Tag Archives: Groups

China: Group of individuals or individual group?

Hello readers! I recently came back from my exchange in Hong Kong. I’ve had the chance to travel through Asia and feel the east culture first hand.

What most shocked me about Asia was their “group culture”. They do everything in groups and the tendency to group thinking is much higher than in Europe. You could see it in many occasions, for example when you asked a question to some of them rarely did they just directly answer, they normally called some other people nearby and expose the question (in Chinese) so they could speak about it before answering. One could feel how they were much more comfortable this way. This is something I could also observe in Japan, when I attended the 55th edition of the International Student Conference in Tokyo last year. In our debate table about environmental issues there was an approximate 50-50 mix between westerners and Japanese and when we were planning the final presentation we openly started discussing how to organize it. The Japanese students were not really taking active part of the discussion and when we reached what looked like an agreement on the content and the structure the chief of the table said something like: “Ok, that sounds good, but let us [the Japanese] have some time to discuss it”. So then they spent about 10 minutes discussing in Japanese and when they reached a consensus the chief expressed all their doubts and ideas. No individual opinion expression again, we were quite shocked with the situation then.

In my opinion, this collective thinking and acting could help explain how can an authoritarian government still successfully rule a country which has the second biggest GDP in the world (in nominal and PPP) and how such a big country with such population can stay united (not that it hasn’t struggled of course). Other countries like Russia and Canada have more than 17 times less density, so it is not quite comparable (see the territories and countries population density list by the United Nations).

Moreover, focusing on China: How dangerous can a mass of 1.3 billion group-thinking people led by an authoritarian, strongly influencing and highly keen on censorship government be? However focused they are at the moment on inner growth and on boosting their exports there will be a time when priorities change and they will probably look for more power. This makes me think about how there has been leaders through history that have arrived to the power by democratic means and then have turned crazy and led their country/empire to disaster, dragging the world together with them. I don’t want to imagine what some future leader of the Communist Party in China could manage to do with such a powerful country under his command, with no opposition parties and with no media criticism. Who will get to power in China in the future without this big filter of democracy and without freedom of speech is a huge concern that the world should have.

Am I exaggerating my fears? Debate is open!