Social Conscience Education and the Traditional Chinese Worldview: Helping Students Navigate Cultural Differences

Isabelle was one of the HKIS students that visited Concordia Children’s Services in Manila on a trip during Easter vacation, 2010.  Does Isabelle, as a Chinese student, experience and understand her service experiences differently than Western students?  This entry explores the tensions in some Chinese students’ thinking between the values implicit in service experiences and the traditional Chinese worldview with which they were raised.

Introduction

I have found that HKIS students who identify themselves as coming from a more “local Asian” cultural background are more likely to find a conflict between their home values and the values implicit in our school’s service programs.  Recently, a student from a traditional Chinese family wrote an essay about service in my class.  She began the essay by explaining:

“My values and beliefs are heavily influenced by Chinese culture as I grew up in a traditional Chinese family. From a young age, my parents taught me the duties of being a Chinese daughter . . . and as a result these duties are a part of who I am. However, these values and beliefs are constantly in conflict with the “third-culture” me [in international schools] . . .  and as a result, I constantly find myself struggling to balance the two cultures. For example, my brother who is a lot less Westernized than I am argued that I should not be spending my time serving others. He  was against my participation in Service on Saturdays at school because he thinks I should be visiting my sick great-grandma instead of wasting time playing with little kids.  [There are] many instances when I feel that my Chinese upbringing is in disagreement with Western values.”

How do we as teachers deal with this kind of cultural conflict that occurs when some of our Asian students do service?  When I began doing research, I assumed that the group-centeredness of Chinese people, Confucian values, and the goal of social harmony would welcome social conscience education.  So it came as a real shock when I was interviewing local Hong Kong students and teachers about what hinders development of social conscience education, and the most frequent answer was the traditional Chinese worldview.  While other factors were mentioned, teachers and students’ most common discussion point was the conflict between these two ways of seeing the world.

 Research Findings

According to the interviews, there were three aspects of Chinese culture that seemed to be in conflict with the concept of social conscience:

1) Focus only on yourself and your family

From a traditional Chinese point of view, education begins with self-cultivation. One teacher explained:

“It’s more moral education than social consciousness . . .  I would include moral education with manners and the way to treat people like even standing up for a pregnant woman on the bus and trying to make students aware that this is difficult and puts the baby in danger.”

The Hong Kong teachers felt that this focus on manners, while having obvious value to society, directed people to avoid concerning themselves with larger sociopolitical issues.

Students and teachers said that Hong Kong people, when they see someone on the street that needs help, often tell their children, “It’s none of your business” (唔關你事).  Another teacher explained further:

“For Chinese people, they always think if something is not your business and if you get yourself involved, maybe you will have some trouble.  Maybe the police will ask you what happened and you have to go into the police station or the hospital to tell the police what happened.  It’s just a waste of time.  My mother told me that and I told my son and my son will tell – for many generations we have this concept.”

Referring to a Chinese proverb, another teacher stated:

“You just sweep the snow in front of your own house.  You don’t get involved in other people’s business.  You just care for your own self.”

Another Chinese saying captures the essence of this concept, “Refine oneself, establish a family, govern the nation, bring peace to the world” (修身齊家治國平天下). This traditional expression outlines a developmental path for individuals to fulfill their social responsibilities: first, manage the self; second, take care of family; third, contribute to the needs of the country; fourth, care for the world. However, in practice, few individuals manage to get beyond the first two responsibilities.

We have found that in our work with Chinese students that the idea of doing service, helping strangers, or developing a social consciousness that includes your city, nation, and ultimately the world frequently comes into conflict with these traditional values.

2) Play Your Social Role

In traditional Chinese society, the role of leaders is to govern wisely and act decisively for the good of society, while the role of followers is to respect, obey and implement leaders’ decisions. In the interviews, Hong Kong students and teachers explained how they were taught to play a prescribed social role, which contributes to group harmony.  However, teachers felt that this resulted in student passivity about social issues, as one teacher explained:

“Chinese people are more passive . . . They like accepting others’ point of view . . .   I think they think it is a kind of respect, but I think it really restricts how they grow and they don’t want to share what they think to others.”

