Effects of Globalization on Japan and China

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27 March 2016

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In this paper I will be looking at China and Japan two very different examples of native non-western cultures that have been impacted by western culture very differently. Globalization can be described as the increasing interplay of cultures brought closer together. The impact of globalization on indigenous cultures can be seen negatively and positively with varying outcomes. Globalization has increased opportunities for indigenous people, it’s also impeded their ability to keep their cultural practices and knowledge. In many cases, indigenous people’s views have been displaced by western views by becoming increasingly materialistic and individualized, values that are associated with western culture. Not everything is negative though, the integration offered by western technology has brought, better access to programs and services, reduced isolation, created employment, ability to preserve and share their cultural heritage and traditional languages.

Greater contact and ongoing interactions impact indigenous cultures. Globalization “constitutes an unprecedented threat to the autonomy of Indigenous cultures”, but gives “an unprecedented opportunity for Indigenous empowerment” (Smith, Burke & Ward, 2000, p. 21) Globalization brings unavoidable change to indigenous people and their cultures. Globalization can goes back for hundreds of years with trade between countries. Over the years, areas of travel, knowledge, immigration and goods have grown. Two examples of event driven non-western cultures being changed by globalization are the counties of China and Japan.

In the 1970’s an American fast foods restaurant opened in Japan representing American culture. It started a westernization shift in the Japanese. Traditional culture focused on traditional rituals, foods and family heritage. Before the event of American fast food restaurants like MacDonald began in Japan, the traditionally bento box is food in a small box prepared for school aged children. Not just a boxed lunch, the bento box lunch was a token of home, and more importantly of mom. Making elaborate, creative boxed lunch measured a womans dedication to being a mother. The lunches, could be time and labor intensive to make every morning. Tips for making them were the conversation among moms, and whole magazines were devoted to the topic.

Entire industries revolved around selling the foods and gadgets use to make them. The bento box lunch represented that the role of any Japanese citizen is to be carried out with precision and dedication. The lunch also represents that mom’s were responsible for a healthy lunch and the childs responsibility is learning. Since the introduction of fast food meals and a American diet, interest in traditional bento box lunch has faded greatly. The increasing consumption of fast food has caused lots of changes in Japanese culture, obesity rates are up to nearly 10 percent, the Japanese didnt traditionally eat red meat very much before the change, Japan currently has the largest number of McDonalds outside the United States and American style prepared lunches are a staple now.

To show that globalization is a continual process,what had been a very tradition teenage way of life of school uniforms and reserved and respectful traditional dress has changed with more recent popular American hip-hop culture influence is a example of how continued globalization is changing non-Western cultures. Japanese Hip-Hop is a developing popular subculture from New York to Tokyo teenagers wearing the same kinds of fashion’s hats, baggy pants, and sneakers. Parts of Tokyo are much like New York, with trendy nightclubs, bars, restaurants and hotels, catering to hip-hop culture. This new developing sub- culture is gaining acceptance in the wider Japanese society.

China’s first instance of Chinese internationalism was during the Han Dynasty in 125 BC. At the start of the Han Dynasty, the Huns were attacking the frontiers of the Han, Emperor Wu needed an alliance, Emperor Wu looked to the West to establish economic and cultural connections, there were few trade routes between China and Europe. The most famous route is the central land route or the Silk Road, a network of roads from northwest China to the ports of Syria and the Black Sea. The Silk Road allowed Chinese emperors dominance over Central Asia by developing their resources and providing new markets for the export of China’s resources. Before this trans-formative event China had little wealth and very few other markets available to their goods especially silk, they were very isolated. After the event the Chinese emperors had increased wealth and power both with trade and security that it brought. This event brought very little cultural contact with western cultures to the everyday Chinese but it was the beginning of a long period of western globalization that continues today in to China.

Another opportunity for the Chinese to be exposed to western culture was in 1915. Japan issued demands against China with the goal to conquer them, the demands placed on the Chinese were humiliating and degrading, reducing China to a protectorate of Japan. China turned to Britain to help them, the British spoke up for China to prevent total capitulation. Japans was determination to dominate East Asia is the basis for future Japanese/ Chinese relations and western influence growing in China until World War 2. During the following wars and various military conflicts the Chinese regularly turned to their military allies in the west and exposed more of their culture to western influence and values. Within China this reliance was seen as a weakness by Mao the leader or the revolution and currently in power, who had been heavily influenced by Marxist ideas from Russia.

Many cultural practices before the Chinese revolution event were very common traditional festivals being celebrated, Buddhist prayer to ancient artifacts and ancestors, traditional music like Han folk music, traditional art and designs. Mainly seen in the rural farm areas and villages where traditional culture is more prominent. As a result after World War 2 the Chinese Communist Party and Mao Zedong gained power and believed a Marxist social revolution would be the cure for Chinas problems. His radical beliefs extended to the issues of Values, Language forcing a country of many languages to speak mandarin, Spirituality changed promoting atheism and turning against Buddhism defacing ancient artifacts, Literature was only pro communist propaganda, Music turned to revolution-themed songs, the practice of traditional martial arts was discouraged, Fashion changed to Mao suits for men and women and profound changes in society with property seizures and purges, Women rights changes by legalizing divorce, abolishing arranged marriage, and the termination of foot binding. These are just some of the changes that resulted directly and indirectly from the influences and backlash of western globalization on china and it’s leaders.

Currently in China, many cities have embraced western globalization, It’s seen by western style sky scrapers, chain hotels, and American restaurant chains. China mainly functioned on traditional culture and respect for heritage but that is changing in modern times. A cultural heritage rich with festivals, holidays, foods, traditional clothing and music. The youth’s of society are educated and encouraged to be part of in their traditions and culture but also to be modern. This desire to be modern and stylish, driven mostly by television, internet, popular movie and music icons. Clothing worn by young Chinese is almost the same as those worn by high school/college age Americans. The popular Hair styles, shoes and makeup trends are just some of the signs of current westernization in China. The rural areas are slower to accept western style changes and are more traditional although cell phones and internet access are now widely available. There was no single event that started the globalization movement in modern China, most all things western are seen as modern and stylish for most of the populace. Chinese culture has adapted, accepting many western styles, products and values.


Smith, C., Burke, H., & Ward, G.K. (2000). Globalization and Indigenous peoples: Threat or empowerment? In C. Smith & G. K. Ward (Eds.),Indigenous Culture in an interconnected world. Vancouver: University of British Columbia (UBC) Press

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StudyScroll. (2016). Effects of Globalization on Japan and China. [Online]. Available at: https://studyscroll.com/effects-of-globalization-on-japan-and-china-essay [Accessed: 31-Jan-2023]

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