Paul Midler made a few cultural observations in his book Poorly Made in China, which I didn’t detail as it was already a fairly long post. But there was one that I had illustrated for me last night, albeit in a movie, Mao’s Last Dancer, directed by Bruce Beresford.
Paul Midler: “The Cultural Revolution ingrained certain survival skills in people, one of which had to do with defending oneself against perceived face loss. The answer when threatened was to strike back fast and hard, and not to relent until the threatening party retreated. If someone might cause you trouble, you had to get them to back off – at all costs. Face was an important concept across Asia, but in no other territory around the region was it combined so much with aggression.”
In Mao’s Last Dancer, after the star Chinese dancer Li Cunxin defects to the States, a party hack comes to his parents and accuse them to raising a bad son. His mother is shocked but swiftly counters with: “You took my son away when he was little. Now you’ve lost him? You’ve lost my son? Go find him! Go find him now!” and turns the tables on her accusers, just like that. It was pretty awesome.
It’s less awesome when you complain to, say, a customer service rep who happens to come from mainland China and they manage to make you feel that it’s your fault when their company took your money and then failed to deliver. I always wonder how they did that.