The Western Influence on China: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Western Influence on China: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Jul 20, 2017 By Matt Poulter ,

History shows that emerging Asian powers have, on occasion, used established and dominant Western cultures as models in the course or cause of their development. For instance, Meiji Japan and its rapid adoption of mainly US western military traditions and fashions, and even India, which, with its elitist and exclusive clubs and schools, still seems more British than contemporary Britain.

Modern China is no exception, but this time around it is the ubiquitous ‘brand and lifestyle' consumerism of the West that is the spur. From DVDs, to Apple stores, ‘Mister Christmas' and entire Austrian villages, China's copy-cat culture is well documented. In the last few years so many goods, services and customs have been transposed from the West that cities like Shanghai or Shenzhen increasingly feel like dystopian homes from home for the expats who live there.

Here is a selection of some of the good, the bad and the ugly ways that China is becoming more recognisably Western.   

The Western Influence on China: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Good

1) Cafes
Incredibly, tea and China  can seem like an anachronistic pairing these days, as walking around any modern Chinese city you're far more likely to come across a cafe with hordes of fashionable young Chinese sipping lattes and cappuccinos. This rise in popularity of coffee culture can be accurately chartered by the astronomical influx of Starbucks, which has gone from a single store in 1999 to over 500 today.

China also boasts its own somewhat familiarly decked out cafe chain, SPR Coffee. Unless you're a tea fanatic whose lips will only let pass liquid from a thimble-sized porcelain cup with floating leaf matter in it (this does stil exist), you'll agree that the rise of a coffee culture is a good thing – not least because of all the new, clean Western toilets you now have access to for that dreaded rumble of the stomach after a strong brew.    

2) Gyms
Although we've all become used to blowing our rent money on gym memberships, it is arugably a joy that thousands of good quality urban gyms have sprung up all across China. Even if you're not a regular gym bunny at home, China is likely to change your mind as car fumes make most street-side runs wheeze inducing. Even jogging in the parks poses a health hazard in terms of eyeball-poking taiji practitioners and invisible garrote-like kite strings trailing across paths. In contrast, exercising in one of the new relatively calm, well ventilated gym venues is an attractive and much safer alternative. 

3) Anti-smoking laws
China's anti-smoking laws are a welcome adoption (for all non-smokers) of the West's zero tolerance on  indoor smoking. Okay, there's obviously a long way to go in China as it's still common to see patients and staff lighting up in hospitals, but one of the great things about China is that once it legislates to do something, it's not too long before it does it! The foot is in the metaphorical door. 

4) Queuing culture
The lack of queuing in China has driven many an expat wild, especially if you have been brought up with this street etiquette as standard. But never fear, it seems this aspect of the Colonial cultural legacy in Hong Kong has been positively noted by the Chinese government. Big city metros are awash with government advertisements urging residents to queue for trains and let passengers off first. Hopefully in the not too distant future, a train door opening will not signify a battle for life and death where grannies are trampled to the ground and push chairs are used as battering rams.

The Bad

1) Traffic jams
Even just a decade ago, in many Chinese cities the only noise pollution was the tinkling of thousands of bike bells, and all you had to worry about on your journey home from work was the occasional rain shower. Now, of course, two wheels have been replaced for four and horns cry out through the evening rush hour as commuters sit in some of the world's longest traffic jams. China's city ring roads and freeways, like the American roads they were built to resemble, now boast maddening congestion and choking pollution, the by-product of copying a Western urban development model. 

2) Hypermarkets
Small, local food markets in China are becoming a dying species as they are crowded out by development and gargantuan new Western-style hypermarkets. Yes, they were often smelly and not always the most sanitary of places, but they offered cheap, fresh produce, not to mention an opportunity to hone your Chinese bargaining skills. Life in China would be a lot less colourful without them, just as it is in the West. 

The Ugly 

1) Obesity
When visiting the West after protracted periods living in China, one of the first things that strikes many expats is the level of obesity in their own countries. The waist sizes of many Westerners were once double that of most Chinese. Nowadays, however, China is in the midst of its own obesity epidemic and the difference between Western and Eastern BMIs are becoming less notable.

A primary cause of the Chinese obesity crisis must surely lie with the increasing prevalence of Western style fast food chains and their Chinese knock-offs (has anyone visited a CBC: China Best Chicken?). Several fast food joints can now be found in every large shopping mall, airport and city centre in China, just like in most American and European cities.        

2) Pet grooming studios
Pets have always been valued in Chinese culture, but it is only in the last few years we've seen an explosion of pet grooming studios and parlours. Animal cleanliness is not to be sniffed at, but the rainbow -coloured Poodles and pony-tailed Pekinese gracing China's streets look as absurd as they do miserable.

