I guess I come from the unique perspective of having been to all the East Asian countries (China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea) and my feelings about China has changed because of this. Roughly 30% of my friends are Chinese and 40% Korean.
Before I lived in Korea, I was in China for a few months, visiting such places as Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Suzhou, Hangzhou.
My impressions are that North China has really bad air.. and although Beijing has lots of history, it just wasn’t as interesting to me as Central and South China were. In contrast, Shanghai was probably the most modern city in China, and Suzhou and Hangzhou had some of the most beautiful natural scenery I’ve experienced.
I had lots of (mainland) Chinese friends in university, and also met Chinese people in China of course.
I feel that my feelings for Chinese people changed a lot after I met Japanese, Koreans and Taiwanese after I graduated university and started working and traveling to other Asian countries.
After having visited Japan and Taiwan and living in Korea for 2 years, here’s my observations:
-China is a great place for traveling and still has some of the most naturally beautiful places in the world.
-China is a massively diverse country full of different races and cultures
-Chinese food is very different from American Chinese food
-Chinese people are very blunt; For example they do not hesitate to mince words on anything really. Korea/Taiwan/Japan tend to soften their words in order not to offend people too much, but Chinese just straight up say whatever is on their mind. This is often taken as ‘harshness’ or ‘rude’ by other countries but I think this is just their culture.
-China has way better gender equality than any of its surrounding countries. And the women act very different from Korean/Japanese/Taiwanese women. They are less traditionally feminine, more assertive, more ambitious, and in a lot of cases can actually be more dominant than the men. It’s almost a role reversal compared to other countries, lol. It’s better in China to be a girl. Everything is paid for by the guys. The guys are pretty subservient to their gfs. The groom’s family pays for the wedding, not the bride. There’s a dowry that the men have to pay. And because of the skewed gender ratio, girls have the pick of the litter. Pretty big contrast to Korea/Japan where its pretty much the opposite. Heres a nice graphic that is based on the stereotypes:
-Chinese people are very prideful about their country, and more uniquely is how prideful they are about the specific region where they are from. A lot of times I would hear not’ Chinese ___ is the best’ but rather ‘Sichuan ___ is the best’ or ‘Beijing ___ is the best’ or ‘Shanghai __ is the best’. They like to boast a lot, and its not hard to see that they are biased in favor of China and their region on a lot of issues. It’s not so different from USA where Americans boast about their country too, but it is different from Taiwan/Japan/Korea where I don’t really hear them boasting about their country that often. Chinese people are not really aware of the culture differences between their country and Japan/Korea/Taiwan either, but that’s a forgivable point I suppose considering most Chinese have not been outside their country before.
-Chinese people seem to put a lot of faith into their government. I’ve seen them use extreme cases to justify certain questionable government decisions. For example, banning foreign websites: Foreigners think its extremely limiting to freedom but Chinese people think its a good thing because it protects their domestic industry. censoring sex/violence in entertainment: Foreigners think its extreme, Chinese people think that having sex/violence in entertainment will lead to people becoming depraved criminals. censoring social media: Foreigners think it limits freedom, Chinese people think having a free social media is too crazy and chaotic and unstable. The government makes them wear ugly track outfits for school. Foreigners think Korean/Japanese school uniforms look better. Chinese people think its distracts them from studying and looks too sexy. Chinese people seem to place a premium on stability and harmony over freedom and flexibility, I think.
-Chinese people are very results driven, sometimes to the detriment of other qualities. You’ll notice that in whatever they do, Chinese care solely about the end result and how effective it is. If you look at Japan and Korea, they also care about other things like the visuals, the aesthetics, the process, the technique etc. This can pervade in so many different ways too, Chinese food focus solely on whether or not it is delicious. Korean/Japanese care about how the food is prepared as well. Chinese female sports players focus only on being good at what they do. Korean/Japanese female sports players focus on looking good, in addition to being good at what they do. Chinese students focus on getting good grades. Korean/Japanese students focus on looking good, in addition to getting good grades. When Chinese design phones, they make the phones have really good specs for a really good price. When Apple or Sony design phones, they care about the materials and crafting process as well as the specs. See the difference?
