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Is China Conforming to a Westernized Global Culture? An Assimilation Theory Analysis of Chinese-Western Cultural Relations
Nicholas LOUBERE Xiamen University, China
Assimilation theory has traditionally been used to evaluate cultural and ethnic relations within the nation-state, specifically, the extent to which a minority culture becomes more similar to a dominant ‘host’ culture. However, due to globalization characterized by cultural flows extending beyond the nation-state boundary, the world today is beginning to look like a pluralistic global nation-state. At the same time, an overarching global ‘third culture’ is forming that can be equated to a dominant mainstream culture on the nation-state level. Thus, assimilation theory becomes a viable tool on the international system level of analysis. There can be no doubt that Western culture has contributed the most to the global ‘third culture’. China, as the country with the world’s largest population and fastest growing economy, provides a fascinating chance to use assimilation theory on a global scale. Is China being assimilated into the Western cultural group? This paper finds that while China has exhibited some evidence of ‘acculturation’ into the Western dominated global ‘third culture’, ‘structural assimilation’ is still a long way off. In the mean time, China’s growth is expanding its global ‘cultural market share’, pointing to the likelihood of a future, more equitably amalgamated global ‘third culture’.
ANY ATTEMPT to evaluate the level of assimilation of one cultural group into that of another will encounter the problematic issue of cultural definition. How do we define and put parameters on something as dynamic and fluid as culture? Of course the ultimate result of any classification of cultures, be it on the macro or micro level, will be disagreements on the criteria used for defining the various cultures and accusations that the scope is either too broad or too narrow. In the end a lot of time and energy will be spent on the definition of terms as opposed to the evaluation and analysis itself. This paper will try to avoid such disputes arising from the magnification of differences existing among groups within large overarching cultures by using an international system level analysis to view cultural groups as units acting on a global scale. From a global perspective Chinese culture can be defined as the dominant values and practices emanating from what is today, and has
1990). the world today is still very pluralistic. However. Today. At the same time. To use the words of Anthony Smith (1990). the establishment of US hegemony and the beginning of the Information Age. which we will define as the total interaction between the two groups. is at an all time high. Finally. 2006). world cultures are experiencing some degree of amalgamated homogenization due to increased interaction and communication (Greig. This is not a surprise as throughout the course of recorded history there has been an unmistakable trend towards increased interaction between geographically dispersed cultures (globalization) resulting in the convergence of cultures worldwide (assimilation). due to political turmoil and unfavorable economic conditions. During the nineteenth century this interaction extended into all levels of society as the era of Chinese immigration began. despite regulations like the Ming and Qing dynasties’ ‘haijin’ (which literally translates to ‘sea prohibition’) effectively banning private merchants from conducting maritime trade (Li. interaction between China and the West increased rapidly. on the other hand. but unlike most nation-states there is not one easily identifiable overarching global culture that can be used to evaluate assimilation of one group into the mainstream. our global ‘third culture’ is both ‘eclectic and simultaneously Loubere/Is China Conforming to a Westernized Global Culture? 71 . can be defined as the dominant values and practices historically emanating from Western Europe. with the end of the Cold War.C. the Western cultural group has become more clearly defined since the end of the Second World War. for millennia there has been a trend of continuously increasing world interconnectedness that is progressing at a faster rate now than at any other time in history. An example includes the second century B. After WWII and the emergence of a bipolar world characterized by the Cold War. A concise overview of the evolution and expansion of the Chinese cultural group can be found in John King Fairbank and Merle Goldman’s (2006) China: A New History. as Mike Featherstone (1990) points out. Western colonial powers asserted their military dominance. Chinese-Western cultural relations. With the decline of the Qing. Simultaneously. 2004). international interaction manifested itself in the formation of blocs as different cultural groups came together and focused on their similarities as opposed to their differences in order to protect themselves from the perceived ‘enemy’ culture. After Zhenghe’s famous voyages and the beginning of the colonial era. international interaction has increased exponentially resulting in what many have called the Cocacolonization or Americanization of the world (Flusty. In ancient times there are some records of interaction over vast distances. As Roger Osborn (2006) notes. at this juncture in history we cannot say that a single totally homogeneous global culture exists. As this short history demonstrates. we must shift our attention to the emerging transnational culture or global ‘third culture’ that stems from increasing cultural flows across national boundaries. and that is growing and developing at the same rate as global interconnectedness. waves of Chinese immigrants flooded into colonial Southeast Asia and the Americas (Liu. 2002). Qin dynasty trade route extending from southern China all the way to Sri Lanka (Wen. 1985). Like many multi-ethnic/multicultural nationstates in the past and present. Instead.historically been China. This is because the Chinese cultural group and the Western cultural group have closer ties and a better understanding of each other on every level of society than at any other time in history. Over subsequent centuries and millennia these trade routes lengthened and multiplied. Western culture.
