Poll: Young Thoughts — Chinese vs. American

Rainbow,” one of my former students and fellow bloggers, has recently finished a poll (survey?) of Chinese students. With the help of an American friend, she was able to provide cultural contrast, with the results nicely graphically displayed. Although the sample size was not large, the questions were well-chosen and the results are interesting. Some of my favorite questions were Can you cook, Do you have an idea now about what kind of job to do after graduation, Have you ever had an IV, and How many relationships have you been in so far. There are 20 questions in all. Have a look.

Related: Sinosplice Polls #1 (cell phones), #2 (Who is the greatest person in Chinese history?), #3 (politics, world news), #4 (bicycle, swim, car), #5 (mini-poll mania), #6 (more mini-polls).


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. chengdude Says: July 18, 2004 at 12:10 am

    Here’s my own very unscientific, meaningless poll of 345 freshmen Chinese university students (asking very unscientific, meaningless questions):

    Who is the greatest figure in ancient China?
    (top 7 results)

    Confucius (Kongzi) – 23%
    Qin Shihuang – 20%
    Tang Taizong (Li Shimin) – 10%
    Genghis Khan (Chengjisihan) – 7%
    Kangxi – 5%
    Zhuge Liang – 5% (hometown hero)
    Wu Zetian – 4%

    Who is the greatest figure in modern China?
    (top 5 results)

    Deng Xiaoping – 35%
    Mao Zedong – 27%
    Zhou Enlai – 19%
    Zhu Rongji – 5%
    Lu Xun – 3%

    Where in China is the best place to live?
    (top 7 results)

    Chengdu – 16% (hometown vote)
    Shanghai – 9%
    Dalian – 9%
    Kunming – 8%
    Hangzhou – 8%
    Qingdao – 5%
    Beijing – 5%

  2. Again, thanks for the shout out ๐Ÿ™‚

    P.s. your signature looks cool. I like it!

  3. Completly off topic, but I was curious if anyone knows the western expatriate on CCTV 4 known as Da Niu. He’s not a news caster but rather a cohost of some sort of TV variety show. I believe that Da San was the first foreigner to completly master Mandarin (not even an accent!) Could it be that he has competition?

  4. I’ve seen Da Niu. I’m not very impressed. He’s not as good-looking as Dashan, nor does he have the stage presence.

    He may be able to earn a living, but he’s no Dashan. (At least, not yet.)

  5. Wait, 74% of the Chinese kids say they don’t drink? What, are these grade school students? Everybody in China drinks!

  6. Haha, Otto, nope!

  7. Rainbow,

    To be fair, a look at the Chinese version, which I thank you for posting, reveals that this drinking question in Chinese was worded more like “do you regularly drink” or “do you drink in usual occasions” both of which were more specific than a simple do you drink. Most kids, even Americans (specially those Iowans, haha), would be quick to hide behind the latter interpretation of the question.

    Also, your question of whether they have an idea about what to do after graduation in Chinese read “Have you decided (xiang hao le?) on what to do after graduation” which I think solicits more denials than does the English version.

  8. im from iowa and i would not hide behind the latter. my family makes moonshine from the corn we grow in the back yard so i drink often and heavily. in fact, that is the only way i can deal with my every day existence. i would go so far as to say that i have an alcohol problem. i cant wait until i go to china where i can finally rid myself of this disease (and possibly aquire new ones in the process).

  9. Gin,

    I thought most ppl had drunk at least once but that’s not what i was wanna ask, so i added “usually” in the chinese version, and thought a simply “do you drink” in english had this meaning already…

    I really need to take some professional interpretation/translation courses. now i’m a little longing for the coming August when i’ll be in shanghai and take a course on interpretation ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. I am curious to know what IV means, and being a med student I can only surmise that it means either intra venous, in vivo or in vitro…I tried checking the chinese version, but I can’t read simplified chinese for shit.

    Totally off topic, I personally HATE simplified chinese, I think it looks ugly and in some cases doesn’t actually ‘simplify’ things. I think ppl should be taught to write properly and let simplification be used in everyday use, but not make it the bloody ‘standard script’.

    Anyway, back to whatever I was ranting on about: I live in England where ppl treat alcohol like oxygen. But most young ppl here tend to drink to get drunk (so called binge drinking), and there is also a very laddish culture which unspokenly states that you must get totally pissed in order to prove your manhood/be cool/get cirrhosis/to qualify as having a good time.
    or simplified into this nifty equation:
    No Vomit = Drink More.
    I think most Chinese ppl know that they can’t drink and tend not to drink as much, and if they do get totally wasted it is because it is the socially acceptable thing to do to be cool at a party/club. But drinking per se is not as much of a social event as the English, and I think most Chinese ppl would probably prefer to have a meal + drink with friends.

  11. Kenny,

    IV means “intravenous injection”. In spoken Chinese, we just say ยนร’ร‘รŽร‹ยฎ(hanging salty water)to refer to that, coz the 0.9% Nacl liquor is so commonly used, and the bottles of liquor are always hanging up there.

    A meal + drink, got it!

  12. That “salty water” is called Saline in medical terms, but what for? That’s another question where the Chinese version and the English may be conveying a totally different thing, especially to the nonmedical students.

    More important than translation, my inquiries point to the fact that the psychological or social implications of a question are quite dependent on the delicate wording, and also dependent on the cultural environment. In this sense, direct comparison between polls in different languages is ALMOST impossible, scientifically speaking. However, I believe readers do not read these for the statistical value, so that was fine.

  13. BTW, intravenous injection (ZhuShe) and intravenous infusion (ShuYe) are also different.

  14. links are dead. can you email me the survey with the results?I am very curious how clear and trendy they were.THanks a lot!

  15. Da Xiangchang Says: October 19, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    Man, this is an old topic. The link doesn’t work anymore. Still, I find “most significant” lists highly interesting. Incidentally, I remember recently reading that American book “The 100 Most Influential People in History.” The top 5, if I remember correctly, were (in order):

    1. Muhammad
    2. Isaac Newton
    3. Jesus Christ
    4. Buddha
    5. Confucius

    Not exactly a PC list in the 9/11 world! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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