Cultural Angles on Donations

A Chinese friend of mine told me that at her workplace, there was a fund-raising effort going on for the victims of the recent earthquake. Most employees contributed 100 RMB. My friend wanted to give a bit more, so she was about to put in 500 RMB when a co-worker pulled her aside.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m giving 500 RMB.”

“Everyone else gave 100. The boss only gave 300. Who do you think you are, giving 500?”

My friend ended up giving 100.

At the office where I work, there was a similar fund-raising effort this past week. Everyone was encouraged to contribute.

What blew me away was that at the end of the week an e-mail went out to all employees, listing who contributed and how much!

Ahhh… cultural differences.

Lots of fund-raising events are planned in Shanghai this weekend. Go clubbing to help the victims of the quake. Eat BBQ to help the victims of the quake. Charity, Shanghai-style.

There are a number of ways you can help victims of this disaster.


John Pasden

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


  1. In my company a memo was sent out informing employees of how much they were expected (required) to give, based on their respective positions.

  2. Same here. Also, there’s a spreadsheet in the office with amount donated by each individual. I hope no mass email goes out.

  3. A Chinese friend of mine implied the Americans aren’t contributing enough because the Saudi government gave much more than the American government. Government to government donations are public displays, like the email.

  4. That’s why I gave nothing through my school, instead giving directly to the Red Cross through their Bank of China account. Politics… shudder

  5. I’m guessing 80% of all of these donations are going to be pilfered and end up being used to buy drapes in some mistress village, which has curbed my enthusiasm on donations. I do love how donating has become a national 面子 competition, though.

  6. I was really surprised by that email, and the ones that came before announcing donations. I understood that the motivation was good, but considered it a bit invasive. Maybe this is just the Judeo-Christian tradition of treating charity as a private matter.

    The Chinese approach is probably much more effective at corralling donations though.

  7. 屠宗华 Says: May 18, 2008 at 1:02 am

    Unfortunately, US to Chinese wire transfers are crazy expensive so I gave online here: and here:

  8. 面子 competition? Try to tell that to the homeless elderly man who donated 105RMB with coins! He donated 5RMB coins and came back later with a 100 bill exchanged in the bank with 5kuai and 1kuai. I hate how this may become a “面子 competition” for some corporations and celebrities but I find this generalization insulting given the circumstance. No matter how much will get to the victims, we will donate, a little still helps. After all, that “80%…” claim really is just in your imaginations.

  9. Abstract Says: May 18, 2008 at 8:26 am


    I doubt the “Chinese” approach is more effective. During the recent cold front, a lot of companies gave large checks to boost PR, only to bounce the check later on.

    But it’s not really the “Chinese” method anyhow. I would be surprised if any Hong Kong companies had mandatory donation requirements. I like the “Western” approach better. I hear that in Richmond, BC today (where all Chinese people live), you can find donation stations on every street corner.

    I think donation should be a grassroot outpouring of sympathy rather than a top-down grab for PR.

    I’m quite surprised though – no English newspaper discussed the earthquake for more than one day. And even on that day, some newspapers did not headline it.

    Why is that? I remember when the Tsunami struck a while back, the outpouring of sympathy lasted for weeks. And when Katrina struck, the media circus made Imperial Rome look like a backwater village.

    Actually, I bet most Canadians don’t know about the earthquake. The average person probably reads the news less than once a week, so if he missed that day when the news featured the earthquake, he would have no way of knowing about it.

    Some Chinese people might say that this is clear proof that the West is out to get us. But I don’t believe it.

    I actually have several theories (none very convincing). But I would like to hear other Canadian citizens, whether Chinese or non-Chinese, take a shot at this.

  10. changye Says: May 18, 2008 at 9:35 am

    I must say that lack of privacy is still a big problem of Chinese society. You would be very surprised when you see a doctor at a hospital in China. You consult with a doctor about your hemorrhoid with all the other patients waiting just behind you. In a sense, China is very active in “disclosing” information.

    More importantly, Chinese people love numbers, or at least the Communist Party really loves offering statistics. TV news programs in China are always full of numbers, such as GDP, trade statistics, and growing rates. In China, you can even know the number of Chinese characters, shown on a colophon, used in a book.

  11. You can see the cultural differences on CCTV reports too. Everyone from school kids to construction workers to white collar office workers line up, and one by one goes up to the donation box to drop off their cash. Then right before they drop the money in they FAN OUT the bills so everyone can see how many hundreds they are giving.

