Attitudes To Emigration

Emigration is the act of leaving one’s native country or region to settle in another.”

 In the past few decades, China has witnessed the largest human migration in history. Every year millions of workers leave their homes in rural villages in search of urban employment in the big cities. China’s “floating population” leave behind their friends and family with the hope of a better life, for both themselves and the family back home whom they can send money back to.

 The migrants often find that their new life in the city is not what they hoped for. The hours are long, the pay poor and the jobs boring. They persevere because they often have people back home relying on them and because there would be great shame in returning home a failure.

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 On the opposite end of the scale though there is a growing trend in emigration amongst the wealthiest of Chinese. The Huran Research Institute has published statistics in 2011 revealing that 14% of China’s wealthy have emigrated out of the country or are applying to do so, and a further 46% are considering it. These “wealthy” are defined by having more than 10 million Yuan (nearly £1 million). Many go to Hong Kong, where life is easier both politically and financially but the immigrants don’t have to sever all ties with China. Others generally leave for the USA, Canada, Singapore and Australia. These wealthy mainlanders feel their families and children would have better lives overseas, and cite reasons such as higher quality education, convenience, to avoid political issues, cleanliness and safety.

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 Many of these expatriates will return to China in their retirement, but it’s a different story for their children, who know much less about China and will often choose to remain in the west. This younger generation will have been raised in a different culture from their parents, and hence will have different values and outlooks on life.

 I talked to a friend of mine who is a student at Dundee University, he is of Chinese descent but was born here in Scotland. I asked him about the history of emigration in his family and got to understand the motivation behind the migrations of three different generations, which were all for very different reasons and essentially reflect the era that each generation came from.

 For his grandmother, moving from Hong Kong from China was a matter of safety. She fled there with her family to escape the invasion of the Japanese in China. This eight year conflict claimed the lives of 20 million Chinese according to official statistics. I used Google to try and source a statistic about how many Chinese fled China during this time and couldn’t find anything along those lines, which suggests that not very many did. Perhaps my friend’s family was among the very rare and fortunate.

 The prospect of a better quality education took his father to Scotland. Although he was born and raised in Malaysia, his family is Chinese. He came here to study engineering at Edinburgh University, but then never ended up returning to Malaysia upon graduating. This was mainly because he had started to make a life here, he had a job and had met his future wife, and would go on to do a PhD. I enquired about how his family felt about this permanent emigration, my friend wasn’t too sure, but he was under the impression that it was seen as a positive thing.

 As an afterthought I asked, “Would you ever go to live in China?”

 “No, never” he said firmly and confidently. This answer didn’t come as a surprise, but I asked for an explanation anyway. He considered the question briefly before replying.

 “Mainly because of the government I guess. It’s a closed system and they are closed minded. Ironically I realize it seems that I am closed minded for saying that, but it’s true, at least for the most part. There’s much less freedom there.”

 In this century in the United Kingdom, it’s almost impossible for my generation to imagine a life where we don’t have complete freedom of speech, where we don’t have the right to democracy, and where we can’t just type a few words into a search engine to find any information we could ever want to know. To suddenly have to live under a Chinese style regime would be a massive culture shock, and we’d feel it was for the worse.

 There are those currently living in China who fantasize of leaving but just don’t have the money of means to do so, the generation who feel they are still young enough to have their own American Dream. In Paul Midler’s book “Poorly Made in China” he meets a factory manager who tells Midler that he is from Los Angeles in the USA, after much confusion it is finally understood that he has never actually lived there but once visited the city on holiday and now wishes it was his home. Los Angeles was his aspiration, so he called it his home.

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 The reason I used the word emigration apposed to immigration for this post is because I wanted to focus on the attitudes and feelings the Chinese have about people leaving home, rather than the attitudes to the millions of immigrants who arrive into China’s cities. Emigration is the act of leaving ones home for another country or region. Immigration is the act of arriving in that country or region.

Attitudes to Manufacturing in China

“Made in China” – I’d bet that phrase appears at least once in every house in the country, but how do people feel about China monopolizing the manufacturing market?

 

To answer that question I thought I‘d ask my Scottish flat mates a few questions and then ask the same questions to my flat mate who was born and raised in Scotland, but whose parents and ancestors are all Chinese, and then compare the answers. This blog post was going to address the question “Does a Chinese perspective differ from a Scottish perspective with regards to manufacturing in China”. But it turned out my Chinese flat mates opinions were identical to everybody else’s. The main consensus was that we as a generation just don’t really care about where our clothes come from; it’s the last thing we would check.