In contrast, the worldview of social conscience education emphasizes awareness and analysis of social issues, forming opinions, and acting upon these beliefs.  It is not difficult to see how these assumptions come into conflict with the traditional Chinese worldview.

3)  Social Change Brings Chaos

A third characteristic of the Chinese worldview that contrasts with social conscience education is the view of history.  The lesson often drawn from studying Chinese history is that attempts to change society typically results in chaos rather than improvement.  Thus, dramatic social change is seen as a threat to civic harmony.  By contrast, Westerners often view the term revolution positively (e.g., “The American Revolution,” “The Internet Revolution”).  One Chinese student explained:

“[Chinese students] don’t have the capacity to make a difference or they cannot revolt.  Before like a Western country, like, there’s like the Scientific Revolution.  There’s like the French Revolution . . ., [but in] China – the Cultural Revolution . . . .  So, I think [Chinese] people are kind of like afraid of people revolting and afraid of being innovative and changing.”

From the perspective of the traditional Chinese worldview, stability is a higher value than change. By contrast, the Western worldview values progress and growth.

Of course, the goal in raising these contrasts is not to suggest that one view is better than the other.  What it does offer is that social conscience education builds on ideas that emerge from a Western perspective, and this approach seems quite “natural” to Westernized teachers and students.  However, this pedagogy challenges some Chinese cultural values (and, I assume, Asian values more broadly) and leaves some students confused, as in the essay excerpt above.

Self-Efficacy in Asian Culture

One of the most important goals of social conscience education is that students will have the skills, confidence, and willingness to act in society for the sake of the common good.  This bundle of beliefs that a person can “make a difference” is called self-efficacy.

A few years ago on a service trip in rural China where our group was providing conversational English practice and leadership training to one hundred girls in a scholarship program, I directly raised this question of self-efficacy with my students, all of whom were Chinese.  Did they feel they could make a difference in society?  I was particularly struck by the response of one of the boys, Brian, who had been especially instrumental in raising an astounding $45,000 US for the girls.  In response to my question, Brian quietly stated,  “We [Chinese students] find it much harder to assert ourselves compared to Western students.”  Other students echoed this sentiment, suggesting that assertiveness and initiating social change are perceived by Chinese learners as Western concepts.

I was able to follow-up further on this comment six months later in an interview with five Hong Kong Chinese students at HKIS, four of whom had participated in the same scholarship trip the previous summer.  All were highly accomplished students, two of whom now study at Ivy League schools in the US.  In the context of discussing the scholarship trip, one female student said that giving hope to mainland Chinese girls of breaking out of the cycle of poverty was a Western concept.  She explained,                          Jasmine and Jenn on a Summer Trip

“I always thought that the Chinese worldview is cyclical . . . like one dynasty replaces another . . . always like using the same political model, but the Western world is kind of like you are moving forward.”

Later, she added,

“Another thing that I think is that like Chinese people have a lower self esteem of themselves and they’re less confident than Westerners . . ..  They don’t have that much imagination about what they can do.”

In this young woman’s thinking, Chinese students have a lower self-efficacy about positive social change than Westerners.  She and the other students seemed to associate this lower self-efficacy with Chinese cultural beliefs.

Some research suggests that Asians do have a lower sense of self-efficacy than Westerners.  Again, the point of raising this issue is for teachers to be aware of these cultural characteristics, so that we can raise these as discussion points with our students.  Our experience has been that these questions are especially important to Asian students who are aware of the differences in values between the two cultures, but have almost no opportunity to discuss them with adults.

What Can We Do?

I have found that this kind of subtle understanding of the differences between Western and Asian approaches to service is not widely discussed with students.  However, these concerns are present, even if at times not entirely obvious, to quite a few Asian students. In order for Asian students to embrace a service ethic, I believe they need to resolve the tension between school values and home values. Teaching about the differences between Western and Chinese thinking, and considering the local and global conditions that demand our attention, can help students make culturally informed, family-conscious, and self-reflective decisions.