    I guess the shame tactic may be effective in making people give more money. But is it really donation if it’s partly forced?

  12. […] the amount they gave and the order that people contributed.  All the foreign staff were shocked, across the board.  I tried to think of how I could explain this cultural difference to my Chinese friends, but in […]

  13. “I’m quite surprised though – no English newspaper discussed the earthquake for more than one day. And even on that day, some newspapers did not headline it.”

    The NYTimes is doing a very good job of the coverage. On day 3 or 4 it was featured prominently on the front page of their website, and there have been new stories every single day since the quake.

    That said, I don’t think any of the stories have hit the Top 10 Most Emailed List. Very few of my friends in the US had heard about it. I think it just gets filed under the “Bad things that happen in Developing Countries” department in most newspaper readers’ minds.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but if the same earthquake struck, say, Italy, and killed 20,000+ people, you can bet people will care about it. Or even Beijing. The more modernized the area and the more likely Westerners are there, the more coverage. The tsunami is a bit different in that it affected many countries and devastated a wide geographical range of areas. (Although some (not all!) Western media interest may have been because the area is popular is European tourists.)

  14. The listing of donations brings to mind (in a slightly twisted way) the politics of hongbao in a Chinese wedding.

  15. Regarding the doctor privacy thing, in my limited experience I’ve found that if you just ask the people to wait outside or close the door yourself, people will cooperate without protesting. I think a lot of the “don’t line up, don’t give other people privacy” is not because people are 主动 about it, it’s 被动, in that nobody has ever expected anything else of them than cutting in line and crowding in. It’s not worth getting frustrated and angry at the people cutting in line; notice, instead, that the person at the front of the line will service whoever sticks their money out the furthest rather than whoever has been lining up and is at the front of the line. Nobody enforces the rules because they’re afraid of having to actually confront somebody about breaking them – seriously, lots of people here have to grow a spine and start cracking down on that kind of behavior. As usual with these things, young people seem to have less of a problem in this area.

  16. Abstract Says: May 19, 2008 at 1:15 am


    I’ve previously considered your view, but I don’t believe it. This is because the Myanmar disaster got a lot more coverage (and in fact, I regularly hear people talk about the “moral necessity of regime change,” lol).

    I think one reason there isn’t more coverage is because the Chinese government actually did a good job this time. Therefore, there is no one to blame. It’s as Tolstoy said, “All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

    Conversely, with Katrina and Myanmar, there are people to blame.

    Another reason is that the press doesn’t want to give China the moral righteousness which comes only with victimhood. But this is not specifically anti-China. Instead, the prevailing western ideology is the resentment of the powerful (and people who help themselves). If it were a small, weak country which was struck by earthquake, or if were the Chinese government proved incompetent, then there would be a lot more coverage.

    Well, these are merely my speculations. Let wiser commentators regard me as foolish and accordingly rectify me.

    (Btw, I just visited your website, and it’s lovely. You must have invested a lot of effort therein.)

  17. Last night on TV there was a big ceremony where various media organs were kicking in big sums for the relief effort. It looks great to see such broad support for relief, but after all, this is all just government money, right?

    I don’t see why the central government doesn’t just cut one uber-check, rather than funneling all the donations through assorted media outlets and bureaus. It’s all from the same source.

    And when we say “government money,” we’re actually talking about taxpayers’ money. So all good citizens can feel a glow of satisfaction when the People’s Daily gives 10M yuan, in addition to your own private contributions.

  18. Maybe it’s just the circles I’m in, but everyone I know is highly informed about the earthquake. Every US paper and newsource I read (NY Times, LA Times, MSNBC, CNN) has been running China earthquake stories on its front page for a week. In the first two days after the earthquake, one of the stories about it was in the top ten NY Times emailed stories of the day. The CNN TV news and NPR have been running extensive coverage of the stories all week long. I have absolutely no idea how you could make the claim that the US media hasn’t been covering this story–and much more and more effectively than the story of Myanmar (since most journalists can’t get there, there’s much less to report).

    I ran into a friend last week who said “God, can’t the news talk about something other than the earthquake in China?” I didn’t agree with her sentiment, but I think that should indicate how much coverage it is getting here.

  19. And just to add a quick note–was just reading the NYT and noticed that their #6 emailed story today is also about the quake:

  20. Abstract Says: May 20, 2008 at 11:31 am


    I plead ignorance, because I don’t know much about the US media.

    In my posts, I referred to the Canadian media, specifically the Globe and Mail, the National Post, and the Vancouver Sun.

