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Culture involves the beliefs, language, and social habits that define a group. According to Chen (2010), culture influences the way people communicate, and perceive each other. Cross-cultural communication entails the exchange of ideas between people of different origin (Zhang & Xu, 2007).
Jandt (2001) noted that cross-cultural communication plays a very critical role in fostering collaborations between people of different ethnic groups and races.
The 21st century has experienced globalization and the emergence of new media age that has led to increased cross-cultural communication across the globe. In the late 1990s and the start of the 21st century, there have been increased cross-cultural integration in China.
The purpose of this paper is to explore the various concepts of cross-cultural communication in China and its implications for the various aspects of life. A critical focus will be on Han, Zhuang, and Tai cultural groups.
Hybridization entails the combination of different cultures to create a new social orientation that has the aspect of the different cultures. According to Beamer and Varner (2009), cultural hybridization resonates with globalization.
The cultural hybridization affects economic relations between communities and the social orientation of the blending groups. According to Beamer and Varner (2009), cultural hybridization has three interconnected aspects, which include ethnicity, language, and race.
The globalization experienced in the late 1980s changed the cultural orientations in China and set a platform for cultural change.
The changes have had profound effects on language and culture of the Han, Zhuang and Tai. According to Chen (2009), globalization and localization have resulted in a social and cultural transformation in China.
For example, the minority cultural groups that had been marginalized have fused with the major tribes such as the Hai to form a hybridized culture that define the modern China.
The start of the millennium ushered a new age of digital communication, the key feature of the digitization has been the reduction of distances between points in space. According to Croucher (2011), the new media dispensation has led to people feeling that various cultural boundaries are obsolete.
As a result, there have been increased integrations of the distinct cultural groups. The cultural hybridization has been experienced at the global level and the local level (Beamer & Varner, 2009).
At the local level, the various cultures of the local groups have been transformed by the interconnectedness experienced in the in China.
For example, the economic development experienced in China, the technological uptake and the onset of new media age in the 21st century have played a critical role in breaking the traditional boundaries.
Currently, the Tai people have settled in different parts of China. In the past, the Tai were confined in the Southern China where they irrigated rice.
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However, due to frequent interactions with the major tribes such as the Hai, Tai’s economic and political power has spread across China. The increasing influence of the tribes that were considered minority points to a new cultural dispensation in China (Chen, 2010).
A comprehensive case example of cultural hybridization in China relates to the Cantonese Language. The language is a mixture of Han, Tai, and Zhuang cultural groups. Even though, the language has been in existence for many years, recently, there has been an increase in the overlap of the regional dialects.
The interaction between the Tai, Han and Zhuang was through conflicts between the majority group, the Han in the Northern regions and the minority Zhuang and the Tai in the southern regions of China.
Despite the hybridization, some Chinese intellectuals have argued that hybridization experienced in China has not been effective between the cultural groups (Chen, 2010).
However, the claim is contrary to social developments experienced in the modern China. For example, the harmonious co-existence between the Zhuang and the Hai points to the cultural hybridization at the local level. Furthermore, Cantonese language and its acceptance has fostered unity among the cultural groups.
Culture entails the accumulation of folklore, habits, beliefs and customs. Cultural differences result in the creation of perception about the other cultures. Many countries in the world are made of diverse cultural groups.
It thus becomes imperative to understand the ethnic identity and to explore how different cultures perceive each other. According to Chen (2009), a common issue that affects perception in the different ethnic groups is the creation of stereotypes.
China is a culturally diverse country. There have been studies to investigate the perceptions of Chinese people. Most of the studies on the ethnicity perceptions have normally focused on the on-group and out-group stereotypes.
The studies have explored the differences and the stereotypes that exist among the Chinese cultural groups and the overall perceptions of other races towards Chinese.
Despite the hybridization of cultures in China, there still exist different stereotypes among the indigenous cultural groups. Hofstede (2005) pointed that the stereotypes emanate within the cultural confines of the groups.
According to Hofstede (2005), culture informs the experiences of various groups. The different cultural symbols, norms, and cultural communication lead to perceptions. Hofstede (2005) noted that culture is a software of mind.
All human beings have similar hardware; however, the configuration of the software is different (Hofstede, 2005). The differences in the programming of the brains are the source of assumptions and the stereotypes (Hofstede, 2005).
Margaret (2006) added that knowledge of cultural stereotypes, the cultural differences, and the discovery of the similarities that exist within groups enhance intercultural communication.
The fundamental patterns of stereotypes brought about by cultural differences such as differences in communication are driven by culture beliefs, the approaches to a given set of value and particular perceptions. The differences produce an inferior perception towards a given culture or cohort.
According to Cardon (2008), behavioral stereotypes affect the social and economic interactions in a community. An example of a common stereotype among the Han, Tai and Zhuang is gender-based where women are considered as less important members of the society.
The stereotype is not limited to the three cultural groups; it cuts across the various cultural divides. The stereotypes of the women being unable to perform some crucial jobs have led to the women holding the least important positions in the Chinese society.
The women are left to shoulder domestic and parental chores. For instance, in the traditional and the modern China, women continue to occupy a low status in the society.
Beamer and Varner (2009) noted that in the modern world, the intercultural stereotypes affect the business environment and the competitiveness of businesses based on the cultural affiliation. There are stereotypes that affect the running of businesses (Cardon, 2008).
In the globalized society, intercultural communication plays a crucial role in foreign business transactions. For instance, there is a common stereotype that goods produced in China are counterfeits and of low standards.
The stereotype affects the marketing of goods produced in China. For instance, China’s electronic and automobile industry have gained prominence over the last two decade, many multi-national enterprises (MNEs) have established subsidiaries and production lines.