My colleague, Mike Kersten, recently asked one of his students, Isabelle, about this cultural issue. This was her response:

I remember talking to my mom once about how after college I was thinking about doing service for a couple of years. At first she was very supportive of the idea, she encouraged me because my mom loves to do service . . . . Then, she said, “You know doing service also means being good to your family. You need to care for yourself and your family first before you can help others.” She had a point, but she also didn’t mean that I would have to stop doing service. Ever since I was young, my mother has been pushing me to do service for others and donating all my red packet money to the charity of my choice. For my whole life she would also constantly remind me that family is first, that we should love each other unconditionally and take care of our parents when they grow old.

I think that as generations go and we realize the major global issues in our world today, the Asian mindset of “service” is going to develop and change. My mother believes that doing service should be an important part of our lives (as it is important to her spirituality and religion) and she loves giving to others. She also believes in the Asian view of “service”. So as a member of a Chinese family, I think we contain both the Western “service” of international outreach and the Asian “service” of family first. However, when I think from my own individual point of view, I think that the so-called traditional Asian “service” of family first shouldn’t be called “service”. It should be a duty and self-awareness/realization that family is first, not a service. You should put your family first because you yourself realize that your family members are the only ones that will truly love you unconditionally. But…maybe my opinion will change as I grow old and find my purpose in life. 

Isabelle’s response illustrates how various Western and Asian strands of thought can be weaved together into a synthesis that guides actions towards family and the community.  Equally important, her comments show that she expects to revise her worldview in the future.  Given the central role that culture plays in identity formation, I believe that many of our students would happily engage in this kind of reflection, if they were simply asked. Such introspection is crucial to helping Asian students make sense of their rich service experiences, and to help them begin to build a sturdy intellectual and cultural foundation upon which to contribute to the common good.

[Note: Much of this entry was first published as “Chapter 7: Cultural Dimensions of Social Conscience Ministry in Asia” in Christ, Conscience, and the Curriculum: ALEA Schools in Mission (2011).]

The girls at CCS welcome our HKIS group!

Addendum

Isabelle wrote a very nice note to Ms. Talbot and myself about how the courses she has had at HKIS have been so valuable to her and how she anticipates this will affect the direction of her college career:

Hi Mr. Schmidt and Ms. Talbot,

I was starting on my college applications – which obviously require a lot of reflection upon your high school career, and realized that I had truly developed my path to social consciousness throughout the last four years. I realized that since taking Humanities I in Action, I had based a lot of my decision making on what I had learnt in that class. Humanities in Action truly inspired me to think outside of my own bubble and explore more of the world and of the issues that are prominent in our world today. Because of Humanities in Action, I decided to take Asian History in Action with Mr. Kersten in sophomore year, which was another great eye opener. By the end of my sophomore year, a couple friends and I started up Greenpeace (we established it as an official branch at HKIS) and now, we have around 100 members! Next semester I’ll be taking Service Society Sacred as well. All of these decisions I have made throughout my high school career may be attributed to the things I learnt during Humanities in Action.

I’ll be continuing my journey to social consciousness in college for certain. I have decided on majoring in Environmental Analysis – as it is a broad major that provides insight in the science and ethics of our environment. I have planned on applying early decision to Pitzer College (a member of the Claremont consortium in California). This school really reminded me of what was taught in humanities. They emphasize their core values, which are social responsibility, intercultural understanding, interdisciplinary learning, student engagement and environmental sustainability. Pitzer is a college that wants their students to leave college with the ability to utilize their major in a manner that will change and transform the world. One of their supplements truly exemplifies this: “Propose a solution to a global or local issue in our world today using our core values.” I feel as though if it weren’t for Humanities in Action, I would never have fallen in love with this college and their core values. I truly hope that I will be accepted!

The reason why I decided to write this email to you two is because, I’d simply like to thank you both for inspiring me to do more for the world and for teaching me the true meaning of selflessness. You two are some of the few teachers that have genuinely made an impact on my high school career. The things you two have taught me are things that I will carry with me through my life.

I always ask underclassmen whether or not they took or are currently taking Humanities in Action and always pester them with questions on whether or not they’re enjoying it. It always happens to get me excited! 🙂 It’s funny, every time somebody does something just because their friends are doing it, people simultaneously yell “GROUP SCRIPT!” I’m sure nobody will forget this course, so I hope you two continue to teach at HKIS for as long as possible and continue inspiring kids.