 

One question was “Can you tell me where anything you’re wearing was made”. Nobody knew for sure, they could only make educated guesses. My Chinese flat mate mentioned that the hoodie he was wearing was actually bought in Hong Kong, but when we went to look where it was made, it didn’t say. This raised the question do our clothes here state the country of manufacture because we actually care about where they came from or just purely because it is a legal requirement.

 

I stumbled across this section in a website recently: “1000 Toys NOT Made in China”. A whole list dedicated to focusing on where these toys where not made, rather than where they were. However at the end in brackets it stated “Note: Some manufacturers have part of their products made in China”, so appears it’s near impossible to purchase goods these days that are completely detached from China. This list featured toys that where made in Thailand and Israel amongst many other non-American or European countries, so why was China singled out and picked on? One person’s comment on the list cited the “safety risks” associated with Chinese manufacturing and mentioned the toy recalls of 2007. In the June of 2007 China had manufactured every one of the 24 kinds of toys recalled for safety reasons in the United States that year.

 

But this anti China attitude continues past toy purchases, there are several articles and blog dedicated to the challenge of living free from any Chinese manufacturing, and they varied from just trying it for the day, to long term lifestyles.

NotMadeInChinaLife : http://www.notmadeinchinalife.com/

 

A surprising statistic is that only 2.7 percent of US consumer purchases have the “Made in China” label, and that 88.5 percent of American’s consumer spending is on things made in the US. With this in mind it seems strange that people should be wary of Chinese products and there “domination” over the global market. Perhaps it’s because America is a much larger country and economy so it can sustain itself better.

In a conversation with a flat mate he starts talking about how he would like to buy more things that are made in the U.K and would probably be prepared to pay slightly more for that, but raises the point that it’s not an easy thing to do, almost everything is outsourced. He then mentions Jack Wills, and the fact that their clothes are “Fabulously British” is a major part of their branding technique. A quick Google search reveals that Jack Wills do indeed manufacture some clothes in China, as well as Turkey and Portugal, along with many posts from people ranting about this. There is even a facebook group entitled: “Jack Wills, fabulously British…yet made in china?…failll” to which somebody has replied “no? because the clothes represent Britain”. I think this is a fair statement, just because something wasn’t manufactured in Britain doesn’t mean that it isn’t a British product.

 

 

 

 

Chinese Web Design

When you think of Chinese design you think of ancient practices and styles that have been around for centuries, but China has evolved and is still evolving along with the rest of the world, and design for digital media is now an important outlet. It’s a fair statement to say that although the Chinese are masters in many areas, innovation in digital and interaction design is not currently one of them. In this respect they are followers and not leaders, at the moment anyway. There is a very stereotypical view that Chinese children are pushed by their parents to succeed strongly in academia, and not really encouraged in creative subjects, but with more than four hundred design schools in China to date, clearly China is growing up into a creative nation. The proof for this is that good Chinese generated design is in a rapid state of growth.

China found itself following in the paths of nations that are already developed in digital design. They may be the forerunners in production, but many of the plans and designs for goods and services manufactured for retail and use in the West came from the West and had just been brought to life in China, and often design originating from China was actually imitations from other nations, with China following the “fashions”. Was this partly because China was impeded from absorbing from and keeping pace with other countries because of a lack of open web environment? With restriction on Internet usage in China, perhaps spending time creating great design and content for the Internet wasn’t really seen as appealing or worthwhile.

A few years ago there was a trend where Chinese websites were imitating Korean ones, they were vibrant, colourful and heavily flash based. All focus was on the visuals but as the average Chinese Internet user developed, the websites and designers were forced to develop too. Website’s aren’t now shunning the heavy visual basis for their sites, but they are making a big effort to incorporate good content hierarchies and design to optimise their sites to suit Chinese Internet users, and not the users of any other country.

 

It’s important to realise that China is developing a web style all of it’s own, it is not just trying to match the quality and character of other countries that are web leaders. China is such a huge country and therefore has an instant huge market, it can easily thrive without trying to gain business from the rest of the world. This allows Chinese web designers to design for China and nobody else, so naturally as culture plays a massive role in the lives of the Chinese, it also plays a big role in the messages they communicate through the medium of web design.

