Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

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Submitted by Marcus on Tue, 2011-01-11 15:13

I read this article by Amy Chua on the weekend in the Sunday Times, reproduced from the WSJ, and I was shocked. Amy has written a book, and here an article, about how she as a Chinese mother will force her children to be top in all their classes through an authoritarian regime. In my opinion, although she makes some valid points, she is essentially crushing her childrens individuality and self-esteem. Of course, she bends over backwards in this article to say that her Children still have high self-esteem, even though at one point she tells her daughter that she is "garbage".

Montessori would be surely turning in her grave.

If this is really the Chinese attitude to education, I'm afraid they are never going to achieve the success of the west in terms of innovation and economic progress. China like Japan will eventually stagnate if they do not encourage a culture of the individual.

"Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything. The reason for this is a little unclear, but it's probably a combination of Confucian filial piety and the fact that the parents have sacrificed and done so much for their children...[and] the understanding is that Chinese children must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud."

Dragon Mother

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That's a relief...

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Are strict Chinese mothers the best?

"In defence of Western parenting, Mike Vilensky says in New York magazine that the cost of a rigid timetable of activities decided by parents is a loss of creativity. And creativity is what is behind the big entrepreneurial successes such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

Psychologist Oliver James says in the Guardian that lack of creativity is a major problem in Asian schooling. His tests, based on imagining doubling your salary, always came a cropper in Asian schools.

"They were simply incapable of picturing an abstract situation and of entering into a game," noted James. "I am sure this was because their creativity had been systematically destroyed and in its place, a survival pragmatism installed."...

While no-one seems to dispute that children of Chinese heritage do consistently better than their peers, there are suggestions from the Chinese community that the stereotype of the strict Chinese parent is outdated.

Columnist for China Daily Huang Hung says in the Daily Beast the context of this strict form of parenting is based on parts of Chinese culture which glorify suffering, and tells mothers they are only as good as their children.

However, she says that the overwhelming feeling is that Chinese parents in China do not act like this anymore. "It is ironic that as young Chinese mothers in Beijing and Shanghai are embracing more enlightened Western ideas about child raising, mothers from Connecticut are sinking deeper into China's darker past in child rearing."

Jen Wang from the website Disgrasian adds in the Huffington Post that as a second generation Chinese immigrant she finds it difficult to justify a strict upbringing. She argues that the parenting style is now irrelevant as the consequences of failure in a middle class family aren't as dire as it would be for their parents. This, she wonders, might make it harder for her daughters to understand why Amy Chua is so strict."

Downfall of the Dragon Mother

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There was a follow up this week in the Sunday Times. It just goes to show, children can't be forced to pursue the same ambitions as their parents.

Downfall of the Dragon Mother by Amy Chua

Sunday Times, 16.01.11

Here’s a question I often get asked: “Who are you doing all this pushing for: your daughters — or yourself?” I find this a very western question to ask (because in Chinese thinking, the child is the extension of the self). But that doesn’t mean it’s not an important one. My answer, I’m pretty sure, is that everything I do is unequivocally 100% for my daughters.

My main evidence is that so much of what I do with Sophia and her younger sister, Lulu, is miserable, exhausting and not remotely fun for me. It’s not easy to make your kids work when they don’t want to, to put in gruelling hours when your own youth is slipping away, to convince your kids they can do something when they (and maybe even you) are fearful that they can’t.

The Chinese parenting approach is weakest when it comes to failure; it just doesn’t tolerate that possibility. The Chinese model turns on achieving success. That’s how the virtuous circle of confidence, hard work and more success is generated.

The virtuous circle didn’t work with Lulu, however. I just couldn’t understand it. Everything seemed to be going exactly according to plan. At considerable cost — but nothing I wasn’t prepared to pay — Lulu succeeded in all the ways I’d always dreamt she would.

After months of gruelling preparation and the usual fights, threats and yelling and screaming during violin practice at home, Lulu won the position of concert master of a prestigious youth orchestra, even though she was only 12 and much younger than most of the other musicians. She received a statewide “prodigy” award and made the newspapers.

At school she got straight As and won the top French and Latin recitation prizes. But instead of her success producing confidence, gratitude towards parents and the desire to work harder, the opposite happened. Lulu started rebelling: not just against practising, but against everything I’d ever stood for.

She even started talking back to me and openly disobeying me in front of my parents when they visited. This might not sound a big deal to westerners, but in our household it was like desecrating a temple. In fact, it was so out of the realm of the acceptable that no one knew what to do.

My father privately urged me to let Lulu give up the violin. My mother, who was close to Lulu (they were email pen pals), told me flat out: “You have to stop being so stubborn, Amy. You’re too strict with Lulu — too extreme. You’re going to regret it.”

“Why are you turning on me now?” I shot back. “This is how you raised me.”