Thank you and I hope you both have a well-rested October break!

All the best,
Isabelle

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About martinschmidtinasia

I have served as a humanities teacher at Hong Kong International School since 1990, teaching history, English, and religion courses. Since the mid-1990's I have also come to assume responsibility for many of the school's service learning initiatives. My position also included human care ministry with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Hong Kong, southern China, and others parts of Asia from 1999-2014. Bringing my affluent students into contact with people served by the LCMS in Asia has proved to be beneficial to students and our community partners alike. Through these experience I have become committed to social conscience education, which gives students the opportunity to find their place in society in the context of challenging global realities.
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21 Responses to Social Conscience Education and the Traditional Chinese Worldview: Helping Students Navigate Cultural Differences

  1. Pingback: The cultural gap between Equity and Equality « Fair For All

  2. Jaclyn P says:

    As a Chinese third culture kid, I was surprised at how many of the views above actually related to my family at one time or another. My parents and grandparents have always been adamant about focusing only on our family and myself. They once scolded my sister for allowing someone to go in front of her in the bathroom line because that lady was obviously in an emergency to use the bathroom–they told my sister it was none of her business and that the line was first come first serve. My parents got really mad at me once when they gave me 100 dollars and I gave it all to a charity the next day because I had ‘wasted’ all that money–if I had spent it on yet another shirt or accessory or book for myself, they would have been fine with it. According to my parents, our needs and desires are the most important thing in this world. Every time I mentioned service in the past (i.e. my SOS Riding for the Disabled, service trips, my views on service, etc…), my parents would always remind me that service will not bring money on the dinner table; hard work and determination will. Its as if they feel like service is not of the same caliber as taking up a job at JP Morgan. However, as the years went by, my parents and I slowly began to reach the same page in this ongoing argument. They realized why I really loved service and understood the reasons why it was so important to me. I realized the truth staring me straight in the face–I can’t do service unless I can provide for myself as well. Money has always been very important to my parents who grew up in poverty–everyday would be a struggle to earn enough money to survive for the rest of the week for them. I grew up in a world where money was never a real problem–thus I’ve never really understood what it means to not have enough money to eat–I’ve never had my life on the line because of money. Thus, the best compromise I can make is to live a life focused on the service that I am passionate about, while still somehow finding means to have a stable income in order to provide for myself.

  3. Jaclyn, it seems that you learned something new about yourself and your family, which is my goal here. There really is a contrast in worldviews and values implicit in the activity of service that is larger than the individual dynamics of a given family. This understanding in itself can help you be more patient with your family as well as help you to see their side of things, which, given their life conditions, makes a lot of sense. I do think that the compromise, or “Middle Way”, that you suggest for yourself is what we’re searching for, although every person will have to come to their own conclusion. I also think that this is one reason the concept of social entrepreneurship is so interesting to HKIS students – it proposes such a Middle Way. We’ll study this after Easter. Thanks for getting us onto a good start with this conversation.

  4. Stephanie says:

    I believe that the cliche saying ” How can you love someone when you don’t even love yourself.” really applies here for a lot of the kids that struggle between home values and service experience. I personally agree withIisabelle and say how can you serve someone if you can’t even ” serve” yourself. When I say “yourself” i’m not talking about being selfish but when i think about myself I always have my family in thought. They are the ones who shaped me and cared for me no matter how many times I messed up or how big the mess up was. Like Isabelle said it’s not service to care for you family it should be something that everyone should do without a question. And if you can’t even care for you family how can you enjoy taking care of strangers? My parents have never been against service or has ever tried to stop me from going on a service trip. The reason may be is because I usually do not pursue service. It’s not that I do not enjoy service but I don’t really find my interest there. I like staying true to myself, I know that some kids just say that they love service because it gives them a good image. I choose to do service when I can really relate to the cause and put in passion when working. When I choose to donate money, I wouldn’t donate money that was give from my parents, I would donate money that I made myself. The reason why I think this way is because my parents has taught me that when we help people, it shouldn’t be because we can just do it but because we actually want to help.