In the third section we will use assimilation theory to assess China’s assimilation into the global ‘third culture’ based on the four core factors of population. This example also points to the fact that the global ‘third culture’ is not equitably amalgamated and is currently dominated by the Western cultural group. In other words. 2004). This is because the global ‘third culture’ itself has a top-down homogenizing effect on other world cultures.nz/gjaps 72 . Global society theory. Moreover. The fourth section is a discussion of our findings and their implications. we can equate internationalization and globalization to ‘acculturation’ and ‘structural assimilation’. The rest of this paper is organized into five main sections. like the idea of a global ‘third culture’. as well as looking at the main ideas behind assimilation theory. p. 1). followed by the conclusion. 2008. and globalization. In the second section we will adapt aspects of assimilation theory that have traditionally been used on the nation-state level of analysis for use on the international system level of analysis in order to create a framework for analysis. or assimilating into this global ‘third culture’. 2007. this paper will seek to determine the extent to which Chinese culture is becoming more similar to. 2007) is of the most interest for this paper. which is ‘a mere quantitative increase in the contacts and flows across nation-state boundaries or an increasing outward-orientation of the nationstate’. a point we will return to later. it is necessary to have a basic understanding of the globalization process.arts. governmental policy and economic situation. as Mathias Albert (2007) pointed out with regards to ‘global society’. It is an amalgamation of global cultures creating the possibility for geographically dispersed populations to share a cultural identity. Given the above. A simple definition of globalization is ‘the advance of human cooperation across national boundaries’ (Bourdreaux. An example of this is the world-systems theory assertion that homogenizing forces have been accompanying global capital flows from highincome to low-income countries resulting in the aforementioned Cocacolonization of the developing world (Flusty. or cultural frames of reference’ (Albert. The Process of Globalization and Assimilation Theory Globalization In order to view the world as a global nation-state. p. Answering this question will require us to adapt assimilation theory for use on a global scale in order to analyze the global ‘third culture’ and its implications for the future of the Chinese cultural group. the first of which will review globalization and the idea of ‘global society’. which ‘influences and structures processes of economic production and exchange. Interestingly. 167). political authority.standardized’ (p. However. language. whereas globalization is the structural change that results from continued interaction over time. Of the many strands of globalization theory. two aspects of assimilation theory discussed below. implies that the world is a ‘singular place’ (after www. 176). the concept of global society (Albert. it is important to differentiate between internationalization.auckland.ac. the creation of a global ‘third culture’ is not only a bottom-up process. the formation of individual and collective identities. internationalization simply focuses on the amount of interaction between cultures and the adoption of some simple cultural norms to facilitate this interaction.
