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Extent of Western influence in China not great

The Chinese communist party has been lashing itself into a frenzy over the past few weeks about creeping western influences allegedly corrupting the country, but overall, the extent of westernisation in China is not great, even after four or five years of the so-called “open-door” policy.

In the major hotels around China, foreign tourists drink Coca-Cola and buy mars bars, but for the average person in the street or paddy field, life has not changed very much.

The whole question of “spiritual pollution”, the party catch-phrase for all the unhealthy, unwanted outside influences, must be very remote for most of China’s one billion people.

what outside influence there has been on the lives of Chinese people since 1979 has in fact mostly come not from the west as such but from Hongkong, the brash capitalist enclave on the south China coast.

The official press has often condemned “Hongkong music” and “Hongkong styles of dress”. Hongkong is also blamed, especially in southern China, for an across-the-board deterioration of moral standards, from official corruption to dirty magazines.

some of the official song-and-dance variety troupes have taken ideas from Hongkong entertainers, in terms of song material, dress, and manner of presentation.

Their more “modern” presentation is a great success with young people, and many older people too, probably not so much because it is “decadent”, but simply because it is entertaining and different.

The official press has also devoted much space recently to the question of the widening influence of western political and philosophical ideas on China’s intelligentsia.

In this area, the party has more to worry about, but only in the very long-term.

In the short-term, it is hard to see how interest amongst some university students in the idea of a multi-party system really threatens the communist party. the students themselves know that the party’s grip on power is far too strong to break.

western influence in China may not be great, but there is a strong interest amongst many people in the outside world, and a feeling that China has been left behind.

There is jealousy of the wealth and freedoms that foreigners, and especially Chinese outside of China, enjoy.

But people also recognise in a fatalist and very Chinese way that their country will never match western standards of living in their life times.

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