  5. Radhika says:

    My parents have always supported doing service and good for others, although they do come with certain limitations. As an Indian third culture kid, my parent’s lives in India were very different from what I have in Hong Kong. Although my mom had a well-off upbringing, my dad’s family was quite poor after living through the socialist revolution in Burma during the 1960’s. He had to become a refugee and travel to Nepal and then to Hong Kong, where the family created its own business. After going through all of this, my dad does know what it is like to live in quite an impoverished setting, and he always encourages me to go and do service for others. When discussing it with my mom, however, she gives it limitations. I remember once that she was mad that I was going to Hong Kong Dog Rescue because she believes that I should be doing service for humans not for animals, as humans are more important. Although I agree with that fact, I still believe that animals need the love and care that they deserve, because, just like humans, they also have feelings and were created in this world with us. My mom always tells me that “Service begins in the home,” and that I should firstly care for my family members instead of going out to help others far away (such as interim service trips).

  6. Soyoung Park says:

    When I first started doing service my freshman year as a part of Humanities 1 in Action, my parents accepted it because it was a required component of the course that would go towards my grade. In sophomore year, when they realized that the service I did came from my own choice rather than a requirement, I think they started questioning not only my reasons for doing service, but also whether or not I should be doing it at all. Every time I would go out for SOS, or when I told them that I wanted to visit Cambodia, they would always ask me if I had any homework I needed to do, or if I would be missing any school. In junior year, when I told them that I wanted to return to Kranglovear (the village I’d visited for AHiA) despite having to cram in my internship and SAT cram school, I think they finally realized that I was deciding to keep service as a serious component of my life. This was when they started genuinely supporting me doing service, but even so, I could tell that they were worried about how I would balance studying and service. Even now, I sort of think that although they’re glad I’ve come to learn how to forget our relative wealth to help others, they might have preferred it if I had picked up a sport and kept the service to just donating to organizations. My parents have never actually tried to get me to stop doing service, but the predominantly Asian value of ‘study first’ has always kept them from fully backing my enthusiasm for service. However, besides this particular value, nothing else has really gotten in the way of me, my parents, and my service. I’m not completely sure, but perhaps Korean values are slightly less stringent than Chinese values? Or maybe my parents have come to adopt more Western thought than I have given them credit for.

  7. Like Isabelle, i was born being part of a traditional Chinese family and there are times my Western views would clash with my Asian teachings. I was taught growing up that the most important thing is helping family and family comes first. When i started doing service freshmen year, my parents only thought i took the Humanities In Action class only to do less essays. But they never really understood the reasons why I actually took the class. I tried to explain myself to them that I wanted to experience service as part of of an western international school, service is really important. As I continued on doing service the next few years my parents still never understood. But that didn’t stop my passion for service nor does it stop me from still be part of my asian self. I spend quite some saturdays being part of service on saturdays and sundays spending time with my family. I try each year to balance both so my parents would support my doings of service. As a senior now and i have gone on three service interims and been part of service on saturday for four years. My parents have finally came to an conclusion. They still are unsure why i would spend my saturday using up a total of four hours from traveling home to school and back just to play with kids for an hour. But they respect my reasons of doing so and continue on supporting me with doing service. I feel that this has helped me balance between my Western views and my Asian aspects. As i move onto college, if i am given a chance to continue on doing service i will and my parents will support me.

  8. Vivienne says:

    I found the research done comparing Western and Asian approaches to science very interesting as it had not really been something I had looked carefully at. I’ve had very similar experiences with Jaclyn in that I have also at one point expressed to my family that I wanted to work in a service type career; however, I was met with the same response that is, “You need to be able to help yourself and secure yourself financially before you can start helping others.” I remember that upon hearing my father’s response I had felt slightly pessimistic about service down the road as it would obviously take me a long time to fully support myself comfortably. Over time that initial response of pessimism has developed into more of an understanding of my father’s perspective. I believe that some of the Asian values described above can actually be traced back to the Buddhist influences on Chinese and other Asian cultures. The Buddhist mentality is very self-centered as the core principles revolve around improving oneself through self-discipline, control of human desires, and developing an inner piece. This focus on a strong individual core can then be seen in the way Asians view service – we must first establish a strong foundation within ourselves and our immediate surroundings before we cater to others. On the other hand, the Western perspective, which is largely influenced by Christian beliefs, deals with the improvement of relationships between people and most importantly between God and humanity. As a result, Christian actions often become about doing actions FOR a higher being and TO others because they are children of God. Having a Buddhist father and Christian mother the differences are very obvious to me. Although both of my parents are supportive of service my mother emphasizes compassion, just as Jesus did, while my father teaches me how to develop an inner strength.