where one cultural group takes on another’s identity. where a variety of ethnic/cultural groups experienced a sudden increased level of interaction. the world is similar to a pluralistic multi-cultural nation-state. and ‘structural assimilation’. By redefining the world as a pluralistic global nation-state with a dominant culture (the global ‘third culture’). 1997). Minority groups that undergo ‘acculturation’ still retain their cultural traits (pluralism). While Park (1950) believed that certain obstacles could temporarily slowdown a race relations cycle. At the international system level of analysis.Roland Robertson. This cycle describes assimilation as an inevitable process following a linear trajectory over time. Assimilation Theory Central to any debate over assimilation are two ideas described by Donald Horowitz (1975) as ‘incorporation’. we can compare what is happening today on a global scale to what happened from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century in the United States or in some post-colonial. 1961). he was confident that primary personal relationships would ultimately be the facilitator of assimilation. p. accommodation and assimilation. newly independent Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. it is possible to utilize assimilation theory to analyze the interactions between cultural groups within the global nation-state. in Featherstone. where two or more groups merge to become a larger group. competition. albeit. As a ‘singular place’. The second half of the twentieth century brought with it the idea of ‘cultural pluralism’ as a rebuke to traditional assimilation theory. The classical model of assimilation theory was characterized by Robert Park’s (1950) race relations cycle consisting of four stages: contact. which is the adoption of the core principles of the dominant culture. Proponents of cultural pluralism point out that Park’s (1950) race relation cycle is often left incomplete and groups retain their culture. The mantra of ‘unity in diversity’ that was taken up by many multicultural societies is one manifestation of this idea that different cultures should be celebrated instead of being encouraged to assimilate into the dominant culture (Gordon. The sociologist Milton M. 1961). the difference between the two can be compared to the difference between internationalization and globalization in that it focuses on the form of interaction that is taking place between cultures. the two most important being ‘acculturation’. Because of advances in communications technology. On the other hand. and ‘amalgamation’. 1990. but at the same time they develop the means to interact with the dominant cultural group. These two ideas roughly translate into the concepts of ‘Anglo-conformity’ and the ‘Melting-pot’ that dominated assimilation theory in the United States until the middle of the twentieth century (Gordon. This concept proposes that assimilation or homogenization is not necessarily the natural end state for multicultural societies. which is the entrance of a minority group into the core social institutions of the dominant culture (for a more comprehensive overview see Alba & Nee. Chinese culture). As noted above. those groups that undergo ‘structural assimilation’ eventually lose their cultural identity and are accepted into the mainstream dominant culture through intimate primary personal Loubere/Is China Conforming to a Westernized Global Culture? 73 . this idea of global society is useful to track the growth of a global ‘third culture’ and evaluate its top-down effect on other cultures (i. on a larger scale. 5). Gordon (1964) devised seven stages of assimilation.e.
These advances have shortened both travel and communication time on a global scale completely transforming the way that different cultures interact with each other. and economic institutions’ (p. 903).relationships. meaning that even though the group holds onto some of its symbolic cultural heritage.. collective security and the world state) can be equated to Park’s (1950) race relations cycle (i. like Park’s (1950) race relations cycle and Gordon’s (1964) definition of acculturation and structural assimilation. ‘Straight-line’ assimilation is the idea that each new generation born and raised in a dominant ‘host’ society will inevitably reach a higher level of acculturation. Gans (1992) developed the idea of ‘bumpy-line’ assimilation in order to account for tangents along the road towards assimilation. and went one step further by declaring that acculturation depends on the minority group’s acceptance of the dominant culture. p. finally ending in structural assimilation.. Gans also posited that assimilated cultural groups can maintain a kind of symbolic cultural identity or. a ‘designer ethnicity’ (cited in Gans. a phenomenon that was most eloquently described by David Harvey (1990. Wendt (2003) proposed that advances in technology on the whole. Wendt (2003) also asserts that over the course of human history there has been a trend of smaller political units consolidating themselves into larger ones. focusing on homogenization and integration on a global scale with regards to global governance. Later. this is manifested in terms of the dominant culture. 45). Keohane and Martin’s work is useful for evaluating the difference between acculturation and structural assimilation on a global scale.arts. and communications technology in particular. Herbert Gans (1997) agreed with Gordon’s definition of acculturation and structural assimilation.e. system of states. to ideas that are commonly used on the international system level of analysis. whereas structural assimilation depends on the dominant cultural group’s acceptance of the minority. society of states. Gans asserted that assimilation invariably lags behind acculturation and proposed the concepts of ‘straight-line’ and ‘bumpy-line’ assimilation. providing a strong argument for a possible future homogenized world culture. Wendt’s five stages of progress towards a world state (i. International institutions can be defined as those institutions at the core of a global society and unconditional acceptance into these institutions would be evidence of structural assimilation. This is just as true for cultural groups as it is for political ones.e.nz/gjaps 74 . 147) as a ‘space-time compression’. p. In the field of international relations there is research like Robert Keohane and Lisa Martin’s (1995) on neoliberal institutionalism and Alexander Wendt’s (2003) work on the possibility of a future world state. 1992. Gordon (1964) believed that either acculturation or structural assimilation can be end points in a race relations cycle.ac. As Stanley Leiberson (1961) pointed out ‘the crux of any (race relations) cycle must deal with political. indicating the expansion of the global society. social. in the words of New York Times reporter Maureen Dowd. Keohane and Martin (1995) have also observed that international institutions have continued to grow in both number and size.auckland. Using Assimilation Theory on the International System Level of Analysis It is possible to relate some of the main assimilation theory concepts. are causing the world to enter a stage where a global identity has the possibility of forming. world society. www.
