Over time I’ve come to realize that many of these social concepts exists in some form or another across all cultures, likely implicit in some part to the human condition, but it still surprises me to this day just how entrenched it still is in certain areas.
I’ve always been personally curious as to what the causes of these divergences in culture between different societies are. There must be some inciting reason that such a stark difference in communication exists.
So, as you point out, these conventions exist everywhere, and (like the proverbial young fish asking "what's water?"), they're hard to see when you're in the middle of them, and consequently much easier to see when you observe them in a different culture.
For China, they would 'lose face' if Hong Kong became independent (or Xinjiang or Tibet for that matter).
In mainland, people sees the government as the ruler. They are not there to serve you, they are there to manage you. They never make mistake, and you must follow their lead.
The government needs Hongkong, and hey need Hongkong under control, just like the rest of China. If they failed, their public image of power will be damaged.
However, if they can turn Hongkong into "the rest of China" alike, then that's a success showcase of power for them.
There are interesting historical issues, economical issues, geopolitics (especially Taiwan) and international politics at play.
But yes, in a certain sense the PRC want to turn HK into "the rest of China" alike, in the sense that you can have economic freedom and many other things, however politically one must submit to the supreme rule of the party.
The belief was that HK’s economic value to China would protect the one country 2 systems status.
However, the Chinese govt appears to have convinced itself with the rise of its major cities (such as Shenzhen) and general economy that HK isn’t unique, and any economic benefits the political autonomy provides is far outweighed by the political risk and control. The protests, ironically, strengthen this thinking. And they feel they can compensate for the economic losses by simply creating SEZs.
I think the Chinese govt now believes that HK is not really special anymore, and if anything, is probably falling behind other Chinese cities.
Mostly right, but there is no sentiment on the mainland that the government never makes mistakes. Quite the opposite.
I personally believe it's the root of China's domestic problem.
Our government never fully apologize for their own mistakes (Sometime they did a little, but they always trying to shift their responsibility away. The word here is "Damage control"), possibly because they don't want to show their weakness and handle the consequence. And that gives them a hypocrite vibe.
If somebody never going to take responsibility, then that somebody will not be trusted. Because people is clever, they will eventually figure out who is honest, and who is not.
- The government can't act quickly, and the things it does are often stupid.
- It also can't be trusted.
My favorite remark on this general topic actually came when I asked someone how Chinese generally thought of the US. Her response was along the lines of "Some people view it as the promised land, where everything is better. Some people are more cynical. There's one guy at my company who always has something negative to say about America. But even he says they did one thing we should thank them for: they published the air pollution numbers."
She was shocked when I told her, in another conversation, that there is a contingency in the US that is very vocally envious of how quickly the Chinese government can get things done.
Have you ever laughed at a joke even though you don't find it funny, because the teller made a great effort telling it and you shudders to think how you would feel if your interlocutor exhibited completely no reaction? If the answer is yes, the concept is as much operative for you as it is in Chinese culture.
For what its worth, I don't think this is a good or a bad thing. While it can certainly have its problems, I also think its a key ingredient in why many macro-scale societal issues in Japan (mega cities, public transportation, crime, etc.) simply seem to work better, more efficiently, and with less friction than Western counterparts (particularly the US).
Being conservative about your culture, or not wanting to buck the trend probably has a lot more to do with appetite for risk (which in turn likely has more to do with poverty, and the lack of immigrants) than it has to do with a notion of “face saving”.
Let me clarify. I’m not saying additional “face saving” isn’t a thing in Asian cultures. My point is that it’s a lazy and easy fallback in Western discourse to explain a variety of differences.
I assume Boeing is arguing because they either believe they did nothing wrong (sense of justice) or they will get in trouble for admitting they were wrong (sense of security). There are probably other possibilities.
Those are very different than saving face. That has more to do with maintaining your own personal standing with your community (sense of pride and self-worth).
I don't think Boeing is refusing to take blame because they are worried that their standing within their community is at risk.
In that case I think it’s a meaningless distinction. Because it doesn’t say anything about the individual behavior, but rather, how the 2 societies handle wrongdoing. Japanese society handles wrongdoing by “shunning” the wrongdoer from police company. American society handles it by suing the person.
But either way, face saving has been redefined not by the action, but rather by the consequence of the action, which makes it a fairly meaningless difference in my opinion.
Most commentators will present the reason why China cannot back down as the government not wanting to lose face, while presenting the reasons Trump does not want to back down in very different language (not wanting a loss, for example), although they’re the same thing. The former is presented as a cultural trait, while the latter as an objective outcome.
The reality is that Xi can not afford to “lose face” not because of cultural reasons, but because it would greatly undermine his strength and power.
It is much more than losing face. Losing sovereignity in East Asian countries, where nationalism is hyper active, is an attack directly on national identity.
The Chinese government now will cease to exist if it yields to independence demands from any of the separationist region. The nationalistic education has been ingrained into society at large, something nobody dares to question.
"Patriotism cannot be our final spiritual shelter; my refuge is humanity. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live."
By a Noble Laureate.
Shame is a major emotion (or idea) and one which is often internalised. Shame is the negative feeling about yourself. "The definition of shame is a discrete, basic emotion, described as a moral or social emotion that drives people to hide or deny their wrongdoings" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shame
Much of western street violence is about shame at it's core. One basic over simplified version is that if I ask for respect I'm asking you not to reveal my own shame. The idea that violent criminals are shameless is wrong - they have deep shame about themselves - and violence is often one reaction to this internal feeling.
Of course there are different types of shame. Sometimes what we think as wrong isn't wrong and sometimes it's not our fault. Society and shame is entwined - and because of this being able to talk about and manage shame is almost impossible.
I'm not sure how this relates to Asian society but I thought it could be a useful avenue into investigating face.
And yes, both emotions are often at the root of street violence.
I do agree with the notion that this may be somewhere close to one of the major differences between Western and some Asian societies (I'm thinking of Japan primarily, as that is what I have experience with, so this may not extrapolate to other Asian cultures). In Japan, I was shocked at the low crime rates. I could leave my bike unlocked pretty much anywhere and not worry about it being stolen. They leave vending machines on random alleyways everywhere with no fear that someone will break into them. Crime in general is just so much lower, despite opportunity potentially being much higher. Additionally, streets are so much cleaner than American cities. People don't defecate on the sidewalk. They clean up after their animals. Public transportation is clean and reliable and you aren't going to be screamed at by a homeless person. I think a lot of this comes from the fact that Japanese culture has a strong element of shame attached to people who transgress societal rules. In Western countries, the emphasis is more on guilt, which leads more to a culture of "getting away with what I can", and "its only a problem when I get caught". We litter more. We steal more. We are more violent. We tend to put less effort into our jobs.
Of course there are flip sides. I think the strong sense of shame and societal responsibility in cultures like Japan's also leads to more mental health issues, higher suicide rates and societal isolation. Tougher work environments and cultures. Sometimes a stronger apprehension towards challenging the status quo. I'm not sure if one is more ideal than the other. I'm personally a big fan of the societal cohesion that seems to exist in Japanese culture, but I have friends who found it stifling and sterile.