One of the major concerns when considering an extended trip to China is how, as a non-native, will one be received by the Chinese people? There are many contradictory factors within Chinese society that may impact the answer to this query. On one hand, China is famous for its culture of hospitality. Confucius, the father of Chinese culture, is said to have exclaimed, “What happiness it is to have friends visit from far away!” As such, if you are invited into a home in China you can expect to be welcomed with open arms and overflowing pots of tea. On the other hand, despite several thousands of years being a great global trading power, Chinese society has maintained high levels of homogeneity, with the majority of the population remaining apart from the rest of the world culturally and economically. It was not until the “opening up” of China in the 1970s by Deng Xiaoping that this began to change.
And change it did! With its skyrocketing economy drawing the world’s attention, China’s thrust into the limelight is increasingly drawing foreigners, into its realm. This is a brand new phenomenon for China, and one that China needs to learn to cope with quickly. Internationalizing is a natural process for developing economies. The extreme scale of China’s expansion is serving only to speed up this process. Understandably, this rapid change will cause some friction for both the Chinese government and the Chinese people.
As foreigners flock to China for internships, study abroad and work experience, China as a whole is coming to terms with the effect that such volumes of expats will have on society. This protectionist impulse can be found in nearly every country on earth and is a question that each society must wrestle with individually. As certain countries have found (such as Singapore, and even the USA), a largely foreign-born or diverse populace can be an economic boon and the key to a thriving economy. It is these types of globalized places, chock-full of international denizens, that will be the most successful societies of the future. As China navigates its way towards becoming one of these international hubs, it may at times be a bumpy road. As long as the Chinese spirit of hospitality and generosity shines through, however, the rewards will be that much greater.