However. Especially if we are to use Gans’ ‘straight-line’ or ‘bumpy-line’ assimilation models. Countless factors contribute to the increase or decrease of a cultural group’s global ‘cultural market share’. Just like Loubere/Is China Conforming to a Westernized Global Culture? 75 . we must define the time period over which we will assess Chinese cultural assimilation into the global ‘third culture’. instead it is an amalgamation of all the world’s large cultural groups. due to Western economic dominance resulting in ‘Westernization’ (see Badie. From this perspective the global ‘third culture’ can be seen as a pie chart with different cultural groups contributing varying amounts to the whole. simply adapting existing theories will not sufficiently answer the question of whether China is assimilating into a Westernized global ‘third culture’. In Wendt’s (2003) system. international institutions play the same role as core cultural institutions do on the state-level. from this point on we will talk about Chinese cultural assimilation into the global ‘third culture’ while remembering that the Western cultural group dominates this ‘third culture’. for the purpose of this paper it is necessary to look at the world as a ‘singular place’ in the mold of a culturally pluralistic nation-state. Von Laue. 1989). we need to assume that a dynamic and constantly expanding overarching global ‘third culture’ exists. In this multicultural global nation-state. However. it will also be necessary to define some new terms. Third. the Western cultural group has by far the largest piece of the ‘cultural market share’ pie. multicultural nation-states like Indonesia or Malaysia directly after the colonial era.contact. Culturally. Therefore. which is equivalent to being between competition and accommodation in Park’s cycle. First. Therefore. on the globallevel. we need to introduce the concept of a ‘cultural market share’. all cultures do not have equal weight in the amalgamated global ‘third culture’. additionally. or ‘contact’ in the global race relations cycle. Mehmet. just as globalization theorists recognize that some regions feature more prominently than others in global governance (Albert. accommodation and assimilation). Usually. it is necessary to define a starting point. Both Park’s (1950) race relations cycle and Gans’ (1992) ‘bumpy-line’ assimilation approach progress along a linear trajectory. Second. a state-level race relations cycle will begin with a ‘contact’ point and progress will be analyzed over generations. it is easy to equate the post-Cold War unipolar world with newly formed. 1999. Instead. 2007). but for this paper it is sufficient to point out that. make some basic assumptions and set some parameters at the international system level of analysis. For our purposes we will let the contact period coincide with the beginning of the colonial era (also known as the early modern period) at the end of the fifteenth century. and it is also necessary to define a time period for a ‘global generation’ to determine if assimilation is progressing or not. competition. which marked the start of more aggressive transoceanic interaction between geographically dispersed cultural groups (McNeill. A ‘global generation’ is different from a human generation and can be defined as a phase in history that encapsulates a set of values and practices. 2006). 2000. the world is currently between stage two: the society of states and stage three: world society. Admittedly this global ‘third culture’ is not as homogenized as most dominant cultures on the nation-state level. much like the Anglo/WASP culture was for a pluralistic United States in the early twentieth century. the amalgamated global ‘third culture’ is the dominant overarching culture.
