Harry Potter travels to Asia while Kung Pao chicken invades America

The top 10 cultural exchanges between the United States and China


By Leslie Yeh
Northwest Asian Weekly

As two of the largest economies in the world, the United States and China have an open-door policy when it comes to cultural coalescing through music, food, pop culture, medicine, and technology.

So what are 10 of the most influential cultural exchanges? Read on to find out.

The Western influence in modern China

1. A splash of Starbucks’ caffeine

One double shot, non-fat, decaf latte with whip, please. Downtown Seattle is not the only place you can see the iconic green siren on every street corner.

In January, Starbucks celebrated the 10th anniversary of its first store in China (located at the World Trade Center in Beijing). Over the past decade, Starbucks has infiltrated the Chinese coffee market and spread to more than 26 cities. During the 10th anniversary celebration, Starbucks revealed the “Starbucks South of the Clouds Blend,” the company’s first drink containing coffee sourced from China.

2. “Super Girl”: the Asian American Idol

What was China’s response to the number one singing competition in the United States? “Super Girl”!

Developing the talents of aspiring vocalists, the “American Idol” knockoff has become one of the most popular shows in mainland China since its initial airing in 2004.

In addition to idol-style entertainment, the show has been credited by media experts as stimulating a “trail for cultural democracy” in China due to the audience’s participation in the judging process. Zhang Liangying, the third place winner in 2005, even made an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2009 to display her sensational singing talents.

3. Hip, Hop, to the Hippity-Hop

“Move … get out the way!” This famous line by American rapper Ludacris perhaps best describes the way mainstream American hip-hop has nudged traditional Chinese music out of the limelight.

Hip-hop has become a cultural phenomenon in China, and it is not uncommon to see adolescents nodding along to beats by American artists such as Jay-Z and Eminem. Evolving with its own spin on free-styling and beat-boxing, Chinese hip-hop, known as C-rap, is becoming increasingly popular among China’s urban youth as a form of free expression and entertainment.

4. McDonald’s: The golden arches go worldwide

Don’t be alarmed as a first time visitor to China — the slim frames of Chinese people do not indicate the absence of junk food in the diverse food scene.

Ronald McDonald first made his presence in China in 1992 at the grand opening of McDonald’s in Shenzhen.

Since then, Big Macs, Chicken McNuggets, and Double Cheeseburgers have been tantalizing the taste buds of Chinese citizens and hooking them to the delicious aromas of American fast food. Maybe in return, the Chinese could share their secret with the United States about how to stay so thin?

5. Hollywood hits

Among the booming consumer markets in China is the growing popularity of Hollywood blockbusters such as “Harry Potter,” “Transformers,” and “Star Wars.”

These American films have made a big impact in China as they did in the United States, hitting the top box office spots in the world’s most populous country. Approximately 50 percent of China’s imported films are from the United States. Chinese moviegoers are increasingly attracted to Hollywood’s production technologies and westernized scenes. Asian cinema is also borrowing a leaf from the Disney Channel hit “High School Musical.” In 2008, “Kung Fu Hip Hop” was released in China as the first musical film for kids.

The appeal of China to the West

1. Who ordered the Kung Pao chicken?

There is no doubt that Americans love Chinese food. Perhaps the most beloved of these Asian dishes that have permeated the world of Western cuisine is Kung Pao chicken.

This sweet and spicy dish first originated in the Sichuan province of central-western China. Since then, it has made its way into the menu of nearly all Chinese restaurants in the United States and now stands as one of the most popular dishes ordered by Americans.

The westernized version of marinated chicken is similar to stir fry with vegetables and peanuts, but it excludes the use of Sichuan peppercorns, which were illegal to import from China until 2005.

2. Quality manufacturing for less

It’s not a coincidence that everything you purchase seems to bear that signatory “Made in China” tag. China is one of the largest providers of cheap manufacturing in the world. Americans have not been shy in taking full advantage of this fact.

The United States is increasingly outsourcing to China, and everything from computers to toys to apparel is gaining the Chinese stamp of authenticity. With more than $600 million in supplier partnerships with China already linking the two nations’ aviation markets, even Boeing CEO Jim McNerney has vocalized hopes of permanently transplanting Boeing aircraft development operations to China in the future.

3. Finding zen through acupuncture

As Chinese medicine experts are apt to say, “No pain, no blockage — no blockage, no pain.” Forty years ago, the thought of inserting metallic needles into one’s skin to stimulate blood flow might have been ridiculed as preposterous and unnatural.

However, since President Nixon first introduced acupuncture to the United States in 1970 after his visit to China, this ancient Chinese healing technique has become increasingly common in U.S. clinics. It seems that Americans, like the Chinese, place value on the metaphysical aspect of healing. The theory behind acupuncture deals with the harmonious balance between yin and yang and the flow of Qi, which is defined as “vital energy.”

4. Going green with the Chinese

America’s adaptation of Chinese recycling technologies has largely helped U.S. efforts in “going green.” The technology for recycling and reusing printed circuit boards (PCB’s), originating in China, has proved useful for many U.S. companies searching for a way to preserve the valuable metal for reuse in the future.

Americans have also adopted cost-efficient technology from China to aid in recycling glass and electronic waste. Most recently, Chinese scientists have invented DS-series technology which essentially turns industrial waste into fertilizer to be used for agricultural purposes.

5. Expanding academic horizons across the Pacific

It is not unusual to spot a group of western faces interspersed among the local students in a Chinese university classroom. With its rapid economic progress and modernization, China has quickly risen to the top for the most popular study abroad destinations.

The rich cultural environment filled with inexpensive food, historical sites, and vibrant nightlife has appealed to a wide range of American students. Students travel to China to study everything from business to economics to international relations. There has also been an upsurge in the number of students who go abroad primarily to perfect their Chinese language ability, a skill that is becoming invaluable in an economy progressively dominated by U.S.–China business relations. ♦

Leslie Yeh can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

2 Responses to “Harry Potter travels to Asia while Kung Pao chicken invades America”

  1. Hi there, I noticed your blog via Bing while looking for a company that was an importer from china

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