Jul 20, 2017 By Matt Poulter , eChinacities.com

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
Photo: wetnoseguide.com

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

81 Comments Add your comment



There is nothing more shameful than to be the first in one's family to embrace the most shameful expression of a foreign society. There is nothing more Western than feminism. There is nothing more feminist than female-initiated divorce.
The next-most shameful thing is to encourage someone to be the first in his or her family to embrace the most shameful expression of a foreign society.

Dec 15, 2011 11:55 Report Abuse



I completely agree with you. I'm an American and I refuse to marry an American woman because they seem to change spouses as often as they change their clothes. Many times it's the woman who initiates it. I find it offensive and disgusting regardless of who initiates the divorce.

Dec 15, 2011 17:37 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



shils are always claiming that there is a feminism movement going in the west, but what i see is a west that is saturated with porn; where women have to dress like prostitutes to be liked; and the west is a society that accepts that casting directors can demand sex from actresses, especially underage girls. how is that feminist? the west just looks like a society run by male shauvinist sexist pedophile perverts. i dont sympathize with feminism, but the west definitely doesnt resemble anything remotely feminist. whoring around is NOT feminism no matter what the ClA tells you

Jan 14, 2018 14:38 Report Abuse



Crass Commercialism belongs on the ugly side...along with it's PR Agents, "Hip-Hop" Mentality

Dec 15, 2011 14:44 Report Abuse



perfunctory article

Dec 15, 2011 15:17 Report Abuse



perfunctory comment

Dec 15, 2011 23:11 Report Abuse



I wonder what miserable guy gave me the thumbs down for my comment... hahaha

Dec 16, 2011 03:49 Report Abuse



I still wonder, "Who are you perfunctory man?" 一个 =miserable guy trolling such a site... oh yeah! Look at the chinese character classifier for ge pointing at you... perfunctory punk...

Dec 16, 2011 09:33 Report Abuse



I'm from America. I visited Shenzhen in October. I felt completely at home while there. Everyone was really nice, polite, and respectful, which is also how I treated everyone. I was amazed at the number of people who could speak English. I'm now engaged to a beautiful Chinese lady and we've submitted the paperwork to get her moved to America so we can get married. We inadvertantly met while I was in Shenzhen. :)

Dec 15, 2011 17:35 Report Abuse



As a male American who has lived in Shenzhen and is engaged to a girl from Shenzhen, do you have any insight that you might like to offer us as to why Shenzhen has such a high divorce rate? What do you think the cause is?

Dec 15, 2011 17:57 Report Abuse



Ha ha... Good point. Hope it was last October.

Dec 18, 2011 06:01 Report Abuse



maybe the hongers?

Jan 14, 2018 14:40 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



I don't know about other American men, but I would be willing to put up with most of those things. Even if Chinese females are (and I doubt that they all are) most of those things, they are still less likely to divorce, less likely to have slept around, and less likely to have affairs. That makes them superior to Western females in terms of marriageability.

Dec 15, 2011 19:30 Report Abuse



What would be great is an Asian looking woman, with the personality of a westener. chinese girls have no personality whatsoever. They have nothing to talk about. many of them don't even like to socalise. Ask any Chinese girl what their hobbies are, and I bet they all say sleeping...pathetic.

Dec 15, 2011 20:19 Report Abuse



I completely agreed! hahahah....to make the matters, they chinese gals of this era they have one of full-force that know one's dare to stop them from what they want to do....pitiful for their parents though they are the one to blame for their undiscipline!!! Money and lies is what most of the chinese gals believe in as part of life.........I rather call china as "sodomize" people of our 21st era...lol

Dec 19, 2011 07:23 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


the dude

I thought this list wasn't very good. First, how can you blame the West for the current traffic jam crisis facing China today? Lower cars, plus rising incomes--plus the obession of cars--is the leading cause, not the West. That is just one example of this problem ridden article--no facts, no point, no proof for the most part. And I love how you say that once the government does something, things change. Yeah right. Do better research next time before posting.

Dec 15, 2011 19:02 Report Abuse



in the long run the west will move into china, sad. china is a loving country with more kindness than any western city. i live in the US and just vacationed in china. it is different and refreshing. somethings need to catch up to western styles like toilets and hot water. over all China works and the amount of people should test to that as fact. i would hope after the fad wears down the norm will set back in. china is a great country, just under different rule that's it.

Dec 15, 2011 20:26 Report Abuse



I, too, dread China's Westernization. I have been monitoring their government's valiant efforts to resist such things as Hollywood and Facebook. I applaud them for it, but I wonder whether that's enough.
Simple-minded Asian-o-philes from the West already have South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. I wish they would allow at least one significant East Asian nation to remain uncontaminated.
Oh but I totally agree with regard to toilets and a very small number of other things.

Dec 15, 2011 20:51 Report Abuse



"china is a loving country with more kindness than any western city" LOL! You're funny!

Dec 15, 2011 23:21 Report Abuse