000 in 1890 to just www. spatial concentration (both classified under population). acculturation or structural assimilation). Waters and Tomás R. However. we can place the total population at 1. the third from 1850 until the end of WWII. language assimilation. in order to assess assimilation on a global scale. philosophy/religion. morals and values. These are: intermarriage.377.Harvey’s (1990) assertion that due to technological advances we are experiencing ‘space-time compression’.ac. Jiménez (2005) in their assessment of immigrant assimilation in the United States. Now that we have defined the world in terms of a global nation-state that has an overarching culture represented by core cultural institutions. slightly larger than the 1. There is evidence that the larger and more concentrated a minority cultural group’s population is. Population According to statistics from the CIA World Factbook (2010). the ethnic-Chinese abroad do not constitute the majority cultural group in their respective nation-states (Ji. We can see evidence of this in the examples of the United States and Indonesia. Therefore. 2003). and socioeconomic status (classified under economic situation). all of the Americas. Future research can look at a variety of other factors that affect assimilation. we will utilize the same four core factors employed by Mary C. but it also dominates a larger geographical area than the Chinese cultural group (CIA. 2010). or 20% and 19% of the world population respectively. Gordon (1964) and Gans (1992) and its most important function will be to track the rate of assimilation over time as well as the level of assimilation (i.auckland.nz/gjaps 76 . our assimilation model will be a hybrid of ideas from Park (1950).000 people. 2010). Australia and South Africa as regions controlled by the Western cultural group. Therefore.000. not only is the Western cultural group slightly larger. the second from 1648 until the beginning of widespread Chinese immigration around 1850. Assimilation into the Global ‘Third Culture’ For simplicity. It could be argued that the Chinese population is much larger if we consider all the ethnic-Chinese abroad. the fourth from the end of WWII until the end of the Cold War.e. including but not limited to.000. a start date and five generations of history. if we count Western Europe. The first starts from contact at the end of the fifteenth century and lasts until the treaty of Westphalia in 1648. we will consider the role that governmental policy plays in global assimilation. Acculturation and structural assimilation can be assessed based on a cultural group’s acceptance into international institutions and progression along either Park’s race relations cycle or Gans’ ‘bumpy-line’ can be assessed based on cultural change over ‘global generations’. Additionally. For this paper we will simply demarcate several important historical periods that can be used to signify ‘global generations’. and the fifth from the end of the Cold War until the present day. and even diet. the more resistant this population will be to assimilation (Alba & Nee. After 1882 the United States passed the ‘Chinese Exclusion Act’ causing the ethnic-Chinese population in the country to fall from 107. the time period for a ‘global generation’ can compress or expand due to varying factors providing a rich area for future research.338.000 population of China.arts. except for the case of Singapore. we can look at the process of assimilation on a global scale in a more traditional way.
At the same time the language itself has become more accessible. it is possible that the Chinese population will overtake that of the Western cultural group in the future. 2005).000 in 1940 (Daniels. the approximately 38 million ethnic-Chinese overseas (Ji. the importance of English as a gateway into the global ‘third culture’ has grown exponentially. it is safe to say that far more members of the Chinese cultural group speak English than at any other time in history.77. China has also expanded its use of English in education. Before 1930 only 3% of the US ethnic-Chinese population were intermarried. Today there is still not enough clear statistical data on this important subject. resulting in more people learning the language at a younger age (Hu. 1991). the shortage of information on the number of English speakers in China. While the United States and some other countries in the Western cultural group are currently experiencing population growth. Nevertheless. whereas in 1980 over 30% had married outside the Chinese community (Wong. 2010) is still small compared to China’s population of 1. growth and distribution. the ethnic-Chinese in the United States achieved a high level of structural assimilation (Wang. While it is difficult to assess what percentage of the population speaks English and how much this percentage will rise in the near future. the fact is that the Chinese cultural group Loubere/Is China Conforming to a Westernized Global Culture? 77 . from the perspective of population numbers. 1988). 2010). as this provides infusions of new members to the cultural group reinforcing that group’s cultural identity. it seems unlikely that the Chinese cultural group is positioned to achieve a high level of assimilation into the global ‘third culture’.533. Assimilation theorists look at widespread distribution (Alba & Nee. 1997) and eventual intermarriage (Morawska. In countries like the United States this has resulted in an increase in both the total number and the proportion of ethnic-Chinese intermarriages. the Chinese population is expected to increase by around 200 million in the next few decades due to population momentum (Lutz & Sanderson. with some frustration. With the advance of telecommunications technology resulting in ‘time-space compression’. 1989). possibly three ‘global generations’. 1999). In our global nation-state the third ‘global generation’ (1850-1945) saw widespread Chinese distribution around the globe as the Qing dynasty ‘haijin’ (sea prohibition) was lifted and the first wave of Chinese immigration overseas began (Daniels.000 in 1979 (Zhang.34 billion (CIA. the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) encouraged Chinese immigration into the country causing the ethnic-Chinese population to grow from 537. Subsequently there have been more waves of Chinese immigration creating a substantial worldwide overseas ethnicChinese population. However. Perhaps more important than the total size of a population is its growth. Over the next half-century. The second half of the twentieth century saw racial tension and a very low level of ethnic-Chinese assimilation in Indonesia (Dawis. More than 25 years ago David Crystal (1985) noted. Therefore. In terms of our global nation-state. 2009).000 in 1900 all the way to 3. During the same time period. Therefore. 1994) as two important factors contributing to a high level of assimilation. 1988). 2004). Language Adoption of the dominant cultural group’s language is a fundamental step on the road to assimilation. use of English as the lingua franca only developed over the past two.