    I also think that this discussion brings up another interesting point about not only how we as culturally diverse students approach service, but how we bring service to other countries. A lot of us have done service around the world through various interims and now knowing the influences culture can have on service perspectives is our Western view of service the right way to help others, especially those with Asian backgrounds? By going to foreign lands and doing service we are acting upon a Western service perspective and therefore teaching that we should see ourselves more as a global community first. If we teach these values then are we equipping the people in foreign lands with the proper mentalities/perspectives to succeed in THEIR cultures or ours? For example if we teach about creativity, imagination, revolution would we be benefiting a child in China or teaching them values that they cannot really apply to their environments?

  9. Vivienne says:

    ^ I meant to say service NOT science…

  10. Kenneth says:

    It baffles me how this piece is so one-sided. I completely disagree with all three aspects of the so called Chinese culture that seems to be in conflict with the concept of social conscience. 1. Focus only on yourself and your family. I have seen countless of local Chinese people who occasionally give money to beggars on the street. I doubt that an asian person will not help someone in need simply because “it’s none of their business”. A taxi driver once drove all the way back to my house just to give my sister back a phone that she had left. Chinese people are willing to give up a bit of their time, effort, and money to help someone in need. 2. Play your Social Role. I agree that Chinese people emphasize the value of respect, however, I don’t think this stops people from having their own opinions and ideas. My grandpa actually encourages me to stick with what I believe in, even though I have always been taught to listen and obey my elders. I think that Chinese people are more respectful when it comes to voicing their opinions, but this doesn’t mean they won’t speak up for what they believe in when needed to. 3. Plenty of Chinese people have been revolting for many years, the government just cracks down on it before they can make any real difference. This does not mean that they do not want to revolt because they’d rather have stability. If they were given the freedom to express themselves they would. Finally, the whole idea about self efficacy and chinese people thinking they cannot make a difference compared to westerners is completely a matter of self opinion. I don’t find myself having any problem asserting myself and I have extremely high self-esteem. I think it’s unfair to base this on Brian’s idea that Asians have a much hard time asserting themselves compared to Westerners. In conclusion, I believe that Chinese people do have a social conscience regardless of their traditional values.

  11. Hi Ken,

    Thanks for your comment, Ken. I was actually quite baffled, too. I remember coming into class the day of or the day after I had done my interviews at a local school with the teachers or students (can’t remember now who I was interviewing at that time), and I said, “The students/teachers at the local school said that traditional Chinese culture is self-centered. Do you think that is true?” And two of my semi-local Chinese kids practically yelled at me, “Yes!!” I was really taken aback by the local school students, and as a researcher, I am only summarizing what was said by all the Chinese teachers at the local schools and the majority of students at the local school, and a bridge group of HKIS students who had also attended local school for some time. As far as self-efficacy, there are measurements of this, although I wouldn’t say the evidence is overwhelming, but these measures do make quite clear that Westerners score higher than people in Hong Kong on this scale. Your comment certainly will provide us with material for discussion tomorrow. (If you or anyone else would like to read what I actually wrote in my dissertation, it’s on pages 175-180 on my local school research. It’s on our class page in the same unit.)