“You can’t do what Daddy and I did,” my mother replied. “Things are different now. Lulu’s not you — and she’s not Sophia. She has a different personality, and you can’t force her.”

“I’m sticking to the Chinese way,” I said. “It works better. I don’t care if nobody supports me. You’ve been brainwashed by your western friends.”

Then Lulu did something else unimaginable: she went public with her insurgency Instead of a virtuous circle, we were in a vicious spiral downwards. Lulu turned 13 and grew more alienated and resentful. She wore a constant apathetic look on her face, and every other word out of her mouth was “No” or “I don’t care”. She rejected my vision of a valuable life.

“Why can’t I hang out with my friends like everyone else does?” she’d demand. “Why are you so against shopping malls? Why can’t I have sleepovers? Why does every second of my day have to be filled up with work?”

Then Lulu did something else unimaginable: she went public with her insurgency.

As Lulu well knew, Chinese parenting in the West is an inherently closet practice. If it comes out that you push your kids against their will, or want them to do better than other kids, other parents will heap opprobrium on you, and your children will pay the price. As a result, immigrant parents learn to conceal things. No one wants to be a pariah.

That’s why Lulu’s manoeuvre was so smart. She’d argue loudly with me in the street, at a restaurant, or in a shop and strangers would stare. Once she screamed so loudly that a policeman came over to see what the problem was.

The endgame took place in Moscow on a holiday I’d dreamt of for a long time. Jed, my husband, had found us a hotel right in the centre of the city. We headed out for our first taste of Russia.

After roaming around for a bit, we sat down at an outdoor cafe. It was attached to the famous GUM shopping centre, which is housed in a palatial building that takes up almost the entire east side of Red Square.

We decided to get blinis and caviar. But when the caviar arrived, Lulu said: “Eww, gross,” and wouldn’t try it.

“Lulu, you sound like an uncultured savage,” I snapped. “Try the caviar. You can put a lot of sour cream on it.”

“That’s even worse,” Lulu said, and she made a shuddering gesture. “And don’t call me a savage.”

I pushed the caviar towards Lulu. I ordered her to try one egg — one single egg.

“Why?” Lulu asked defiantly. “Why do you care so much? You can’t force me to eat something.”

I felt my temper rising. “You’re behaving like a juvenile delinquent. Try one egg now.”

“I don’t want to,” said Lulu.

“Do it now, Lulu.”


“Amy,” Jed began diplomatically, “everyone’s tired. Why don’t we just . . .”

I broke in: “Do you know how sad and ashamed my parents would be if they saw this, Lulu — you publicly disobeying me? With that look on your face? You’re only hurting yourself. We’re in Russia, and you refuse to try caviar! You’re like a barbarian. And in case you think you’re a big rebel, you are completely ordinary. There is nothing more typical, more predictable, more common and low, than an American teenager who won’t try things. You’re boring, Lulu — boring.”

“Shut up,” said Lulu angrily.

“Don’t you dare say ‘Shut up’ to me. I’m your mother,” I hissed. A few guests glanced over.

“I hate you! I HATE YOU!” This, from Lulu, was not in a hiss. It was an all-out shout at the top of her lungs. Now the entire cafe was staring at us.

“You don’t love me,” Lulu spat out. “You think you do, but you don’t. You just make me feel bad about myself every second. You’ve wrecked my life. I can’t stand to be around you. Is that what you want?”

A lump rose in my throat. Lulu saw it, but she went on.

“You’re a terrible mother. You’re selfish. You don’t care about anyone but yourself. What — you can’t believe how ungrateful I am? After all you’ve done for me? Everything you say you do for me is actually for yourself.”

She’s just like me, I thought: compulsively cruel. “You are a terrible daughter,” I said aloud.

“I know — I’m not what you want — I’m not Chinese! I don’t want to be Chinese. Why can’t you get that through your head? I hate the violin. I HATE my life. I HATE you, and I HATE this family! I’m going to take this glass and smash it!”

“Do it,” I dared her.

Lulu grabbed a glass from the table and threw it on the ground. Water and shards went flying, and some guests gasped. I felt all eyes upon us, a grotesque spectacle.

I’d made a career out of spurning the kind of western parents who can’t control their kids. Now I had the most disrespectful, rude, violent, out-of-control kid of all.

Lulu was trembling with rage, and there were tears in her eyes. “I’ll smash more if you don’t leave me alone,” she cried.

I got up and ran. I ran as fast as I could, not knowing where I was going, a crazy 46-year-old woman sprinting in sandals and crying. I ran past Lenin’s mausoleum and past some guards with guns who I thought might shoot me.

Then I stopped. I had come to the end of Red Square. There was nowhere to go.