it is important to remember that language assimilation is defined as both ‘language ability and loss of mother tongue’ (Waters and Jiménez. drastically reducing mean tariff rates from over 40% in 1992 to less than 20% in 1997 (Johnston. Governmental Policy The two types of governmental policy that have the largest effect on assimilation are immigration policies and unequal rights or forced assimilation policies. For example. The Indonesian government attempted to force the ethnic-Chinese population to assimilate into the majority culture by requiring them to change their names and eliminating the three pillars of ethnic-Chinese society: Chinese schools. However. 2008). instead of achieving the goal of assimilation. so instead we will focus on the unequal rights or forced assimilation policies. which argues that the United States must strengthen the Western order and make it easier for China to participate. facilitating its assimilation into the Western cultural group.arts. then it would seem that the Chinese cultural group is willingly undergoing the acculturation necessary to participate in the global ‘third culture’. is not only a call for more engagement of China through international institutions. forced assimilation and unequal rights policies can be seen in terms of engagement or containment policies carried out by nation-states and organizations in the international arena. The most recent example of this ethnic conflict was the anti-Chinese violence that erupted across Indonesia in 1998 (Lembong.nz/gjaps 78 . 1997). is the Chinese cultural group accepted by the core cultural institutions of the global ‘third culture’? When put on a global scale. However. 108). In our global nation-state we cannot look at immigration policy. However. acculturation depends on the minority culture’s acceptance of the majority. p.auckland. 2003). If Alastair Iain Johnston’s (2003) depiction of China as a status-quo power willing to play by the international rules is true. there is no evidence that the group is losing command of the Chinese language. www. the Chinese cultural group’s current level of language assimilation falls under the category of acculturation with a possibility for assimilation in the future. as all the cultural groups already occupy the world. following its entry into the WTO China has generally supported the international norm of free trade.ac. 2003). whereas assimilation depends on the majority culture’s acceptance of the minority (Gans. Therefore. 1999). 2005. but also an impassioned plea to grant the Chinese cultural group equal rights in the global nation-state. but it has also increased its participation (Johnston. political and cultural institutions of the global ‘third culture’? Over the last two ‘global generations’ China has not only more than doubled its membership in international institutions. pointing to further contact with the global ‘third culture’. As previously noted. While the Chinese cultural group is certainly improving its English language ability. Indonesia’s half-century of forced assimilation and unequal rights policies for their ethnic-Chinese population is a good example of the ineffectiveness of such policies. Chinese organizations and Chinese media (Lembong. So is the Western majority accepting the Chinese minority into the core social.is quickly becoming adept in English. these policies reinforced the differences between the Chinese and Indonesian cultures creating more tension between the two groups (Zhang. John Ikenberry’s (2008) piece ‘The Rise of China and the Future of the West’. In this way G. 2008).