  12. Evan says:

    Although both my parents or Chinese, I do not feel any of the limitations of Chinese culture listed above. I think this is because my parents do not heavily follow Chinese culture and they are very open to different thoughts and beliefs. As I grew older they never felt a need to impose their beliefs on me and they would let me think and do things freely. Even as a child they always told me to be an individual and to not follow the crowd. So I never really followed the chinese belief of “playing my role in society.” For service, my parents never questioned what I did. I think that they didn’t really care what kind of service I did such as some of the parents described in the other responses, but instead focused on the fact that I was trying to make an impact on this world and supported my decisions. Unlike Brian, I do not find it hard to assert myself or to try and make social changes. I don’t really think that I feel this way because I am more Western, but it’s just who I am as a person. I agree that many Chinese have these cynical views and ways of thinking because I can see it in my relatives that live in China that completely follow the Chinese culture. I do not do much service, but I think it is important that you stay genuine to yourself and your own beliefs. Not the beliefs or your parents of peers, but your own when choosing where to help. I have yet to find my passion in service and would really like to find something that I can relate to.

  13. Jason says:

    As a Chinese born in Hong Kong I have witnessed many social and political changes throughout my childhood. Ever since the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, some Hong Kong people have been voicing their concerns about many issues; one of them was the issue of universal suffrage. Hong Kong has Special Administrative Region status, which provides us with the policy of “one country, two systems”. But many people still believe that they do not have the rights that they deserve under a separate system from Mainland China. I do not agree that, “Chinese students don’t have the capacity to make a difference or they cannot revolt.” I believe that it is the other way around and that the Chinese worldview is following the footsteps of the Western worldview of questioning authority. Hong Kong people are using this opportunity to promote innovative ideas and creativity by fighting to make a difference in society.

    For example, the Civil Human Rights Front an organization that focuses on issues of Hong Kong politics and livelihood has been on the clash with the problem of universal suffrage. Ever since the handover, there have been demands for freedom of speech and preservation of civil liberties through many protests. The most notable one is the annual Hong Kong 1st of July marches, which was when the citizens of Hong Kong can voice their opinions through peaceful protest. The power of the Hong Kong people ultimately led to Basic Law’s Article 45, which states that the ultimate goal is universal suffrage that will take place for Chief Executive elections in 2017 and Legislative Council elections in 2020. I believe that Chinese people can make a difference; even after the Chief Executive elections there were already people protesting about “small-circle elections”. How can a city with 7 million people have only 1200 people making the calls? Many people viewed the elections as staged because of Beijing’s control with the nomination process. Which absolutely defeats the purpose for a genuine election process. Therefore I wholeheartedly believe that Chinese people have the ability to assert themselves and follow what is truly right for them. The evidence just shows that people in Hong Kong are determined to fight for their democracy.

  14. Calvin says:

    I agree with the second and third social conscience, but I feel the first one is incorrect. They do value family higher, but almost all cultures share the same feeling and to the same extent. However, the “play your social role” aspect only applies because China use to be an empire, so the people were oppressed whenever they speak up. I feel like this mindset has been built after years of oppression. In a way the people are still oppressed today, so its not that they voluntarily follow their leader, but more like they are forced to. Like the second one, I feel this characteristic only rose also because of government oppression. It is a myth that the government created to scare the population from revolting. So whenever new ideas of democracy appears, or something goes against the chinese government, the government cracks down on the case. I feel like, if the population was left to come up wiht their own decisions, these culture clashes wont have happened

  15. Annie So says:

    I think this article definitely generalizes the Chinese population too much. 1) Focus only on yourself and your family – That is definitely not true. The Chinese people emphasizes “community,” but this community is shaped in the form of concentric circles, and though family is undeniably the first and foremost important, they also encompass the Chinese and worldwide community too. I agree with Jason in that Chinese people may be more withdrawn and put more emphasis on manners and proper conduct, but they definitely do voice their opinions, but in manners that is considerate to the community as a whole. Again, playing your social role and bringing about change – the reason why they aren’t so direct and revolutionary with it, is because they are more concerned with the harmony of the community as a whole. However, stability is valued more permanently, and if stability is threatened in the long term, that is reason for revolution.