Of course this is not a one-way street, as the growing interest of the West in all things Chinese (not least the mega-money to bail out their failing economies) testifies. Indeed, it might not be too long before we find that China, with its economic might, re-exporting Chinese adapted versions of Western brands to our own home countries. In 50 years time walking down a street in London, complete with its SPRs and CBCs, might be just like a stroll through Beijing!

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Keywords: Western culture in China modernization of China how China is adopting western values changing Chinese culture


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this list is obviously made by a westerner. cafes are definitely not a good thing. why do you need cafes? you want to drink coffee, go buy a bottle of coffee at the supermarket. there is 0 need for cafes, and i fail to see how that makes society better. youll also notice that the more western china becomes, the greedier it becomes. what youll notice is that "nice westerners" dont generally go to china, its the inperialists who do, and thats why they will bring along with them the worst habits from the west. i also find it very disturbing how the west has affected the way chinese women dress, although its not quite as bad as hk/tw just yet. it used to be that chinese people ate healthy, but now with chinese are eating all this junk food like the west, and im sure thats going to affect the health of people. materialism is another thing that was adopted from the west, and it theres no doubt that its going to drive up crime, because not everyone can afford an iphone, so you will see people comiting crimes to buy that iphone. individualism is another problem coming from the west. as people become more individualized, family and societies will begin to break down. when china was comunist, people were very cohesive, and united, but as chinese begin to become individualized, you will see society fall apart. another thing that bothers me about western culture is how they sensationalize singers, and actors who were never meant to be sensationalized to begin with. you look at people like richard gere and they have terrible character. that should be something that is never emulated. unfortunately, thats becoming reality in china, thanks to the west.

Jan 14, 2018 14:12 Report Abuse



I'd like to edit some of the grammar mistakes I made back in 2011 or would that be revisionism?

Jul 21, 2017 23:41 Report Abuse



this aint english class, take your revisionism elsewhere. maybe to these fashist sites like redit

Jan 14, 2018 14:14 Report Abuse



Why is an article from 6 years ago being re-posted? Clearly this is just 'troll-baiting' people to create an argument. Globalization is happening everywhere to everyone. We are all living this life together. Only together will we survive as a species.

Jul 21, 2017 14:46 Report Abuse



we're all living this life together. only together will we survive as a species. i wish inperialists would take the same approach when dealing with muslims, and their intolerance towards islam

Jan 14, 2018 14:13 Report Abuse



wow. when shils disagree with the article, they start complaining about gramar. i bet if this article was about how islam was complaining about how muslims were "ruining the decadent western way of life", the shils would be silent

Jan 14, 2018 14:16 Report Abuse



feminism has gone so far in the west that porn has saturated the internet, young women feel the need to dress like prostitutes in order to be liked. women, just like 100 years ago, have to sleep with directors to get acting roles. yea, real feminist aint it

Jan 14, 2018 14:17 Report Abuse



i dont think that its a secret that mcdonalds, kfc, taco bell, all serve foods that are unhealthy, and are downright dangerous. coca cola was known to have put cocaine in their drinks. walmart in china has been known to sell expired food. lets be straight here, westerners think that chinese are easy to bully, and thats why westerners do whatever they want in china without any regard for the law. in fact, white westerners are reckless throughout the 3world. it disgusts me that anyone buys name brands from the west to allow them to continue their inperialist destruction, and exploitation

Jan 14, 2018 14:21 Report Abuse



urgh, I can't believe I wasted time of my life reading this rubbish!! The west sucks the east sucks you all suck, time for WWIII. end it already! bring on the apocalypse ffs!! Do you people even know what you're arguing about anymore. I can't believe I was duped into replying to some if these posts. I can't believe I was thick enough to be interested in this article and get caught up in the interdiarrea that has been splattered on my screen by some of you people.

Dec 22, 2011 18:30 Report Abuse



ok now go back to voa and reading ClA manuscripts, and dont come back

Jan 14, 2018 14:22 Report Abuse



japan, taiwan, and south korea dont have pride. they just want to please their western masters, and are 99% of the time willing to sacrifice their own culture, and way of life just to accomodate the west

Jan 14, 2018 14:30 Report Abuse



HP is a pair of nuts and Bozo is a clown! What else can you say?