    If your characterisation of the US media is true, then we have the very interesting question – why is the US media covering the earthquake far more effectively than the Canadian media, when Canadians have far closer ties to China than Americans?

  21. I’ll preface this all by saying that the views expressed are those of a canadian who doesn’t really feel like my country and its inhabitants ARE me and that my western conception of what professional media is is most certainly different than the chinese. That is, i would be quite unimpressed if i felt that the canadian broadcasting corporation was trying to pull at my heart strings by choosing the saddest individual stories and playing weepy violin music at the same along with their coverage of a disaster.
    Anyways, I’m currently visiting china and have just barely enough chinese ability to comprehend the news (or at least the interview parts that are accompanied by characters) and its quite a bummer to see such unprofessional, sentimental, and shameless patriotism tarnish the reporting of what is a real and massive HUMAN tragedy.
    To my mind the rescue effort should be nothing more than a human to human effort executed with the highest efficiency possible. There should be no time for those involved to speak of irrelevancies such as all the chinese people being 一家人.

  22. Abstract Says: May 20, 2008 at 12:54 pm


    Your post is very interesting to me, because I have entirely the opposite view.

    Actually, I think the Canadian media, in common with media everywhere, do pull heartstrings. For instance, the Globe and Mail is always filled with human interest stories about Canadian soldiers in the Afghans.

    I think some people are born cosmopolitans, whereas others are born nationalists.

    With reference to the Afghan war, my sympathy definitely lies with the Canadian community. And I’m particularly proud that Asians are disproportionately represented in the Canadian armed force.

  23. John, we had a similar donation experience, and I mentioned your post, but I don’t know how to do trackbacks:

    Donating money… with Chinese characteristics

  24. abstract,
    If you do in fact, have the entirely opposite view, then you must have a completely different idea of the function of the media. Could i trouble you to give a few sentences with respect to that.
    We can discuss content of the respective medias for a very very long time indeed, and pontificate on whose content shows more bias, and i would never really be able to confidently say one is more biases than the other. But playing sad music over your broadcast is about as concrete, and in my opinion counterproductive to the task of the media, as you can get.
    So i don’t really know why you’re bringing up afghanistan, much less how many soldiers from canada with epicanthic folds are going there. That has nothing to whatever with the format or style of the broadcast.

    Born nationalists?? Do you suppose its something in the water?? So you are waiting for some neurobiologist to discover a region of the brain that contains the patriotism dispenser. Would you call it coincidence that nationalism is as entrenched as it is in china, a country whose media is 100% controlled by a party who has held unchallenged power for 50+ years and as such has a wealth of experience in the field of propaganda. I’m sure your rebuttal to the preceding sentence would be something along the lines of ‘so patriotism doesn’t exist in canada/usa/europe?’. Of course it does, and if you really want to kill the argument you can just say, i think patriotism in china is no stronger than anywhere else, and i can’t really bring any concrete statistics to bear on that opinion. But all i can say is i would be living in china if i could. That is to say, the only thing holding me back is the odiousness of the near universal admiration for the communist party and, as i mentioned before, all the 中国人是一家人 nonsense.
    Nationalism = laziness/comfort/effortless belonging.

  25. Abstract Says: May 21, 2008 at 2:29 pm


    On Media

    People like to hear what they want to hear. In a relatively capitalist society, such as the US and Canada, people can broadcast whatever they want, as long as someone wants to pay for it.

    In this way, the US and Canadian media are superior to the Chinese media.

    But most people, I suspect, prefer human interest stories. They like melodramas. They want to hear the sad and happy lives of others. That is why both the Canadian and US media often play human interest stories.

    Many American and Canadian intellectuals criticise the media for precisely the same reason you criticise the Chinese media. But I disagree with them. The people should decide what they want to hear. They should vote with their pocketbooks.

    If intellectuals want another news style, which is stoic and dispassionate, or perhaps they want a specific political line, such as leftism or rightism, they should also vote with their pocketbooks. Then they will achieve a niche market. But they shouldn’t criticise other folks for poor taste, etc.

    On Nationalism

    I do think nationalism is in-born. A lot more things are in-born than is currently fashionable to admit. Idealists like to think that all humans are born like blank slates, and that they are infinitely malleable, according to social environments.

    But any mother who has two kids or more can tell you different. When I look at my sister and my cousins, I see both similarities to and differences from me. The way they speak, the way they laugh, the way they love and hate – oftentimes, like a face I’ve seen before, like a song I’ve heard before, as though I relive a dream of which I once dreamt – I recognise an expression infinitely familiar.

