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 that it is not happy with equal rights but demands more rights then that of men. Many of the women of China are a little like the western world was some decades ago when everyone had a male/ female role and most were happy and content. My Chinese wife will always use the umbrella when in the sun. She chooses not where make up and does not need too. She will not let me cook supper but will let me make a western style breakfast for us. Has great natural poise and posture. Will definately speak her mind and hold firm to her view if necessary but at no time will falter with her love for me. I adore and treat her very well, as she does for me. I'm blessed. She is a product of China!

Sep 21, 2012 06:10 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


boo laiwei

GOOD: visa entry easier than ever. Fake DVD's are only 9 RMB.

BAD: arrogance, recycled cooking oil, lack of driving awareness, insistence on brand names, still regarding non-chinese as outsiders. Lack of aircon during summer and heating during winter in Shanghai. No idea what quality is. Fake goods everywhere. Consumer electronics are dangerous.

UGLY: inability to question anyone in uniform about anything. this goes from a cop to a McDonalds worker who gave you a cold Big Mac.

Jan 02, 2012 22:26 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



1. Divorce Rate has been Boomed in China,Despite Marriage is name of commitment,Which is unfortunately Neglected,Couples has been gonna Independent!!!

2. Alcohol is Treated as a water(Baijiu).Chinese men point of view about Alcohol is,If you dont use Strong Drink you haven't got BALL'S.

Alcohol has been the scourge of human society since time immemorial. It continues to cost countless human lives, and causes terrible misery to millions throughout the world. Alcohol is the root cause of several problems facing society. The statistics of soaring crime rates, increasing instances of mental illnesses and millions of broken homes throughout the world bear mute testimony to the destructive power of alcohol.

A pamphlet about Alcohol that says:
If alcohol is a disease, it is the only disease that:
- Is sold in bottles
- Is advertised in newspapers, magazines, on radio and television
- Has licensed outlets to spread it
- Produces revenue for the government
- Brings violent deaths on the highways
- Destroys family life and increases crime
- Has no germs or viral cause

It's a Handy Work of Satan!!!

There is none of coin who had got 1 side,Keep the balance of the coin,Otherwise it will fall down.Chinese couples should be aware of their Responsibilities on each others,they shouldn't be get Distracked by West,and Everything will run smooth

Dec 24, 2011 22:45 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



North Korean president Kim Jong il is DEAD

Dec 19, 2011 19:15 Report Abuse



Seems like the americans have taken over the asylum again!!

Dec 18, 2011 03:34 Report Abuse



Simple rule is when discussing the unknown, madness always looms....So yeah, I agree the USA spends most of it's time tryin' to determine if it truly is insane or not...That's what happens when no one's providing the answers to the mistakes it's made (or is worried about making), because there's none available.

Dec 18, 2011 20:03 Report Abuse



I don't fully know what you mean by your comment because this is an open forum. I am anxious to hear your European thoughts. Oops! I didn't mean to call you European if in fact you are British. I know how sensitive the British are to being called European. Why does anyone like the Brits anyway? Most Brits are pompus, arrogant complainers that have a lot to say but nothing to contribute. I like the Brits because they invented the punk. But, you guys need to get off of your high-horse and start producing again. You have become the people who complain while sitting on the sidelines. Where is the "BALLS" your great empire once had? To steal a phrase from Jack Nicholson(sp), "I'm drowning and you're describing the water!" Sorry Brits, I'm picking on you. Really I don't know where MisterP is from. but I am open to rebuttal from everyone. Isn't that what makes this website great? I'm instigating a fight, so let me have it people.

Dec 19, 2011 07:02 Report Abuse



The brits gave up their balls long ago. They are content to be the Most Powerful Lackeys in the World, mindlessly obeying their new Masters: U.S.A. We in Spain had the guts to tell the US to stuff it. The French cry and run away (which is why they need a foreign legion, the regular french are too effete to fight!). Only in Spain will you find the true balls of manhood!

Dec 19, 2011 07:37 Report Abuse


Bartholomew Connor-Davies

poppycock! If it was not for us Brits then Spain's tourist and crime industry of the Costa Del Sol et al would never of allowed the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid to buy 150m euro football players. As for telling the U.S.A. to stuff it? Humbug!

Jan 02, 2012 22:31 Report Abuse


Harry Paratestecles

seansarto: Why do you waste so many words on a guy that is such a fucking nutbag? You don't owe that jackass any explanation. Come on're smarter than that.

Dec 17, 2011 19:05 Report Abuse



Harry Testes,
I love you man. You're right. I like how you cut straight through the B.S. and get right to the point. Some people on this website have disagreed with you, but I find that you are right 99% of the time. Just wanted to spread the love. You make me laugh. Thanks.

Dec 17, 2011 20:53 Report Abuse



hey scruffy nuts...piss off you wanker

Dec 18, 2011 01:57 Report Abuse



Look "tiredoflosers."
Harry, may in fact have a hairy pair of nuts. And the more hairy the better. But at least he's got some. Some advice, if I were you, I would review your screen name and seriously consider whether or not you fall into that category yourself. Harry at least has a creative name. It's funny. Your name, NOT funny. Are you a man or woman? Culturally, we usually reference men as being "losers" in the USA. I think it is probably because of the traditional roles of men and women. To call a man a loser means more hurt than to call a woman a loser because guys are responsible for buying drinks for the ladies. Just my opinion, but it is probably similar in other English speaking countries. So your screen name implies you are either a woman or you're gay, and you're pissed off at some bad sex episode you had because you got too drunk in a bar and made some bad choices.

Which losers are you tired of? The guys who are out here because they are perverts and exploit the easy Chinese women? Well, my chinese college professor back home warned me. She said, if you stay in China long enough, then you become one. I have a tendency to agree with her. I look at American women and think they are disgustingly overweight. I look at Chinese women and think they are gorgeous. Does this make me a pervert, or just human? This is a benefit to China that I did not discover until after I came here. I had no idea how beautiful Chinese women are. As a man, I have a natural tendency to want to savor the Chinese landscape. Walking down the street in China, I constantly say to myself, "damn!' I can't believe what I am seeing! These girls are wearing these tight ass cut-off shorts and I can see her butt. In America, ugh! I have to look the other way because I feel like vomiting! The only other way I would agree with Wolff, has to do with the westernization of Chinese women. To all Chinese women out there, PLEASE don't get fat. It raises healthcare costs, which affects everyone, and it is just simply not appealing to anyone! My comment might sound materialistic and shallow to some of you, fine. I have a right to be shallow sometimes. Foreign women in China are freakin ugly. However, I do see some European women that are smoking hot on occasion. Not to defame my own country, but I have to say, when you see another foreigner in China and you are contemplating where they might be from, just look at their waist size. An overweight individual is most likely from America. This is one of those stereotypes that is true and is well documented. My fellow Americans, get your lazy ass to a gym, and stop blaming it on genetics. It is habitual!

Eh, "tiredoflosers" I actually just decided I like you too. Are you American? Wanker, I believe came from the UK, but American rap stars have seemed to highjack the term.

Dec 18, 2011 03:35 Report Abuse


Harry Paratestecles

Damn...that really hurt my feelings, random Internet person :(

Dec 19, 2011 18:51 Report Abuse


Stacks McGuigan

Amanda, Ill let you in on a little seret:

Most of the people writing for this website are underpaid students with no time to do proper research. The people posting comments are all expats (mainly american) who live solitary lifestyles spending way to much time online and all carrying terrible grudges. Sad people with rarely something constructive to contribute.

Dec 16, 2011 03:51 Report Abuse