Dec 16, 2011 02:17 Report Abuse


Amanda R

This article is terrible, and the comments are worse. There is no evidence in anything stated. Traffic jams are not the result of Western influence. Not obeying traffic laws is the result of traffic jams, which is completely non-western. We enforce our traffic laws in the west because we fear being prosecuted and we love our neighbors. The Chinese have no respect for the possible loss of life of other people when they don't obey traffic laws. And this is just one example of this stuipidly written article. I could point by point rip it apart. Even catagorizing each of these things as "good band and ugly western influence" is flat out racist.

As for the sexist trolls posting responses, female initiated divorce is a sign of progress in a country. No longer are women subjugated to the abuses of the husbands, but are equals who have the strength and freedom to say "no" to abuse. It is disgusting men like you who give Western men a band name. You are not good enough for a Western woman to put up with you so you come to China to find a woman you can suppress, control, and will kowtow to your every whim. I pity your wives and any daughters you may have. You know why the divirce rate is higher in Shenzhen? Because it is a modernizing city and the women know that men like you are dangerous for the health and well-being.

Dec 15, 2011 20:57 Report Abuse



Hey amanda don't get down about what those guys said. These guys in China are a dime a dozen and they all have the same things to say. "I hate american/british/canadian/australian/etc. girls!" All I can think is really buddy? Do you hate them or is it just that they aren't interested in you?

These guys that can't attract girlfriends in their own society let it go right to their head getting fawned over by these chinese girls. They put down western girls for having real standards. Don't pay them any mind.

Dec 15, 2011 23:27 Report Abuse


comment|23047|59648, you're the same guy that is engaged to a Chinese woman and will now be taking her away from this country you love and defend so much? Why is that?

Dec 22, 2011 18:08 Report Abuse



Sorry, should have mentioned that my reply was to Wolff

Dec 22, 2011 18:20 Report Abuse



did it ever occur to you that the british, american, canadian, and australian girls are the ones doing the hating?

Jan 14, 2018 14:24 Report Abuse



i dont think we need troll alerts. we need an alert when an actual netizen posts who isnt on the payroll of some ngo, or intel ajency.

Jan 14, 2018 14:28 Report Abuse



Once upon a time Chinese woman was said to be the Best Wife. But now that has changed big time.

1. Self centered. Most important is Money. If you have money they will accept u however u are.
2. Big Attitude. Mostly when praised, their attitude goes sky high leaving everything in sight far below.
3. They have men trying to court/please/seduce them at every drop of Hat. Due to this they project an impression that men need them but they really need them as much. They would also stay alone if required.
4. They simply want to copy the western culture, w/o knowing the causes & reasons behind it. (for e.g. Apple Iphone & a Copied Iphone).

With all due respect to all the women around. These are the few common things I have seen in various women in Shenzhen. No offence meant in anyway.

peace ya'll ^_^

Dec 15, 2011 18:59 Report Abuse



hehe, while there are quite a few good women here in, there are many of them bad girls out there too.Depending on which ones you meet, I think this is a very uninformed sentence .."they are still less likely to divorce, less likely to have slept around, and less likely to have affairs". I think there was a reason why they blocked Badoo

Dec 22, 2011 18:04 Report Abuse



well, we definitely didnt have to worry about people copying western culture during the comunist era. i guess thats why i call it the good old days

Jan 14, 2018 14:41 Report Abuse



money and lies, you must have been in hk/tw

Jan 14, 2018 14:42 Report Abuse



maybe the hongers?

Jan 14, 2018 14:40 Report Abuse



Yea, so everyone should adhere to your positions of social structure and regulations. Everyone should obey you, and what you say goes, without thinking, without their own ideas, and without their own personal beliefs in mind. Just yours, right? But, my guess is, yours aren't even your own; you yourself are probably just spewing patriarchal, egotistical, self-centered nonsense because that is the established, albeit eroding and proven-to-be-very-socially-destructive system. You are backward-looking, and obviously care little about anyone around you. You are a imitation king with a idiot's mind, and all society suffers from your silly, self-serving whims. Dooshbag.

Dec 22, 2011 00:27 Report Abuse



By the way Terry, it is obvious that you came to China to find a submissive wife, and probably already have one. If you weren't a fat slob drooling over a computer, maybe an American woman, one with real choices in life, would want to stay with you. Just because your Chinese wife is economically dependent on you, does not mean that she cares at all for you, and does not mean that she does not want to leave you. I hope you are satisfied with that, and find it fulfilling that a woman has to be stuck with you just to stay with you. I hate to think of all the sadistic, controlling shit your wife has to go through, just so you feel secure in your masculinity, and with who you are. Just remember, ANY girl would leave YOU if it was easy for her, not just an American girl. That is why you hate women with choices.

Dec 22, 2011 00:38 Report Abuse