-Chinese are very wealth driven. Now you may say well every person cares about wealth and being rich right? Of course everyone wants to be rich, but not everyone makes it the sole overriding goal of their entire existence the way Chinese do. Everything Chinese do is based on how to make the most money, which items to spend money on that will show off the most wealth, etc. The whole society is driven by how much wealth you have. They judge people based purely on their wealth. That is not the case in Korea, Japan, Taiwan or Western countries actually. It’s easy to say that some parts of the US like Beverly Hills are pretty materialistic, but you can’t say that about the entire country. China on the other hand… I can confidently say that anywhere in the country you will be judged by your wealth and what you own.
-Japan is Tang Chinese culture, Korea is Ming Chinese culture, Taiwan is ROC culture, and China is its own culture. I find China the most westernized in culture out of all of them. For example, China is the least traditionally Confucist out of those countries, they have mostly done away with traditional ceremonies, religion, outfits (Chinese rarely wear Qipao compared to Japan’s Kimono or Korea’s Hanbok), and their fashion style is more similar to Westerners (i.e casual style) than to Koreans or Japanese. Perhaps this isn’t surprising since China underwent massive revolutions compared to those other countries.
-Most Chinese are clean, nice and polite, but perhaps not to the same extent as Taiwan, Korea or Japan. My ranking of cleanliness / politeness in general is Japanese (TOO polite to a fault) > Taiwan > Korea > China.
-Censorship. This is more of a problem for foreigners than native residents, but just be aware that unlike Japan/Korea/Taiwan, you need to use a VPN to use most sites in China, and they censor violent/sexual content. Too much so, IMO.
-Cost of living. Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo are in the top tier of expensive cities to live in the world. In smaller Chinese cities, it is much cheaper. Seoul is a tier cheaper than those cities, and Taipei has the lowest cost of living amongst all the major capitals.
-China has the most job opportunities, and the best place to start a company, by far. Shenzhen and Beijing are economic powerhouses for IT. Korea’s job market is too competitive (there’s a reason why they have #1 suicide rate), Japan’s economy is stagnant and Taiwan’s economy is also stagnant. If you are looking for work as a foreigner, China is the best.
– Safety wise, all East Asian countries are safer than America. No comparison really. Very few mass shootings and gun murders if at all. In China you do have to be more careful of scams and thieves but its still relatively safe. In terms of safety I rank like this: Japan (zero gun deaths a year. seriously.) > Korea/Taiwan > China
-Technology. Again, ALL of these countries have great technology. Japan is famous for its tech companies, robots and micro electronics (Sony, Canon, Fujitsu, Toshiba, Panasonic, Nintendo, etc too many to list). Taiwan is the #1 maker of computer hardware with such names as Asus, Acer, HTC, Gigabyte, MSI etc. Korea is home to electronic giants Samsung and LG. China doesn’t have the brand cache of those other companies but they are improving! Huawei, Lenovo, Xiaomi, ZTE are some of the companies that are rapidly catching up to Japan and Korea!
-Religion wise, because of China’s communist past, very few Chinese are religious, most Chinese are atheist. Taiwan and Japan are mostly Buddhist. Korea is uniquely a Christian country, perhaps relating to how socially conservative they are.
In general I think it really depends what you want but China has its pros and cons. I did a comparison between China and other East Asian countries because I feel that this is a unique perspective I can contribute to, if others are interested. I would say work opportunity, diversity and natural beauty China is #1. Japan for the super polite / clean culture with a unique flavor. Korea is a mix of Japan and China but is also the most socially conservative and traditionally Confucist out of all them. Taiwan is much smaller than any of those countries but is a mix of Japanese and Chinese culture. I almost want to say they are Chinese people but with the manners of Japanese people.
Let me know in the comments if I am missing any comparison.