Global Opportunities Beyond the Radar

Clash of Cultures: American Optimism vs Chinese Anxiety


What is the American Dream?

Where did it come from?

How did it make its mark on our cultural landscape?

In his book Origins of the American Revolution, historian John Chester Miller explored the mythic power of the frontier spirit. It shaped the culture of early immigrants in profound ways:


The romantic idealism of the Westward Expansion. Source: History


What is Manifest Destiny?



The long hard road of becoming American


Of course, the romance of the Westward Expansion often clashed with the brutal reality:


Source: Vox


However, over time, something miraculous did happen. A powerful shift. That noble American experiment — that metaphorical tree of liberty — started to bear fruit:

Reflecting upon this, Simon Schama asked a rhetorical question, ‘What is an American?’


The Chinese rice bowl


If Americans are defined by their forward-looking optimism, then the Chinese must surely be defined by their collective anxiety:

This obsession with rice bowls — and being fed — might come across as strange. But when a history of hunger looms large in your subconscious, you can’t help but agonise about it:

This isn’t a uniquely Eastern melody, of course. You may find echoes of this in the Western world as well:

Well, that’s the kind of existential trauma many Chinese can relate to:


The century of humiliation


Western powers perceived to be carving up China in the 19th century. Source: Wikipedia


One incendiary message that’s reinforced again and again is the so-called century of humiliation:

It unfolded like this:

On the surface of it, this felt like a clean and simple deal. A willing buyer. A willing seller:

It went like this:

Unfortunately, this plan soon hit a snag:


Source: Welt


China lost this conflict. Badly. It was not only forced to yield to British trade demands, but also surrender control of Hong Kong to the British:


The bottom line


Winston Churchill once said, ‘Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.’ But he could just as easily have been talking about China:

If you believe that geography is destiny, then it’s no surprise that America and China have come to blows. They have different outlooks. Different perceptions. It’s about American plenty versus Chinese scarcity:

The Chinese — though they may never admit it outright — crave this same ideal, but are trying to achieve it within an authoritarian communist framework:



It’s time to have your say


I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading our articles as much as we’ve enjoyed writing them:

By the way, I have a small favour to ask:

We truly value your feedback. It encourages us. It helps us to do better. It helps us to reach further:



John Ling

Analyst, Wealth Morning

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