Comparing China with rest of the world – Part 2


Queuing is an admirable basic trait that embodies a civilized society In many countries, the queue has become internalized everyday habit of the people. The Germans and the British take to their queuing habit seriously, firmly subscribing to the first come first serve basis principle. They will queue up even when there are two people in line. In France, the line up is not bad, just a little more casual. But even in the seemingly casual line-ups, everyone knows who is clearly in his front, and will not  jump the queue.

My impression is the Indians and Chinese people do poorly in queuing. Even when there are only five people they would still scramble.  When they do line up, there is almost no space between them due to fear that someone may cut in front.  It is certainty not elegant. But what is the cause of this problem? Very likely this is  due to these nations having extremely huge population with scare resources over the course of history.  When generation after generation of people live in such environments,  the scrambling mentality became internalized, and this is compounded by the lack of public education. In recent years, Beijing, Shanghai and other big cities in China have shown significant progress, but we need to make further efforts. The following is my queuing  score:

5: the United Kingdom, Switzerland, USA, France, Greece

4: Russia, Argentina, Israel

3: Turkey, Brazil

2 points: China, Vietnam, Egypt, Kenya

1 point: India


China scored as follows:

Military: 5

Security: 5

Idlers: 5

Slums: 4 of 5 stars

Taxi: 3 points

Bookstore: 3 points

Line: 2 points

My observation of the scores:

First, in today’s world, having no  strong national defence, is equivalent to a nation without its own backbone. Without a strong defence, Hong Kong would not be returned, Tibet would split from motherland and Taiwan would become independent.  The superpower can use any excuse to make things difficult sand blackmail you, as happened  in the invasion of Iraq. . “Human rights” and “democracy” are mere slogans used in the backdrop by strong powers to exert their wills on others. Within a century after the defeat in Opium War of 1840, China was forced into sign thousands of unequal treaties by Western powers that broke China. And countries like Britain, France and even Japan can set up embassies in China, while China was only allowed to set up foreign mission office. Back  in 1945, despite huge contribution by China at the cost of ten of millions of lives  in  the second world war against Japan, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and other Western leaders treated the Chinese with contempt.  But the incidence involving British frigate Amethyst and   the People’s Liberation Army on  April 20 1949 and together with the Korean war rewrote world history as China emerged as a major political power . It is truly rare for a developing country’s army to be outstanding in battle against established Western power.
Second, Deng Xiaoping had said many times, if he has a profession, it is the military. As a leader of the powerful army commanded, he understood how the  troops could  carry out battles, and oversee  the rise of the Chinese army as a formidable fighting force. As a result people gained more self confidence. Many Third World countries lack self  confidence and therefore unable to think and act independently;  they  often just accept the discourse of others,  copying someone else  model. Some countries simply put all hopes and their destinies on the mercy of others, and thus become perennial losers. Without national self-confidence, there can hardly be any  no self development.

Third, the good overall security situation actually reflects tremendous achievement of the country, particularly for a huge country that undergoes rapid transformation like China. Our cultural heritage plays important part in this respect. For example two million people were affected by the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, but there was no major disorder, while the  2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans reported hundreds of vicious crimes. Although our society experiences a variety of problems, overall the simple folks remain calm when facing disaster.  This is also a basic quality of our civilization, and is also  a most valuable resource in new nation building.

Fourth, though China is a populous country there are relatively few people who have little to do. This can be explained by the success of economic development created many jobs  and a tradition of strong desire to work hard in order to self improve.  The significant reduction in shanty towns, shows achievements in the eradication of poverty, and the tremendous improvement in people’s living conditions. Of course, we still have many problems in this regard that need to be seriously addressed. Our taxi management and service standards are higher than most developing countries in general, higher than Russia and countries with economies in transition, such as Ukraine, though  still lower than the developed countries. This shows there is still huge room for improvement.

Fifth, regarding the bookstore index, China is in the middle level, which is not in line with China’s long cultural history of great power status. With improvement in living standard, the requirement for cultural need will also go up. We must pay more attention to cultural need, and at the appropriate time introduce the  “cultural nation” concept, to guide our culture and soft power development. The Chinese government has started to vigorously promote the development of cultural industries, which is very encouraging.

Sixth, our lack of queuing habit leaves us in shame. We are hard-working, thrifty, always looking to self-improve etc., but as with all nations, we have our own shortcomings. For example, we have basically weak civic culture. Civic culture means being polite and refined in our interactions. The civic culture need to be combined with people’s culture that stresses rationality, tolerance, rule of law and respect for different opinions. It  is not just a matter of bad habit when one does not queue up, it also reflects the disordered state of our culture as manifested by  the loud arguments  and quarrels often heard in large halls, online personal insults and verbal violence and the  seriously irrational articles written by some scholars . India also fares poor in queuing. The quality of democracy in India is low, as the government is has low efficiency rate and always dragging its feet. Development in India lags far behind China. The building of democracy in China must include plan to address our current disorderly culture situation.

It is hoped that China will catch on this aspect too. I remember someone talked about  China’s achievements and problems; on the hardware side, you can catch up with what  the  West  achieved in last  300 years in just 50 years, but in terms of software achievement, it is impossible catch up in the same time frame. This is a fair comment. With improvement in our national culture, people are likely feel more comfortable and warm towards one another, and society truly becomes more harmonious. People of China inherit long lasting cultures and heritage that actually value peace and benevolence. The 2008 earthquake relief efforts by people of all walks of live  demonstrates that we can be magnanimous and do care for others. People of Beijing were urged to queue up during the Olympics and have adopted the queuing habit from then onwards. This is commendable. I hope that our society can reactivate our traditions that espouses kindness and moderation, and correct our own bad habits. If we persist,  the efforts  will bring results. With that  China can  become a truly highly civilized, harmonious, rational and democratic country.


About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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