Accept No Nonsense

In the Hutong
Watching the kid watch Mulan
1049 hrs

Granite Studio writes brilliantly about James Fallows’ post on public rudeness in China.

All of which is fine and good. But no amount of cultural or historic justification is going to make any of that behavior more palatable – or even right.

I’ve been studying China for 23 years, I’ve lived here for 11, and our family is as much Chinese as anything else. Despite that – or, perhaps, because of that – I don’t buy the argument of cultural and moral relativists that demand we stomach public anti-social behavior because failure to do so is akin to insensitivity or, worse, cultural imperialism.

China is integrating into the rest of the world at all levels. The ugly truth is that either this process will make the rest of us adopt Chinese practices, or it will moderate Chinese personal behavior because the rest of the world will insist on it as the price of interaction.

The choice of which direction this will take is really up to us.

So I will continue to inform – or remind – queue-jumpers and their ilk in appropriately polite, firm, or colorful Mandarin when I think they’re doing something wrong. I don’t think I’m doing any damage to Chinese culture or imposing my inappropriate Judeo/Christian/Egalitarian values on Chinese. I think I’m doing Chinese and the rest of the world a favor.

And unless you want a world of people who act the same way, I’d suggest you do the same.


About David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.
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