However, the stereotypes that relate to the Chinese products harbor the acceptance of the some quality products produced in China. Another demeaning stereotype is that Chinese eat anything that moves and that that Chinese people are of single ethnicity.
In reality, China is made up of over 56 ethnic groups. The Han are the majority while Tai, Zhuang are some of the minority groups. The stereotypes draw cultural boundaries and prejudices, which in turn hinder cross-cultural communication.
Stereotypes act as barriers to intercultural communications. People from different cultures use stereotypes to form opinions and make sense of another culture by classifying people based on given traits, which may be false or true.
Hofstede (2005) noted that in many instances stereotypes are problematic because they over-generalize and oversimplify beliefs. Jandt (2001) noted that there are different dimensions in which stereotypes act as barriers to intercultural communications.
Stereotypes make us assume that a particular belief about a group is true. The notion hinders social integration because it is based on perception of one culture being superior to the other. If the perception is negative, a prejudice is created.
The stereotypes result in a context of self-fulfilling prophesy. For example, the stereotype that women cannot be trusted to hold big positions in China creates sense of complacency among the women; hence, they do not strive to achieve higher goals in the society.
Stereotypes are propagated based on ambiguity. According to Margaret (2006), effective cross-cultural communication contributes to the reducing anxiety and uncertainty. Therefore, for intercultural communication to be effective, negative stereotypes must be identified and avoided.
Intercultural communication should be based on the ability to tolerate cultural ambiguity and the ability to be mindful of other people’s feelings. For instance, the common stereotype that Chinese eat anything that moves is based on ambiguous grounds and negates the fundamental beliefs of Chinese people.
There are no scientific studies to back the perception; thus, its use is based on falsehood. For example, studies focusing on the eating habits of the Han, Tai and Zhuang have found that they have specific cultural foods. The stereotypes hinder effective intercultural communication.
Politics in Cross-Cultural and Intercultural Encounters
Intercultural encounters refer to the interactions between people from different places (Croucher, 2011). The world has been shifting towards a global society marked by interconnectedness.
The interactions are either peaceful or violent. Intercultural encounters play a critical role in challenging the cultural homogeneity and shaping societies to adopt new ways of life. According to Zhang and Xu (2007), intercultural encounters are drivers of innovations and change.
It is through the social encounters that social networks are built, and social-cultural boundaries are permeated. According to Chen (2009), the main effect of intercultural encounters is that they result in movements and changes in the society.
Jandt (2001) stated that there are different dimensions in which the social encounters take place. The main dimensions of interactions include migration, war, tourism, colonialism, and trade.
Cross-cultural encounters and intercultural encounters have been experienced in different parts of the world. In the contemporary Chinese society, the interactions between cultures have become an important aspect of economic and social development.
Despite the wave of globalization in the late 1990s and the current technological advancements achieved in China, cultural divergence has remained to inform the ideology of people. They have shaped the history of China and have given way to innovations and social changes.
The intercultural cultural encounters have led to new languages developed through the process of cultural hybridization. For example, China consists of many ethnic groups.
The majority cultural group is Han people. For many years, the Han were considered as the civilized while the minority groups such as the Tai and Zhuang were considered as the barbaric. The distinctions between the civilized and the barbaric formed a cultural boundary.
However, the rise in economic and political strength of China has in late 1990s and the start of the 21st century has resulted in a civilized China with no class boundaries. For example, the conflicts that used to be experienced between the Han and the Zhuang were replaced by harmonious interactions.
It is a common phenomenon in the 21st century that many political governments have recognized and accepted equality of citizens from different cultural groups.
Zhang and Xu (2007) noted that many political entities in multi-racial communities are confronted with the challenge of how to manage the various ethnic groups. They also face challenges on how to ensure that the social-economic structural differences enhance unity (Yang & Yi, 2006).
The nature of the interactions between the various ethnic groups is influenced by Government policy that set up institutions to guide group identity and the political identity.
Political encounters relate to the ideology of the political elite in relation to cultural integration (Yang & Yi, 2006). With the onset of globalization, the role of China in the international business has been crucial.
Therefore, language and cultural orientations dictate the level of interactions between the different cultures. Even though, China used to be regarded as a closed society; the government has set institutions that foster integrations of the various cultures and races.
For example, in order to promote language and culture of China, the government has established institutions such as the Confucius institutions. The institutions help in addressing common stereotypes towards the Chinese.
In addition, the government has set institutions in China that promote cultural diversity. Therefore, the politics of encounters and the intercultural encounters challenge the homogeneity and the rigidity of culture.
They are aligned to cultural hybridization and they advocate for the removal of social and cultural boundaries that have traditionally existed in the community.
The paper has explored the concepts of cultural hybridization, stereotypes, and politics of cross-cultural and intercultural encounters. The cultural hegemony associated with specific tribes in China such as the Hai has drastically reduced.
Globalization aspect and the emergence of media has removed the cultural boundaries and ushered in a new dispensation of intercultural communication. The integration has been between the different ethnic groups in China and has transcended to accommodate the different races that have migrated to China.
For example, the integration of the Han, Tai and Zhuang resulted to Cantonese language, which is an example of the cultural hybridization. On the other hand, the political encounters have put a platform based on the ideology of oneness that has promoted harmony in China.
In terms of interracial interactions, the political encounters have led to establishment of the Confucius institutions that foster the Chinese culture and language.
However, the cross-cultural integration is still harbored by various prejudices in China such as stereotypes against women and the falsehoods about the quality of products produced in China.
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Hofstede, G. (2005). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. New York: McGraw- Hill.
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