 

Lytous Zhou, a Shenzhen based visual designer and author of the book UI Evolutionism provides an example of the differences between an American site and a Chinese site, both selling the exact same product but offering different experiences.

 

“Pizza Hut China, which is an example I like to use every time I explain cultural differences, uses Chinese elements heavily all over its website: in the color scheme and family theme. Warm reds and yellows are colors symbolic of festivity in China, and the family dinner is highly regarded in Chinese society.”

 

 

“By comparison, Pizza Hut US highlights fast food and online ordering on its home page. Red is also Pizza Hut US’ theme color, but it’s more solid, darker and cooler than the warm red on the Chinese website.”

 

 

Zhou also states that when targeting a Chinese audience a websites profile should reflect the profile and aesthetics of its users.

 

This is not the only difference in approaching web design that Chinese designers take note of. The Chinese use the same keyboards as the West and typing Chinese on an alphabet based keyboard is hard, therefore sites are designed so that users can click their way though the site rather than searching. To Western eyes the sites just look complicated and cluttered, but for the Chinese it’s practical.

 

 

Back to the point in the beginning paragraph, that the Chinese are followers and not leaders when it comes to website design. This may be true for the techniques and technologies used, but for style and usability they are designing for their own unique market and are therefore not trying to follow anybody else. Chinese web design is moving into a category of its own.

China’s Image Abroad: Tourism

China’s tourism industry is booming. With 55.98 million visitors in 2010, it is ranked as the world’s third leading travel destination, currently trailing behind only France, and the USA. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, it will have overtaken them both by 2016-2018, this is a rapid rise in popularity considering that up until the mid 70’s China was closed to foreign tourism. It’s not hard to understand the attraction, China as a country is magnificent, mysterious and beautiful, it’s culture is the complete opposite to ours making it exotic and exciting.

When you look through travel brochures or travel agent’s websites you will most likely be greeted with an image of a panda, or a picturesque landscape, or ancient sculptures, nothing modern certainly. This massively contrasts with how China now wishes to be seen by the world. China’s desire to become more westernized has seen it disregard large parts of its heritage, it wants to be taken seriously as a major player in the world. Proof of this effort is visible in Beijing where less than five per cent of its buildings will remain by the end of its modernization revolution. This shiny and intimidating version is the polar opposite to the oriental and delicate version of the landscape portrayed to tourists. There is no doubt that Beijing is vastly impressive and worth visiting, but would most people travel to the country if they only got to see this westernized China, and not authentic China? Probably not.

The most famous example of an oriental Chinese landmark is of course the magnificent Great Wall of China. Mistakenly believed to be a single wall that circumferences China, it is actually a discontinuous network of individual wall segments built by various different dynasties over a period of 2000 years to protect China’s northern border. Another commonly believed myth is that the wall is the only man made object visible from space. This tale possibly originated from Richard Halliburton’s book “Second Book of Marvels”, which was published in 1938 before humans had ever seen the earth from space. When you consider these two revelations plus that the wall has been largely restored in both the 50’s and the 80’s, suddenly the Great Wall doesn’t seem quite so mind blowing. It is often the case that the sections not in the public eye are in a serious state of disrepair and sometimes eradicated due to ageing and the locals pinching the bricks. Adding to the facts the description of it being the “largest cemetery of earth” as 1 million people died during its construction, this wonder of the world doesn’t seem so quite so wonderful anymore. This is obviously not the way the wall is portrayed to potential tourists, that’s not to say that the way it is presented is false though, there is not doubt that the building of the wall was a truly remarkable feat and is an important piece of Chinese history. Nobody can criticize China, or travel businesses, for fudging the negatives and making a bigger deal out of the positives, every country does, it would be bad logic not to.

Even if China is evolving as a nation its history and traditions will always exist. People will still travel to see its vibrant and beautiful architecture, its breathtaking landscapes and to experience its rich and thrilling history. China is sold as being a nation that still retains it’s traditions, rituals and strong identity, and this is because it does truly still retain all these elements, unlike many other nations who have left these behind in their cultural revolutions. I believe this is why China can be so popular, that despite that much of the country is unrecognizable from how it looked just two decades ago, it’s people still retain the essence of China and oriental China lingers on in them, in the rural areas at least, because it is still alive in their memories. Even if some areas like Beijing have left the old behind and moved onto the new, this diversity in the country makes it even more fascinating to explore and discover.