    At that moment, I think to myself – the same blood really flows through all of us. Each of us is unique – just as each stream tastes slightly different, which springs from the same river. But then again, we’re defined by our blood and our ancestry. This is something indescribable, as faint as the echoes of a distant bell in a long-forgotten dream – but also as precious and indestructible, as the gold deposit within a dark and inconspicuous ore. This something we share – we of blood relations and indissoluble bonds.

    All poetic sentiments aside, recent science (which I take with a grain with a salt) says that personality is largely heritable. This includes things like shyness, introversion, delayed-gratification, calmness, aggression, linguistic and mathematical aptitude, musicality, etc.

    I certainly believe it. In nature, no two things are alike. Every blade of grass is its own unique creature. Humans aren’t machines. You can’t mold humans as you would a lump of clay. Our complex genetic inheritances, which we each receive from our respective ancestors, have a strength which yields to environment, refrains from breaking, and yet remains – all the while exerting unseen power upon our social destinies.

    As for me, I think I inherited my nationalism from my grandparents. All four of my grandparents were committed Chinese patriots. I don’t agree with the ideologies they fought for, but I identify with their love for their land and people. Because I see myself in them.

    I happen to be their favourite grandchild. I think they see themselves in me also.

    You know, I really think some people are born nationalists, while others are born cosmopolitans. In my family, the nationalist gene skipped a generation. For instance, my mother and father have no interest in nationalism. But as for me, I’m a sucker for anything associated with China, Chinese culture, and Chinese traditions.

    This is passion you can’t disguise. And you can’t explain it either. You know, if I had a choice, I would prefer to lose the nationalist gene. This is because there are so many things about contemporary China which just break my heart.

    For most people, nationalism is like snow day. All of a sudden, someone somewhere gets really indignant about a Youtube video. Then the whole country gets riled up.

    These people have a bit of the nationalism gene. Everyone has a little. But it’s different from my grandparents, and other committed Chinese patriots I know. For them, everyday lived is an expression of the unwavering passion they have for their people.

    Each person has something which drives him. For some, it’s airplanes. For others, it’s photography. Well, for my grandparents and other Chinese patriots I know, it’s love for their hometowns, their traditions, their people, their culture, etc.

    Therefore, I cannot agree with you that “Nationalism = laziness/comfort/effortless belonging.”

    Anyway, having written too much already – all I can say is, some people are born nationalists. Others are born cosmopolitans. Most people are neither. Instead, they bend to social pressure like grass to the wind.

    And I’m okay with the fact that some people are born cosmopolitans. We don’t necessarily have to agree on everything. God gave each person a unique dream, a unique destiny, and unique raison d’etre.

  26. Who to donate too is a tough question. My friend raised the question today; if charities help out too much, doesn’t it just make government do less?

    Changye… sorry about your hemorrhoid.

  27. abstract,
    Well you certainly have what i would call some strong spiritual feelings about your heritage. But i don’t think that necessitates the existence of a biological entity; a ‘nationalism gene’. I was born to and raised by a polish mother in canada and when i see traditional Polish things/people/places can relate to the warm feeling you speak of . But i don’t think for a second that its because i have some blood connection to Poles. I know its just an interest in where i, as a human being came from. My personal history.
    Were you born in canada? If so then i have some news for you. China is no more your homeland than the moon. You are Canadian, your countrymen/people are all Canadians (first nations, somalis, hindus, newfoundlanders, me), your homeland is Canada. If you are a nationalist at all then its a Canadian nationalist. Canada can’t work unless its new citizens accept this. Perhaps the grandparents you speak of never did, and instead thought they would attempt some form of guerilla colonialism, creating a new miniature China and excluding all but other 华人. I have seen much of this. Fond memories of something you left behind is one thing, but extending that to dismissal of your current home and all that comes with it is a decidedly anti-humanist move.
    Radical inclusion or nothin’ i say….
    Which means down with nationalism.

  28. Abstract Says: May 22, 2008 at 12:59 am


    You’re misunderstanding my post.

    You see, the nationalist gene is not nation-specific. For instance, let’s say a German person has the nationalist gene. But for some reason, he was adopted by a French couple. And for his whole life, he imagined that he was French. Then very likely, his nationalist gene would cause him to form strong attachment to France.

    But if the German child has no nationalist gene, then even with the strongest indoctrination of nationalism, he would not form an attachment to any country.