    Personally, my cultural background (probably because my parents are so open), does not limit me when I carry out service. What it does affect, is how I approach and view service. China has had 5000 years of history, and they have carried on generation after generation by focusing their perspective on maintaining and prospering the community. And essentially, that is what I find myself often doing reflecting upon – how the orphanage can thrive and how they’re organized, as opposed to being caught up by individual achievements. The western approach to service – the emotional appeal, is starting to spread worldwide and is now largely incorporated in Asian service campaigning, and no doubt it has its benefits. However, I think that this creates an “emotional marketplace” where we often find ourselves reaching out not to those who are most in need, but those who can generate the most touching clips or the saddest photos. Thus I try to seek out my Asian side, where I am motivated by the idea of serving under the umbrella of a larger movement generated by the compassion of my community, rather than to feed off my personal sense of accomplishment.

  16. Janine Ng says:

    As a third world kid, I’ve lived in a bunch of different cultures. The culture in Hong Kong back when I was younger is a lot different than the culture in America and also the culture in Malaysia. My life in America was a lot more upscale compared to my life in Malaysia. In America, I was only there at a really young age so I don’t really know what the curriculum for high school is like there. But coming to HKIS it was really when I learned about the world. They taught us a lot about the things that are happening and they have so many different varieties of ways in which we could help them. And because I grew up in such a culture where opportunities are so great, my parents have learned to support me. My mom definitely does because at one point she worked with mentally and physically disabled adults for a couple years and she loves seeing me do service. My parents both come from Malaysian and Chinese background, but my parents both lived their post-college lives with a bunch of other white people (not a bad thing) and so they became very westernized. My parents haven’t lost their mother tongue nor their beliefs, but Chinese culture doesn’t affect my attitude or theirs on service at all. They are always teling me that they’re happy about how much service I do and they’re proud that I’m trying to make a difference. My family lives well, as so most families in HKIS, and I’ve personally learned not to taking anything for granted, but instead reach out to others because it’s in MY personal culture and nature to help others who don’t have anyone else.

  17. Kristen says:

    I have never felt that my parents or culture has limited me with service. I have also been taught that family comes first, then the community. My family has always encouraged me to help others and give back to the community. They have also accompanied me with some of my service, for example, when my Mom and I went to Vietnam on a service trip. It is a tradition in my family to give back to the community, so they have always supported me with this. Both my parents’ families also emphasized the importance of service, and that is one of the reasons why serving others has become something that has continued throughout generations. I do understand some of the points made in this post and can see how they can influence views on service, such as the view that social change brings chaos, however, I do not think that these views on service are applicable to everyone. I think that some of these views are universal, such as playing your own social role. I think that in any culture, it can be difficult to step out of your own social role in order to help others.

  18. Danny Wee says:

    I have been raised in a Korean family and therefore, the values in my family are slightly different from the Chinese values and I believe every individual and every family has their own values. We cannot just assume that every Chinese embrace those three values, especially the third-culture people because drifting away from the local culture and becoming a part third-culture melts down some of those Chinese values. Since most of the HKIS population are either fully western or westernized asian, I think that those values are not true when it comes to describing HKIS students and in some cases, their families. As for my family, the three values introduced above don’t apply to our family. We never talked about any values that conflict with me doing service through either school or church. They have never tried to resist whenever I went on service trips. Perhaps it was because service wasn’t a great part of my high school life and didn’t impact my grades at all. But they’ve always stood on the positive side on doing service. In fact, both of my parents have been telling me that they are willing to do service themselves when they get to slow down later in life. My mother has already started to go on regular service trips to Sham Shui Po every month with her church members. She believes that there is no reason for her to refrain from doing service when she is fully capable of doing it. My dad thinks the same way, but he just doesn’t have the time to spare just yet. Both of my parents grew up in fully local families and graduated school in Korea. My dad went to college in U.K. but majority of his education was done in Korea. Most people would think that they would adhere to traditional Korea values. However, they’ve been living overseas long enough (roughly 15 years) to drop a lot of those values. They don’t integrate much of the Korean values in doing service, they simply think that they should help the ones in need, no matter where they are or who they are. And that idea has influenced me as well. Although I see myself more as a Korean than a westernized Korean, I absolutely have no problem with accepting the western perspective of doing service. There aren’t any conflicting emotions or ideas like a kid from a traditional Chinese family has.

  19. Pingback: Education for Transformation: Introducing Humanities I in Action | Social Conscience and Inner Awakening

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