Globalization vs. Traditions in Eastern Culture

Introduction: Encountering a Symbol of the United States in the Middle of China

It has been quite a while since the word “globalization” was a neologism. Becoming a part and parcel of the modern world, globalization seems to have shaped every single country, opening states for new relationships with the countries in any other spot on the Earth. Thus, spawning a phenomenon of cultural fusion and launching several economical, political, and cultural projects which were bound to tie the nations of the world together, globalization has offered every single state of the world a unique experience of tasting the exotics of a foreign culture.

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However, it cannot be denied that there are some problems with the pace and scale of globalization. While the idea is generally good and is aimed at making the economic processes considerably easier by washing off both geographical and economical boundaries between the states of the world, there are serious issues concerning culture fusion, such as the incompatibility between certain elements of the two cultures, or the threat of wiping the less influential culture off the face of the Earth, which makes the issue worth reconsideration. Because of the increasing pace of globalization, the cultures of different states mix up, thus, blurring the distinctions between the East and the West, which can affect people’s national identity in the most negative way.

The Argument Themes: The World of Consumerism Welcomes the Newcomer

The major problem of globalization is its tendency to make less influential cultures fade into the background, while the dominant one is going to shape the life of nations all over the world. Focusing on the given issue, the authors offer a lot of food for thoughts. For instance, one of the most peculiar ideas on the issue concerns the controversy of the problem. As Obnuki-Teirney explains, “Throughout Asia, for example, fast food is not simply a commodity; it is also a representation of ‘the West’ or ‘America’.”1 Therefore, the spotlight in the above-mentioned essays is on the effects which globalization has on the world countries, or, to be more exact, on the Asian countries.

The positive aspects of consumerist culture must be also addressed. For instance, Yan makes it obvious that globalization and market development contribute to economic growth. According to Yan,

In the eyes of Beijing residents, McDonald’s represents Americana and the promise of modernization. McDonald’s highly efficient service and management, its spotless dining environment, and its fresh ingredients have been featured repeatedly by the Chinese media as exemplars of modernity.2

Hence, the threat of consumerism is a recurrent theme of the articles. Pointing out the fact that fast food is shaping the Eastern culture, the researchers make it obvious that not all tendencies brought by the American culture are of positive effect.

Another concern raised in the articles is the change in what people eat and how. According to Watson, people started consuming more fat and fewer vegetables3. In addition to the fact that the given habit contradicts the principles of Eastern cuisine, it contributes to the development of health problems, e.g., weight gain.

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Despite the threat which the American culture in general and the dominance of the American fast food, in particular, poses to the Eastern culture, the former did bring something new into the Oriental world. McDonald’s chain has offered children Birthday parties and opened a Youth Center, which is quite an innovation for the East4.

Even though McDonald’s might seem an insignificant element of Western culture, it still affects people’s national identity, since it changes the existing eating habits. Hence, a contradiction arises: “People wish to be, simultaneously, nationalistic and global”5. Badly needing a solution, this dilemma can threaten Korean national integrity.

Also, Bak has made it clear that there is a link between food choices and the domestic economy. The message Bak tries to convey is that fast food hinders the domestic economy. “Foods, especially staple foods, often become intertwined with a group’s identity,”6 Bak claims. Moving from rice to hamburgers, the Eastern culture may not survive the consequences. It seems, though, that the concern for the tendency of choosing fast food over the traditional meals in the East is slightly exaggerated. It is highly unlikely that people will prefer new food over the one which they have been eating for centuries simply because the former is less time-consuming.

A small nitpick in the overall avalanche of McDonald’s negative effects, the habit of eating on the run conflicts with the Oriental culture as well. However, the fast-food trend may change the latter completely. “Treated more like meals than snacks”7, fast food can change the eastern pace of life completely.

Finally, Watson conveys the idea that McDonald’s trend is the effect of globalization. As Watson explains, protests against McDonald’s are mostly political. Protesting against McDonald’s, people protest against globalization: “By the late 1990s McDonald’s has become the primary target of the worldwide antiglobalization movement”8. Representing the American culture, McDonald’s is, indeed, an easy target for antiglobalists’ protests.

The Authors’ Methods: Unusual Approach to Trivial Concerns

Speaking of the above-mentioned researches, namely, the ones conducted by Watson, as well as the articles by Bak, Condry, Epstein, Obnuki-Tierney, Wu, and Yan, it is necessary to consider the specific means of conducting the research which the authors prefer. It is quite unusual that in each of the analyzed articles, the research manner can be described as qualitative. Indeed, if considering the researches conducted by the authors of the articles closer, one will see that there is little statistical data and numbers whatsoever. On the contrary, the researchers offer a lot of speculations and deductions, along with the detailed analysis of facts, which means that the authors of the articles in question resort to the qualitative analysis.

