On 1 July, to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of China’s regaining Hong Kong, President Xi visited the city though he knew he would get a hostile reception from the large pro-democracy movement there seeking greater independence from the mainland.
He gave a calm and measured public address though he was probably unhappy, if not angry, at the demonstrators. In his view, they showed little gratitude for Beijing’s efforts to prop up Hong Kong’s economy or appreciation for China’s need to operate as a single unit.
President Trump, in a similar situation, would probably have shown less restraint. In Western, and especially American, culture it is OK, if not recommended, to express your negative feelings in public with strong language.
Western volunteers going to China are warned about this cultural difference. In China, the common good comes first. People restrain their emotions so they can get on with others and life. However, Americans in particular, when they have a problem with their accommodations think the best solution is to find the person in charge and complain. If there is no immediate response, they feel they should show their anger to get results.
I advise them that would be counter-productive. Most Chinese are not used to dealing with angry people, they regard them as uncivilized and respond with passive resistance or flight.
Up to recently Irish people shared the oriental approach, preferring to show respect for others and public harmony by finding indirect ways of expressing their displeasure. However Irish media now regards such an attitude as old-fashioned and favour conflictive language.
Political values aside, which is the more civilized – President Xi’s or President Trump’s?