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I'm afraid I must still not be following your interpretation.

santiago: He doesn't believe that such things are innate to the Chinese

Yes, I am with you up to here.

santiago: and he offers as argument that if they were, we couldn't really even call them flaws in the first place.

No.  He would say that they were still flaws.  If some trait X turns out actually actually to be innate, X still remains a flaw.  In that case, Yì Zhōngtiān would not say that X is no longer a flaw (just because it's innate).  Rather, he would abandon his premise that there is no such thing as innate character flaws.

santiago: So those who argue that corruption is just a foreign definition imposed on Chinese ways of doing things in order to make the Chinese conform to foreign values must be wrong if they still also believe that corruption is wrong.

Yì Zhōngtiān would agree that "those who argue that corruption is just a foreign definition imposed on Chinese ways of doing things in order to make the Chinese conform to foreign values" are wrong.  But they are not wrong because "they still also believe that corruption is wrong".  They are wrong because corruption is (according to him) a particularly acute problem in Chinese society, and whether or not the Chinese or foreigners label it a "national character flaw [i.e. an innate one]" is irrelevant.  As far as he is concerned, corruption is neither innate nor irremediable, but it is a flaw, it is wrong, and it must be corrected, not just dismissed as a false and meaningless foreign aspersion.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Fri Feb 19th, 2010 at 07:43:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How does the "nature" vs. "nurture" question play in Chinese culture?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Feb 19th, 2010 at 09:37:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ARGeezer: How does the "nature" vs. "nurture" question play in Chinese culture?

I deferred on this question in the hopes I would have time to research it a bit, but I don't think that's going to happen.  Too big and complex a question, but off the top of my head, two points come to mind:

On the one hand, there may be a subtle sort of Chinese ethnic, maybe racial, supremacism, where "Chinese" is understood to denote the overwhelmingly predominant Chinese "Han ethnicity"*.  (It's similar to Japanese ethnic/racial supremacism, or exceptionalism, except that the Chinese version is blighted by over a hundred years of humiliating invasions and subordination suffered at the hands of foreigners.)  If so, it would imply a belief that certain racial/ethnic characteristics -- good or bad -- are inherent and unchangeable.

On the other hand, there is this:

Compared to American mothers, Chinese and Japanese mothers believe that scholastic achievement is far more dependent on the amount of effort a child expends than on his or her innate intelligence (Stevenson & Lee, 1990).  In other words, Asian parents adopt a more incremental perspective on ability than American parents do -- a perspective that seems to carry over to their children and may prevent Asian youngsters from acting helpless when they experience difficulties with their lessons.  We will explore this intriguing cultural difference in more detail when we consider the topic of schooling and scholastic influences in Chapter 12.

David R. Shaffer, Social and Personality Development (Edition 6: 2008) p.225

Both of these are massive generalizations that should be taken with correspondingly massive grains of salt (though the second is based on actual research, presumably, and the first is based on my own very limited and subjective perceptions).  But if there is any kernel of truth in them, according to these perspectives, nature would trump nurture among nations/ethnicities/races, but nurture would trump nature within the Chinese/Han population.

*I put "Han ethnicity" in quotes, because I suspect that lots of supposed "Han" Chinese are in fact descended from various other ethnic groups who were assimilated and amalgamated into the Han through the centuries.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Tue Feb 23rd, 2010 at 10:33:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With Chinese civilization being autochthnous it would be interesting to see how this issue is framed in that culture.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Feb 23rd, 2010 at 03:08:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
marco:
If some trait X turns out actually actually to be innate, X still remains a flaw.

I think this is exactly what he is disputing.  He appears to be arguing that if some trait X were truly innate, that is, an integral part of one's being, X cannot honestly be categorized as a flaw, so it would make no sense to try to correct it in people. You could compensate for it through external mechanisms, but not correct it. But he appears to saying instead that corruption is not innate. Rather it is a true flaw calling out for improvement within the Chinese character itself.

by santiago on Mon Feb 22nd, 2010 at 05:51:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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