For example, in “McDonald’s in Hong Kong: Consumerism, Dietary Change, and the Rise of a Children’s Culture,” Watson offers the readers not statistical data or numbers, but his observations: “The three elements of McDonald’s basic ‘set’ (hamburgers, fries, and Coke) had all been available in Hong Kong since at least the mid-50ies”9. In his turn, Wu also relies rather on logical deductions than on the analysis of numbers and percentages: “In the 50ies, American culture, including music, food, and fashion, began to exert a strong influence on Taiwan’s youth”10. Likewise, Bak prefers a qualitative analysis to the quantitative one, which is shown in the way the author deals with the data he obtains for his research, focusing on people’s emotions rather than on figures and statistics: “The employees I encountered during my 1994 research exposed positive feelings about their jobs and the restaurant company”11. Moreover, it can be added that the key research method in most papers includes questionnaires and opinion polls. Needless to mention, Watson’s Preface also has little statistics.

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However, some articles offer certain statistics. For instance, Obnuki-Tierney provides sufficient statistical data concerning sales records and investments in Japan: “Every month that year the Japanese consumed 12,000 tons of American beef and 15,000 tons of Idaho potatoes”12. Besides, in his Preface, Watson attempts at offering certain statistical information: “Ninety-six percent of the American population has visited a McDonald’s restaurant at least once”13.

Data Evidence and Its Analysis: The East Drowning in the Pool of Western Culture

As has been mentioned, in most cases, the authors consider the graphic evidence which they obtained in the course of their exploration of the Oriental culture. Except for Obnuki-Tierney’s research results, there are little to no statistical pieces of evidence. However, each of the authors offers a solid analysis of the collected data, making it clear that Eastern culture is threatened considerably by Western influence.

What Slipped the Author’s Attention: Some Obvious Issues to Have Been Considered

The issue, i.e., the negative effects of globalization on the Asian culture, has been explored in the most efficient and detailed way possible. However, it is worth mentioning that some issues are worth addressing and which should have been explored together with the concerns raised by the authors of the articles.

To start with, neither of the authors considers the effects which the Oriental culture has on the rest of the world. Mutual processes, globalization, and culture fusion must also affect the English language, the American culture, and people’s vision of the world. Letting the given issue out, the authors of the articles miss some opportunities to explore the relationships between the two worlds.

Another peculiar detail that has slipped each of the authors is the political aspect of cultural dominance. While taking into account the economical aspect and pointing out the controversy, namely, the conflict between the national self-awareness and the promotion of the American lifestyle, products, and, therefore, raising life standards at least a bit, the authors of the articles never mentioned the aspect of political relationships between the countries of Asia and the United States. It seems that once revealing the specifics of these relationships, one can understand the choices which Asian countries made, allowing the U. S. companies to locate their services in the Asian countries.

Hence, it is clear that the authors of the articles have omitted several significant issues concerning the problem of globalization and Asian culture. Even though the details mentioned above cannot be considered as significant as the factors of globalization which the authors touched upon, the given issues are still worth being considered to estimate the effects of globalization in a more efficient manner. Compared to the problems outlined by Watson, the given issues are comparatively easy to cope with. Yet these problems also require solutions, and they are easily related to the globalization process, which makes them altogether quite essential.

Passages Undermining the Authors’ Ideas: Controversy, Explored

As it has been mentioned already, the authors provide a coherent train of thought and offer sufficient evidence to back their theories up. However, it must be admitted that at certain points, the theories which the authors of the articles suggest reveal considerable gaps that need further explanations.

To start with, Wu admits that McDonald’s “has transformed Taiwan into a modern industrial power”14, though arguing that McDonald’s undermines the Thai life principles. Likewise, Watson admits that “time is money everywhere in today’s world”15, thus, making it obvious that fast-food chains allegedly help people keep up with the modern world. Finally, Bak claims that the employees he encountered in the course of his research “expressed positive feelings about their jobs”16 in multinational corporations like McDonald’s, which contrasts with the idea of the rising self-awareness that Bak speaks about.

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Nevertheless, it will be a mistake to call the theories of the authors flawed; offering a lot of examples and having considerable fundament to base on, these theories are by no means half-baked or amateurish. However, given theories require further development.

The Probable Solutions and the Current Coping Mechanism: The East Is Ready for Western Innovations

As it has been mentioned, globalization is an irreversible process – once launched, it continues to influence the world until the latter will be completely transformed. However, the globalization process can be somehow shaped, and its effects can be soothed greatly.

Therefore, the strategy of careful analysis of the influences and the perception of only those which are truly worth being adopted seems the most obvious coping mechanism. Even though shutting the undesirable influence out completely is practically impossible, negative tendencies can be easily avoided once people realize what the problem is. In the given situation concerning culture fusion, the most appropriate way to react to the outside influences seems to follow one’s common sense. Choosing the trends which seem harmful enough and avoiding bizarre ideas is what works for the Asian countries at present.

Also, it is important to keep in mind that national identity and the features of national culture are not the kinds of things which are easily washed away; it takes centuries to make people forget about their traditional lifestyle and follow the one suggested by another culture. Even with the abundance of McDonald’s services in the Asian countries and the fact that more people tend to use the services offered by the western companies, it is the sense of belonging that defines one’s identity. Hence, as long as the Asian people remember who they are and what makes them different from other nations, they can survive the negative effects of globalization.

