Houston Community News >> Confucius or Santa Claus in Chinese Cultural War

12/28/2006-- The popularity of Christmas in China has provoked a boisterous discussion over 'an invasion' of foreign culture and the loss of China's own cultural identity.

'Confucius or Santa Claus?' is the question posed by Internet forums and state media commentaries.

As interest in Western holidays rises, indifference is developing toward traditional festivals, such as the Chinese Lunar New Year and the Dragon Boat Festival, warned the People's Daily, the communist party's newspaper.

The precipitator of the debate was an online petition by 10 doctoral students from China's best universities that called for China to show Santa Claus the door and better cultivate Chinese traditions.

The petition seeks to 'wake up the Chinese people to resist Western cultural invasion' which, it said, 'has been more like storms sweeping through the country rather than mild showers'.

The petition said that most Chinese do not know the reason behind celebrating Christmas.

The uncritical enthusiasm is no isolated phenomenon as Western culture with its technological and economic dominance expands throughout China and the country shifts toward a more Western oriented society, the petition said.

The student's petition blamed the government for promoting the economy at the expense of Chinese traditions and businessmen seeking to improve their sales.

The petition has been unusually resonant in China.

On the Internet portal sina.com, 43,000 people participated in an online poll in which 53 percent called for a boycott of Christmas while 30 percent said it should be up to individuals to decide whether they would participate in the holiday, which is being increasingly celebrated in China along with Valentine's Day.

Commentators have swung back and forth between tolerance and nationalism.

The People's Daily said the attractiveness of Christmas is easy to understand because it is 'new and fresh ... and fascinating'.

Every person is free to celebrate Christmas, it said while adding, however, that it is 'urgent' that China revives its own festivals and holidays and adapts them from their agricultural roots to mirror China's changing, modern society.

'It has to be recognised that the craving of kids and young people for Christmas indeed has an effect on them from an 'alien, imported' culture,' the People's Daily said.

Christmas is observed in China as a religious holiday by its tiny Christian minority, but for the rest of the population, it pops up as Christmas trees and decorations festooning shopping centres, hotels and restaurants.

Children receive presents, friends send Christmas text messages by cell phones and young people enjoy a night out on the town on Christmas eve.

'The petition has poured cold water on the warm atmosphere of celebrating Christmas in China,' the official Xinhua news agency said.

'It does not matter whether non-Western nations are willing or not, they are all included in a global value system,' it said. '... The culture of the developed always prevails'.

However, it also warned, 'If we lose the dominance in culture in our own country, we will get lost totally'.

The Jiangnan Times said the campaign against Christmas flew in the face of cultural development and showed a lack of confidence in China's traditional culture.

'Tolerance is needed towards the celebration of Christmas,' the Changjiang Times said, arguing that it was 'natural' that China is seeing 'earth-shaking changes' to its lifestyles and ideas as its connections with the outside world grows.

It said the national culture was not at risk from foreign holidays but the students' petition was a reminder of the days when China isolated itself from the rest of the world.

'A narrow, biased and conservative mind goes against the values of the time and may bring up autocracy, coercion and harm to freedom and rights,' it warned

(Contributed by Asia Pacific News.net)