    For instance, some people get bored really quickly at folk festivals. Some people are really into folk festivals. I think this is conditioned by genes. Just as some people are into peanut-butter, while others are into jam.

    By the way, Owen, I was not born in Canada. But I do have nationalist feeling about Canada. That’s why I said in my first post that I was particularly proud that there were many Asians fighting in the Afghans for Canada.

    I don’t think anyone should take advantage of the system. If Canada needs me, one day, to fight a war, whether just or unjust, righteous or unrighteous – I would morally obligated to fight it.

    You see, in my case, the nationalist gene applies to China, but also to Canada.

    I don’t think the nation-state captures all the nuance of the nationalist gene. To avoid confusion, the nationalist gene should be redefined as the honour gene.

  29. Abstract Says: May 22, 2008 at 1:22 am


    Btw, I thought you wanted to discourse on the media. What happened?

    Actually, I’m still interested in why the American media is so much more active about the earthquake than the Canadian media.

  30. ya i did get a little off track there.
    In any case, i must say i think you’re postulation of a nationalism gene is unnecessarily complicated. I would instead apply occam’s razor – the simplest explanation is usually correct. The chinese communist party (who most certainly had influence on your parents and grandparents thinking), from its inception, carefully fostered this; what i would call a culturally learned feeling and you would call a gene. Nothing could be simpler really. Nationalism, predictably, thrives where there is an organization in power who finds it a very useful tool and accordingly, diligently nurtures its growth. Many historical examples. Germany, Koreas, Japan, etc.
    Not, in my opinion, where there happens to be a generation serendipitously full of many people with a ‘nationalist gene’.

  31. […] posts from Sinosplice. This one about the candlelit vigil moved me. And this one about how much donation was appropriate in a company was an interesting insight in the the Chinese culture. Both well worth a […]

  32. […] posts from Sinosplice. This one about the candlelit vigil moved me. And this one about how much donation was appropriate in a company was an interesting insight in the the Chinese culture. Both well worth a […]

  33. Abstract Says: May 22, 2008 at 1:27 pm


    Let’s just discuss this theoretically – we’re just two civilised adults here having an objective, neutral, dispassionate conversation about the nature of nationalism (no need to get into a bitter argument)…

    If you look at the ancient Greeks, they were exceedingly nationalist and xenophobic by modern standards. In your hypothesis, there must have been a power structure somewhere, which benefited from the stability generated by nationalism. But in the Greek example, this just wasn’t true. In fact, the Greeks lived in diverse warring city-states. It was to the advantage of the tyrant of each city-state to isolate his people from other Greeks. So why were the Greeks so nationalist?

    You said that my grandparents must have been indoctrinated by the communist party. But this wasn’t true either. They were committed Chinese patriots before the communist party gained power.

    In fact, the most nationalist era of modern Chinese history is during the Republican era, where power was decentralised and the country was carved up by warlords. It was to the advantage of each warlord to diffuse nationalism. Nationalism was what overthrew them.

    Usually, when a people perceives itself to be bullied by other peoples, then that’s when it becomes most nationalist.

    Nationalism really originates from the same instinct which causes men to be protective of their family. It’s the “selfish-gene,” as described by recent Darwinian sociologists. People who have the “selfish-gene” are inclined to altruism for relatives, such as family, clan, and nation. The gene is termed “selfish” because it is decreases the holder’s chance for survival. (Since altruism causes the holder to choose the group’s interest over his own.) But the gene survives, because presumably an entire population has this gene. A population which has this gene has a greater chance of survival than one which hasn’t. (Even though for individuals it’s the other way around.) So, eventually, only populations which have this gene survive, and all people end up having this “selfish-gene.”

    So you see, the root of nationalism is altruism. But the question is – to whom does this altruism apply? The flip-side of the “selfish-gene” is the “nepotism-gene.” (Since you more altruistic toward people who are closer to you.) This produces an in-group/out-group dimension. Now, the in-group/out-group dimension is partly culturally-learned, as you’ve mentioned (For instance, genetically speaking, Northern and Southern Chinese are quite far apart. Nevertheless, they are bound by cultural affinity and common mythological ancestry.) Yet it’s also partly natural. (For instance, adopted children, even if they led wonderful childhood, often seek out their blood parents obsessively when they realise they were adopted.)

    In some people, the “selfish/nepotism gene” is weak. Therefore, they are little attached to land, tradition, and people. Whereas in others, the gene is strong. Therefore, they are strongly attached.

