Recently, I encountered my old neighbor, who had just returned from
America with his 12-year-old son, Alan Lee. After receiving both western education and influences from his parents’ Chinese lifestyle for years, as an
American-born Chinese, Alan often feels at a loss: Am I a Chinese, or an American? It’s not a simple question of family origin, rather, a matter of realizing and maintaining cultural identity in the global world.
Daniel Bell, the present dean of American sociologists, expresses the need to regain a cultural past and a traditional identity. The same thing is true with Chinese culture. Absence of belonging would drive the whole nation nowhere on the boundless sea of globalization, and its members, like fallen leaves, would float sadly, lonely, and aimlessly in the air. Without cultural identity, it would be impossible for such a multi-national country to find its place in the international community.
From my perspective, two approaches, inner and outer, might be applied
in order to maintain our cultural identity.
On one hand, it is essential to unite people through close cultural ties. Since ancient times, people of the 56 ethnic groups have toiled and multiplied on the vast land of China. These efforts prove to be more precious now since they are evidences that we share the same cultural identity. Lincoln once said, “united we stand, divided we fall.” It is each of these cultural branches that
constitute the diverse and colorful Chinese culture, and the Chinese have always valued the great unity of all the ethnic groups.
On the other, facing the globalized world, it’s our joint responsibility to
establish a new cultural image of China. To achieve this, we should wisely draw upon the fruits of world civilizations. The Han and Tang Dynasties were
periods of prosperity when China strove to develop itself, and also periods when it learned extensively from foreign cultures in external exchanges. We should promote development of all civilizations in mutual tolerance and seeking agreement while shelving differences. These are also reflections of the tolerance and profundity in the Chinese culture.
Cultural identity should be based on a mature citizen's consciousness, an awareness of protecting our own cultural heritage with a respect for the world as a whole. “Though we were born and grew up in different places, we share
one China in our hearts.” This is what Alan said to me, and I believe it’s the
real aspiration of all the Chinese throughout the world.