Conclusion: Rethinking the Idea of Cultures Fusion in the realm of the Oriental World

Therefore, despite its obvious positive effects, globalization also has several drawbacks, most of which concern the enhancement of the elements of the dominant culture and the decay of the rest of the cultures. While progress is doubtlessly a wonderful thing for any country, achieved with the help of promoting one culture over the others, it will finally come at a price.

Moreover, it should also be mentioned that national culture and identity are not that easy to wipe out of the face of the Earth; much more resilient to the impact of the other cultures than one might give them credit for, they tend to develop despite the dominating culture. However, it is still important to keep in mind that one has to remember about his/her national identity, which means that one must not blindly accept any influences of the dominating culture. Taking what seems the most decent and avoiding the obvious negative influence, the Oriental countries will be able to retain their national coloring and at the same time keep in pace with the progress.

Bibliography

Bak, Sangmee. “McDonald’s in Seoul: Food Choices, Identity, and Nationalism.” In Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, edited by James L. Watson, 136-160. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.

Condry, Ian. “A History of Japanese Hip-Hop. Street Dance, Club Scene, Pop Market.” In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, edited by Tony Mitchell, 222-247. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan U. P., 2001.

Epstein, Stephen J. “Anarchy in the UK, Solidarity in the ROK: Punk Rock Comes to Korea.” Acta Koreana, no. 3 (2000):1-34.

Obnuki-Tierney, Emiko. “McDonald’s in Japan: Changing Manners and Etiquette.” In Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, edited by James L. Watson, 161-182. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.

Watson, James L. “Introduction: Transnationalism, Localization and Fast Food in East Asia.” In Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, edited by James L. Watson, 1-39. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.

Watson, James L. “McDonald’s as Political Target: Globalization and Anti Globalization in the Twenty-First Century.” In Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, edited by James L. Watson, 183-200. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.

Watson, James L. “McDonald’s in Hong Kong: Consumerism, Dietary Change, and the Rise of a Children’s Culture.” In Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, edited by James L. Watson, 77-109. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.

Watson, James L. “Preface to the First Edition.” In Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, edited by James L. Watson, v-xi. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.

Wu, David Y. H. “McDonald’s in Tapei: Hamburgers, Betel Nuts, and National Identity.” In Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, edited by James L. Watson, 110-135. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.

Yan, Yunxiang. “McDonald’s in Beijing.” In Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, edited by James L. Watson, 39-76. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.

1. Emiko Obnuki-Tierney, “McDonald’s in Japan: Changing Manners and Etiquette,” in Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, edited by James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006): 161.

2 Yunxiang Yan, “McDonald’s in Beijing,” in Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, ed. James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006): 41.

3. James L. Watson, “McDonald’s in Hong Kong: Consumerism, Dietary Change, and the Rise of a Children’s Culture,” in Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, ed. James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006): 77.

4. James L. Watson, “McDonald’s in Hong Kong: Consumerism, Dietary Change, and the Rise of a Children’s Culture,” in Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, ed. James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006): 105.

5. Sangma Bak, “McDonald’s in Seoul: Food Choices, Identity, and Nationalism,” in Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, ed. James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006): 137.

6. Sangmee Bak, “McDonald’s in Seoul: Food Choices, Identity, and Nationalism,” in Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, ed. James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006): 138.

7. Emiko Obnuki-Tierney, “McDonald’s in Japan: Changing Manners and Etiquette,” in Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, edited by James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006): 165.

8. James L. Watson, “McDonald’s as Political Target: Globalization and Anti Globalization in the Twenty-First Century,” in Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, ed. James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006): 186.

9. James L. Watson, “McDonald’s in Hong Kong: Consumerism, Dietary Change, and the Rise of a Children’s Culture,” in Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, ed. James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006): 81.

10. David Y. H. Wu, “McDonald’s in Tapei: Hamburgers, Betel Nuts, and National Identity,” in Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, ed. James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006): 113.

11. Sangmee Bak, “McDonald’s in Seoul: Food Choices, Identity, and Nationalism,” in Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, ed. James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006): 141.

12. Emiko Obnuki-Tierney, “McDonald’s in Japan: Changing Manners and Etiquette,” in Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, edited by James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006): 162.

13. James L. Watson, “Preface to the First Edition,” in Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, ed. James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006): vii.

14. David Y. H. Wu, “McDonald’s in Tapei: Hamburgers, Betel Nuts, and National Identity,” in Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, ed. James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006): 115.

15. James L. Watson, “McDonald’s as Political Target: Globalization and Anti Globalization in the Twenty-First Century,” in Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, ed. James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006): 189.

16. Sangmee Bak, “McDonald’s in Seoul: Food Choices, Identity, and Nationalism,” in Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, ed. James L. Watson (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006): 141.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, February 12). Globalization vs. Traditions in Eastern Culture. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/globalization-vs-traditions-in-eastern-culture/

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StudyCorgi. "Globalization vs. Traditions in Eastern Culture." February 12, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/globalization-vs-traditions-in-eastern-culture/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Globalization vs. Traditions in Eastern Culture." February 12, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/globalization-vs-traditions-in-eastern-culture/.

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