    Thus, once we understand that each person is unique, by both nature and nurture, we realise that there’s often nothing to argue about. Since everyone is unique, it’s inevitable that each person will have a different viewpoint. Then we can all learn to get along and live harmoniously. As Confucius said, “Junzi he er bu tong, xiaoren tong er bu he.” (The superior man gets along with others, but he doesn’t conform. The inferior man conforms, but he doesn’t get along with others.)

  34. I guess you’re right. The greeks were this way and that way and such and such, ergo the communist party has absolutely no hand in the flag waving 中国加油 mania response to a provincial natural disaster. North Koreans love of their ‘dear leader’ is as natural as a mountain stream as well.

    I mean perhaps you should be an advisor to the communist party and tell them that they don’t have to spend so much time and effort on getting those flags waving since it happens so naturally. Nor do they have to send beijing olympic t-shirts (the ones with the efficient combo of chinese landmass and flag), flags, and banners by the boatload to major canadian cities to help chinese people there organize mass demonstrations to counteract the fallout from tibet. Were you by any chance approached to participate in one of these marches? Or would you honestly go on record and say that the demonstrations i’m referring to came about naturally with no suggestion, let alone real support from beijing. A few 华人 sitting around watching the news from Lhasa and figuring, ‘hey lets get a few hundred beijing t-shirts, flags, and banners made, then call up all of our friends, then bus in some other overseas chinese and stage a demonstration on a day when we can be most visible. And lets do it all on our own nickel’. Ya, sounds pretty likely to me.

    Watched a good 2 hours (against my will) of cctv telethon today. Bleeechhhhhhhh!

  35. @Abstract — a businessman I was sitting with on the train from Shanghai to Beijing had exactly the opposite take — that there was disproportionate international attention to the quake compared to the Tsunami given the relative damage the two had caused. He believed this was because of China’s increased wealth.

    I don’t really have any basis for comparison since I was busy ignoring pretty much all media at the time. Being from Toronto myself, a giant wave smashing everything feels much more exotic than an earthquake so I’d expect a media bias on reporting there. I don’t think anyone has been ignoring the quake – although most of the meta-commentary (what does it tell us about China’s relation with the west) seems Chinese not western. An emerging Chinese commentariat?

  36. Abstract Says: May 25, 2008 at 12:12 am


    Wow, there are more Canadians who read this blog than I had presupposed. The last time I was in China, I was disappointed that I met only two Canadians from Calgary.

    Well, maybe most people just don’t read the news. I’ve tested my “no one knows about the quake” theory on all my study groups. Proven true everytime.

    This isn’t just my observation, though. I’ve spoken with several Chinese people who felt the same.

  37. Abstract Says: May 25, 2008 at 12:28 am

    Actually, it would be cool if everyone who is Canadian can give a shout-out.

    I know that Trevelyan, Feds, Owen, and Joel have said they are Canadian so far. Any other Canadians lurking?

  38. We also had a strange donating experience at our school, though I didn’t see it personally. It will be easier to just copy and paste what I wrote about it:

    The second incident that stands out in my mind is a recent donation drive to help with the earthquake relief effort. I wasn’t on campus at the time, but the other foreign teachers were called by Miss Mao from the Foreign Affairs Office on short notice and told to meet at her office.
    Once there, everyone was told they were to donate money to help the earthquake victims, and asked to write down the exact amount they were donating a pre-prepared list with all of our names on it. Once this was done, they were led outside where a donation rally was held in which Communist Party leaders and the bewildered foreigners placed their donations one-by-one into a box, to the cheers of a crowd of students. As each person approached the box, they proudly held up a sign with the amount of their donation, which was also displayed on an electronic screen. The foreign teachers had to oblige, but each hid their money and paper in their fist as they donated. One teacher had actually had to borrow money to donate, because he wasn’t told it was a donation at all and didn’t bring his wallet. They also were not told who was handling the donation (the Communist Party), or really much of anything about it. The event was filmed, and later shown on the local news, similar to other donation drives we have seen on television. Students have also been asked to donate blood and money in high-pressure situations. Just when you think you’re no longer surprised by the differences between China’s collectivism and the West’s individualism, something comes along to remind you just how differently things are done here.

  39. We have lots of telethons in Canada and American to raise money for various causes and usually the names of donors and the amount they contributed are scrolled along on the bottom of the screen during the broadcast. It’s not quite quite the same as the galas being shown on TV in China with companies showcasing their charitable credentials. People should be recognized for giving, but should not seek it out. The pressure to donate and to be seen to donate here are quite intriguing…

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