile.

    (Additional reporting by Kristin Roberts)

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