Families often have symbols: a lake in the country, Grandpa’s medal, the sabbath dinner. In our household the violin had become a symbol. For me it symbolised excellence, refinement and depth — the opposite of shopping malls, mega-sized Cokes, teenage clothes and crass consumerism. Unlike listening to an iPod, playing the violin is difficult and requires concentration, precision and interpretation.

To me the violin symbolised respect for hierarchy, standards and expertise. For those who know better and can teach. For those who play better and can inspire. In short, the violin symbolised the success of the Chinese parenting model. For Lulu it embodied oppression. And as I walked slowly back across Red Square, I realised that it had begun to symbolise oppression for me too.

Just picturing Lulu’s violin case sitting at home by the front door (for the first time ever we hadn’t brought it on holiday so that she could practise) made me think of the hours and hours and years and years of fighting, antagonism and misery that we’d endured. For what?

I rejoined my family at the GUM cafe. The waiters and other guests averted their eyes.

“Lulu,” I said, “you win. It’s over. We’re giving up the violin.”

When Lulu realised I was sincere, she surprised me. “I don’t want to quit,” she said. “I love the violin. I would never give it up.”

“Oh, please,” I said, shaking my head. “Let’s not go in circles again.”

“I don’t want to quit violin,” Lulu repeated. “I just don’t want to be so intense about it. It’s not the main thing I want to do with my life.”

Lulu decided to quit orchestra, giving up her concert master position to free up Saturday mornings for tennis. Some months later I picked her up from some godforsaken tennis place.

“Guess what, Mommy — I won!”

“Won what?” I asked.

“The tournament,” Lulu said.

“What does that mean?”

“I won three matches, and I beat the top seed in the finals. She was ranked No 60 in New England. I can’t believe I beat her!”

Over the next six weeks Lulu won three more tournaments. At the last two I went to watch her play. I was struck by what a fireball she was on the court: she never gave up. No, Mommy — no! Please don’t wreck tennis for me like you wrecked violin

At the next lesson I watched her drill her backhand with a focus and tenacity I’d never seen in her. She’s so driven, I thought. So ... intense.

Lulu’s tennis instructor told me: “She has an unbelievable work ethic — I’ve never seen anyone improve so fast. She’s a great kid. You and your husband have done an amazing job with her. She never settles for less than 110%. And she’s always so upbeat and polite.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said. But despite myself, my spirits lifted. Could this be the Chinese virtuous circle in action? Had I perhaps just chosen the wrong activity for Lulu? Tennis was very respectable.

Michael Chang had played tennis.

I started to gear up. I familiarised myself with the rules and procedures of the US Tennis Association and the national ranking system. I started calling around about the best tennis clinics in the area.

Lulu overheard me one day. “What are you doing?” she demanded. “No, Mommy — no! Don’t wreck tennis for me like you wrecked violin.”

That really hurt. I backed off. The next day I tried again. “Lulu, there’s a place in Massachusetts. . .”

“No, Mommy — please stop,” Lulu said. “I’ve watched you and listened to your lectures a million times. But I don’t want you controlling my life.”

I didn’t really give up. I’m still in the fight, but with some significant modifications to my strategy. I’ve become newly accepting and open-minded.

Meanwhile, I’ve resorted to espionage and guerrilla warfare. I secretly plant ideas in her tennis coach’s head, texting questions and practice strategies and then deleting the messages so Lulu won’t see them.

Sometimes, when Lulu’s least expecting it — at breakfast or when I’m saying good night — I’ll suddenly yell out: “More rotation on the swing volley!” or: “Don’t move your right foot on your kick serve!” And Lulu will plug her ears, and we’ll fight, but I’ll have got my message out, and I know she knows I’m right.

Hedge funds bet China is a bubble close to bursting

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Hedge funds bet China is a bubble close to bursting

The world is looking to China as a springboard out of recession - but some hedge funds are betting the country's credit and growth levels cannot be sustained.

"For his first-ever speech as Britain’s new Minister of Trade & Industry last week, Lord Green faced a formidable audience of 400 Chinese and British business delegates.

The former chairman of HSBC declared that China’s economic growth figures over the past five years represented an “extraordinary historic event”.

Green didn’t need to go over Britain’s experience during the same period for most to agree that plugging into China’s blistering growth - predicted by the IMF to be 10.5pc this year - was of “vital importance” to the UK.

But even as he spoke a hedge fund manager in Mayfair was poring over spreadsheets of sovereign and corporate credit default swaps, interest rate and foreign exchange options with one aim: to “get short on China”.

The manager, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “The Chinese delegation has said all week that there will be double-digit growth for years to come and the Brits have lapped it up. But the data doesn’t add up. We think we’ve experienced credit bubbles over the past few years, but China is the biggest. And yet the global economy is looking to China as not just a crutch but a springboard out of the recession. It’s crazy.”

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