During the early twentieth century the ethnic-Chinese in the United States held a lower economic position than the majority Anglo/WASP cultural group. such as English language acquisition and participation in international organizations. China would need to come close to economic parity with the West in terms of per capita GDP and. There can be no doubt that the Chinese cultural group has adopted many of the practices and behaviors of the global ‘third culture’. despite unbelievably rapid economic growth over the last ‘global generation’ and China’s emergence as the world’s second largest economy. Discussion So how can we answer the question of whether China is being assimilated into a Westernized global ‘third culture’? Two out of our four factors point to a possible high level of Chinese assimilation. However. most importantly. 6). Indonesia and the United States again provide good contrasting examples. as long as China remains economically subordinate to the West. At the same time. In order for structural assimilation to occur. 1997). Loubere/Is China Conforming to a Westernized Global Culture? 79 . it is difficult for members of the Chinese minority to gain the acceptance needed to undergo structural assimilation. Therefore. 1997). has not provided a good incentive for the minority ethnic-Chinese to assimilate into the majority cultural group. This situation. we should expect to see continuous assimilation driven by the promise of an improved economic status. However. thus they had an incentive to assimilate into the majority in order to achieve a higher economic status. 2008. 1999). the Chinese cultural group has nowhere close to the economic power of the combined Western cultural group. combined with the forced assimilation and unequal rights policies discussed earlier. Economic Situation Economic status is perhaps the most important of our four factors in that social and economic mobility provide a motivation for assimilation (Alba & Nee. despite accounting for only 3% of the population. None of these things seem likely to happen anytime in the near future. control 75% of the country’s capital (Zhang. In our global nation-state the Chinese cultural group’s economic power is growing. with the possibility for future structural assimilation. a structurally assimilated ethnic-Chinese population has almost achieved economic parity with the majority group (Alba & Nee. this kind of cultural adoption would fall under the category of acculturation. Chinese culture would have to become symbolic and expressed in terms of the overarching global ‘third culture’. as Ikenberry (2008) pointed out. with language and population providing obstacles. This is because most of the economic opportunities exist within the minority group. Ethnic-Chinese Indonesians on the other hand. China would need to be unequivocally accepted into all of the core cultural institutions of the Western dominated global ‘third culture’. In the United States today. ‘the Chinese economy will be much smaller than the combined economies of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development far into the future’ (Ikenberry.Both of these facts point to increased acceptance of the Chinese cultural group by the core cultural institutions of the global ‘third culture’ and the possibility for future structural assimilation. While China may overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy. p.
p. A possible future unified by a peaceful global nation-state with an overarching global culture can be found in Horace Kallen’s (1924) hope for America nearly 100 years ago. will China assimilate into the Western cultural group. one must realize that assimilation is a natural process that cannot be forced. is not.arts. If the Western cultural group accepts a larger Chinese ‘cultural market share’ then there is a good chance that China will assimilate. the entire world will homogenize and Chinese culture will be lost. However. a large concentrated population) or is due to undetermined factors which operate at the international system level. However. What it means is that cultural groups worldwide will retain a symbolic ‘designer culture’ (Maureen Dowd. for use on the international system level of analysis in order to assess the extent to which China is assimilating into the global ‘third culture’.nz/gjaps 80 . while heavily influenced by the Western cultural group. Assimilation theory is often used to describe the one-way process of ‘incorporation’. in and of itself. Maybe this process will speed up due to our current ‘time-space compression’.g. yet on Park’s (1950) race relation cycle it seems that we are only between competition and accommodation. but an amalgamated culture within which the Chinese cultural group holds a ‘cultural market share’. in reality the global ‘third culture’. Western culture. Conclusion This paper has attempted to adapt assimilation theory. Its form would be that of the federal republic. Much like Nye’s (2001) description of soft power. Either way. We are presently in the midst of our fifth ‘global generation’. China’s ‘cultural market share’ is growing along with its economy. not into Western culture. 45) that is subordinate to the overarching amalgamated global ‘third culture’.Another aspect to consider is that China’s current level of acculturation has taken an unusually long time to achieve. this acculturation has not come quickly. cooperating voluntarily and autonomously through www. begging the question. 1992. or will it take the largest slice of the ‘cultural market share’ pie? Future research should adapt assimilation theory to better fit the process of ‘amalgamation’ as it occurs on a global scale. which has traditionally been employed on the nation-state level of analysis. We must also consider the two concepts of ‘incorporation’ and ‘amalgamation’ with regards to the global ‘third culture’. ‘The outlines of a possible great and truly democratic commonwealth become discernible. it appears to be taking a long bumpy road. and although there is evidence that the process of assimilation is occurring. Gans (1997) posited that acculturation can happen in the first generation after contact and assimilation usually takes place after the third generation. According to the analysis of the four core factors discussed in this paper. cited in Gans.auckland.ac. This does not mean that pluralism will end. or maybe acculturation is simply the end of this global race relations cycle. its substance a democracy of nationalities. While there is evidence that the assimilation process is occurring. the Chinese cultural group has achieved some degree of acculturation. but into an amalgamated global ‘third culture’ of which the Chinese cultural group will hold a significant stake. Ultimately. more research is needed to determine if the Chinese cultural group’s current state of acculturation is due to particular aspects of the Chinese situation (e. structural assimilation of the Chinese cultural group into the Western dominated global ‘third culture’ is a long way off.
Loubere/Is China Conforming to a Westernized Global Culture? 81 . 124).common institutions in the enterprise of self-realization through the perfection of men according to their kind’ (p.
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