Sinophiles on China

Learn about Chinese culture through the eyes of sinophiles

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Become a Guest Blogger

Have something interesting to say about anything China and/or Chinese Culture? We’d love to have you as a Guest Blogger. It’s just like being a regular blogger without all the nitty-gritty details.

Here’s what to do.

1. Write something
2. Put it in an email to madeincharlie@gmail.com
3. In the subject line write “Guest Blogger: [Title of post]”

If it’s intelligent, well written and interesting we’ll publish it. If not, we’ll work together to dig deeper and turn it into a gem.

Sinophiles unite.

Social Issues / Women and China

Women and China

From history and political science classes we’ve all (probably) taken at some point in our lives, there are a series of names that come to mind when one thinks about US-China movers and shakers. I’m talking about people like Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Joseph Stilwell, John Fairbank, James Lilley, Thomas Gates, Leonard Woodcock, Zbigniew Brzezinski, etc. The list of China hands in our country is pretty hefty.

These individuals, their predecessors and successors, have done tremendous things for the US-China relationship. Their actions and the policy that has sprung forth from a spectrum of historical encounters with the Chinese government should not be understated or overlooked.

However, that said, where are all the women?

Recently here in DC I had the opportunity to attend a dinner of 70+ people that have academic or professional interests connected to China in one way or another. Linked by our shared subscription to one of the best China-focused syndicated news emails around (Sinocism), we took over a Chinese restaurant on the north side of town for DC-Peking duck and conversation. I arrived about five minutes early and had my choice of tables. In true Chinese style, there were eight round tables with ten seats each. As only one table had started to fill up, I claimed a seat and sat down opposite the Sinocism founder/author, squished in between two hedge fund managers. The room gradually filled up, active China discussions took over, and everyone enjoyed digging into semi-Americanized versions of our favorite Chinese dishes.

It wasn’t until I stood up to pay my bill that I made two very important observations:

(1) I was the only female at my table of ten. Yes, there were other people at my table that spoke legitimately good Chinese, but they were all upwards of 40-45yrs and male.

(2) Of the roughly 70 people in attendance that night, there were not even 20 women in the entire room.

So, back to my question — why such a seeming shortage of women specializing in China? Is it cultural? Are men just more likely to succeed in interactions with the Chinese? Is it the challenge of learning such a difficult language that puts women off?

To some degree, there may be cultural undertones. Being a bubbly, inquisitive individual, I’ve never had too much difficulty in making things happen in China. Yes, there are processes different from our own in the US, but I’ve never felt disadvantaged by gender. That said, however, there is a blatantly obvious contradiction in the PRC’s approach to promote the roles of women in the Chinese society. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the government has actively committed to achieving equality between men and women. But advances for equality can only go so far when checked by the resistance of a traditionally Confucian society of male superiority. Modern China has come a long way from the Confucian patriarchal society and its restrictions upon women young and old (i.e., foot binding; arranged marriages). Women can marry relatively freely, they can attend school, and they can work. But the traditional Confucian mindset is still there, whether the Chinese may admit to it or not, and as such continues to impact gender relations.

As for the difficulty of learning a new language and culture, gender is a non-issue. If women are thought to be better in the liberal arts/humanities anyways, then why didn’t more choose to study Chinese? There are entire schools of thought in international relations that would break down the contributions women could bring to the US-China policy discourse just because we’re women. Perhaps it is our different temperament, or the more motherly values we exude. Either way, there’s definitely an opportunity for women to expand their role in China studies.

Coming back to my dinner, I left feeling as though reverse discrimination could work in my favor next time I’m hunting for a job. If the field of China specialists is mostly old and male, then I’m the opposite. An outlier. Someone organizations would like to hire just to balance statistics out a bit better. Beyond that, though, I am fresh blood. I worry that older generations may be confined by their own eras of thinking. What we need now, more than ever in our engagement with China, is a fresh policy approach rather than an outdated or re-purposed paradigm.

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Welcome to MadeinCharlie

Peoples’ view of China is surprisingly uninformed.

I’ve been a sinophile for awhile now and as such, most conversations lead to the same topic: China.  Broadly speaking, here’s what I’ve found.

  1. The WWII generation still sees China as communist country, similar to the USSR.
  2. Gen X view China through a business and manufacturing lense, but lose sight of anything beyond.
  3. Millennials (as Chinese would say 九零后) don’t know what to think, even with classes increasingly filled with Chinese International students.

The cultural disconnect between two of the largest economies in the world is downright scary.  Whenever human beings don’t understand something, we’re naturally afraid and doesn’t end well.

Cooking is a great example. At first, cooking seems out of reach and available only to those to commit their entire lives to the craft, but by breaking it down into manageable bite size pieces (get it), cooking suddenly becomes easy to handle.

I’m not here to preach how-to cook. I’m here to boil China and Chinese culture down to its core through examples from myself and other fellow sinophiles.

People miss the piece of China that makes it so great — their culture. Chinese culture is rich, unique, and once you dive into the ‘Chinese mindset’ as I’ll call it, everything begins to make more sense.

Our blog will speak to the older generation, head banging EDM concert goers, and everyone in-between. We will cover social issues, economics, politics, psychology, and sprinkle Chinese culture on top to make sense of it all.

We’ll be bringing on fellow sinophiles to submit articles, interview thought leaders for an academic perspective, and try our best to translate everything back into plain English.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood”
~Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Hopefully you’ll have as much fun reading about Chinese culture as we do writing about it.

Feel free to drop us a note anytime at madeincharlie@gmail.com