Woman in 'birth tourism' case arrested at LAX as she tries to fly back to China: Her arrest comes amid a large-scale federal investigation of several Southern California companies accused of persuading pregnant Chinese women to lie on visa applications so their babies can be born on U.S. soil.

I'd be curious to know what it means to you because last year my former principal asked me to give a presentation on American History and the very first instruction she gave me was to warm up the audience by asking them "How old is American culture? Now how old is China's?"

Ok, our first problem is she said "How old is American culture? Now how old is China’s?”. Now our favorite hipster expat with HSK 1,000,000 can assure you that’s what “she said” in Mandarin- beyond the shadow of a doubt. Here’s the problem- we have no fucking clue what she meant by it. China is a high-context culture, most Western countries are low-context ones. This one problem alone is responsible for 90% of expat fury.

When Chinese say “you would not understand, you are not Chinese” and Timmy HSK1,000,000 loses his shit? They (and the Japanese who say the same thing) are actually, verifiably and scientifically making a valid point. The words do not explicitly reflect what they mean- because it is a high-context culture. If you did not grow up in that culture it is very unlikely you have the reference points needed for comprehension.

America is a low-context culture, the best example I can think of is Billy-Bob the redneck saying "God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal”. Now an American would get this, and all of the far more articulate arguments in favor of guns that it calls out. Standing on it’s own as an “argument” it’s retarded. Sure, with 20 minutes we could explain all of the context involved to a non-native- but we are a low-context culture and explicit communications is how we roll. Not so with China, Japan, Finland- etc.

“5000 years”.

Most of us grew up in the Western educational system and learned that race is just skin deep and we’re all the same in side and all that warm and fuzzy shit. Unfortunately its really not true. (Full study here). East Asians have really major cognitive differences, like being less vulnerable to the Dunning–Kruger effect how they are motivated. Tons of stuff- but one of the most important is how they look at the world:

Recent research suggests that Westerners and East Asians see the world differently–literally.

(I despise how this article is written- it has a very pro Asian bias when the key is “different” not “better” but it is a good summery and cites the relevant studies.)

In a recent study, Nisbett and graduate student Hannah Faye Chua used a tracking device to monitor the eye movements of 25 American and 27 Chinese participants-all graduate students at Michigan-while the students stared for three seconds at pictures of objects against complex backgrounds. The 36 pictures included, among others, the train shown above, a tiger in a forest and an airplane with mountains in the background.

The researchers found that the Americans focused on the foreground object 118 milliseconds sooner, on average, than the Chinese participants did, and then continued to look at the focal object longer. The Chinese tended to move their eyes back and forth more between the main object and the background, and looked at the background for longer than the Americans did.

In a 2001 study, for example, Nisbett and then-graduate student Takahiko Masuda, PhD, showed Japanese and American participants animated underwater vignettes that included focal objects-three big fish-and background objects like rocks, seaweed and water bubbles. When they asked participants to describe the scenes, Americans were more likely to begin by recalling the focal fish, while Japanese were more likely to describe the whole scene, saying something like "it was a lake or pond." Later, the Japanese participants also recalled more details about the background objects than the Americans did.

"Americans immediately zoomed in on the objects," Nisbett says. "The Japanese paid more attention to context.”

Anyone who has spent any time in China will have seen this happen a million times. Any issue- they thumb the zoom button and go for the larger context.

Timaz: That Chinese guy is shitting on the floor.

Lee: He is probably poor and uneducated, our country is developing.

Timaz: Yeah you people need to get your shit together.

Lee: China is 5000 years old.

Aka- "on a big enough time scale- this does not define China."

"5000 years" is zoomed all the way out- they don’t usually go intergalactic. We don’t call out "global warming" because it’s hot today, they don’t define “China” by a dude pooping in an alley behind your house.

An appeal to context is not even a purely Chinese thing. If you quoted the GDP of the UK for the last five years and said “See, England is not very important- it’s just a small island” most Brits would be offended and very quickly make an appeal to historical context.

So the thing is- Lee is not wrong. We call it Fundamental attribution error for a reason- it’s an error:

(continued from above)

Another difference between Westerners and Asians regards the fundamental attribution error-a mainstay psychological theory for the last 30 years that, it turns out, may not be so fundamental after all. The theory posits that people generally overemphasize personality-related explanations for others' behavior, while underemphasizing or ignoring contextual factors. So, for example, a man may believe he tripped and fell because of a crack in the sidewalk, but assume that someone else fell because of clumsiness.

But, it turns out, most East Asians do not fall prey to this error-they are much more likely to consider contextual factors when trying to explain other people's behavior. In a 1994 study, for example, psychologist Kaiping Peng, PhD, analyzed American and Chinese newspaper accounts of recent murders. He found that American reporters emphasized the personal attributes of the murderers, while Chinese reporters focused more on situational factors.

Chinese? Focused more on situational factors over personal accountability? In my China? No way! :-)

Anyway, the take away- whatever the fuck they are saying is not necessarily what they are saying. Many are aware foreigners might not "get it" which is why they often try (and fail) to "explain" things to you even when you can understand the words perfectly. A discussion that moves away from anything that can be perceived as accusation, onto context and broader causes is far more likely to be productive because it’s how they look at the world.

In my experience "5000 years" can also be shorthand for “look, we had our shit together when y’all were still living in caves, then our fuckhead parents derailed everything with this communist bullshit- but I’m not going to concede that to your white ass now am I?” so be gracious about it. It can mean a LOT of things- but it’s a call to context and avoiding fundamental attribution error is always a good thing.

/r/China Thread Parent Link - ocregister.com