Write a 2000-word essay on ONE of the following two topics. ÒYour essay should conform to normal requirements for academic essays in its style, structure and referencing of sources. This unit requires APA referencing style. You are encouraged to read widely, not just from the required readings, but also from recommended readings and other reliable sources.
- Discuss some of the ways Western and other foreign cultural elements have been incorporated into the popular cultures of China, Indonesia
andJapan. How do these elements interact with Asian cultures? Do Asians accept foreign cultural elements without criticism or opposition? In your answer, you should apply key theoretical concepts introduced in this unit, and include examples from all three countries to illustrate your points.).
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The Impact of Foreign Cultures on the Asian Popular Cultures
Westernization or modernization of culture refers to a situation whereby the local customs are influenced by foreign cultures. Popular culture, also known as the mass culture has been dramatically affected by globalization and modernization phenomena, and it presents one of the best ways of understanding a particular country or society. Globalization has defined the process by which interaction of the individuals and people happen on a global scale. Globalization has brought significant changes in the popular cultures in different countries, notably influencing the way of life and the materials to produce and consume. Westernization has also played an essential role in shaping the Asian popular cultures just as the western countries have borrowed much from the Asian popular cultures. The purpose of this essay is to explore how the west and foreign culture elements have been presented in various Asian popular cultures, with a particular focus on China, Japan, and Indonesia. It will further describe how the western culture elements interact with Asian cultures. Also, it will explain the reception of the western and foreign cultures by the Asians.
In this age of globalization, popular cultures from different backgrounds around the world can draw their universalistic influence from the western countries, and probably their past colonizers. There has also been an aspect of hybridization, whereby the local cultures have been combined with the cultures from outside to form a modern culture where everyone is integrated. Hybridization has become a central focus in the study of the extent to which western cultures have influenced the Asian popular cultures (Ang, 2001). Hybridization has also been seen as a way of dismantling cultural synchronization- which by definition is destroying some forms of culture while adopting a universal culture. In cultural synchronization, various world cultural systems are destroyed, replacing them with the dominating ones. Popular culture, in the social dimension, is defined as the combination of the cultural products like music, literature, films, and television, among others which are consumed by most people in a certain society. It is considered a popular culture, for it has mass accessibility and acceptability (Ang, 2001).
The Asian culture has been greatly influenced by western culture, which is evident in the western and foreign elements in the region’s popular culture. The influence of western culture can be clearly seen among the younger people. These are people who are likely to be influenced by the popular culture, and according to Fedorak (2009), the power of western culture has been witnessed in various elements, from television to cinema, to literature, to music. In China, for instance, the brides appear more westernized as they wear white wedding dresses, but also sometimes wearing red wedding dresses. This shows the extent of western influence on local culture in a nation that also strives to maintain its native culture. Likewise, in cinema, it has been seen people using both domestic and foreign language, which is an attempt to combine tradition with modernity. Therefore, the western culture has arguably shaped the cultural identity of Chinese cinema and literature (Lin, 2001).
China is the largest country in the world, with a population of over 1.2 billion people. Although the majority of the people in the country are Han Chinese, there are over fifty recognized minority ethnic groups. Religiously, the largest portion of the Chinese population is atheist, but other religions such as Taoism, Christianity, and Islam are practiced. The official language is Mandarin, and it is used in government communications. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) was established in 1949 as a communist state, and it has experienced social reforms, and consequently popular cultures.
The Chinese cinema has a historical thread, describing its development over the years since the production of the first film, The Battle of Dingjunshan, which was made in 1905, in an industry established in 1896. After the production of the first movie, the Chinese film industry was dominated by the foreign, and the domestic cinema production was centered in Shanghai (Zhang, 2010). In the early to mid-20th century, the Chinese producers were trained by the film technicians from America, which explains the evidence of the western and foreign elements in the Chinese film industry. In essence, the Chinese films lack exhibition, and that is where western culture comes in, commercializing the films to attract more income from such. However, the American culture is not the foreign culture seen in Chinese films, but Japanese too. After the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, the country cinema industry was influenced, and elements of Japanese culture could be traced in the films.
Popular culture in China has been viewed as a dramatic change in Chinese cultural formation in the 1900s. The popular perception in China was motivated by media such as the television, films, literature, and music, among other forms (Wang, 2007). There emerged several dimensions along which differences occurred in the cultural formation, which included the political climate, the mass acceptability, and opposition of the cultural pluralism. The political environment, which is characterized by the censorship on materials in China, has led to the emergence of a generation that is more concerned with lifestyle other than revolution. Another dimension of popular culture in China is the mass appeal of the multimedia pop culture and the likes and dislikes of China’s best intellectuals who think of it as non-beneficial to the locals. Finally, popular culture has conflicting perspectives on great cultural pluralism and blatant commercialization, irresponsible political apathy, and undesirable foreign factors. The three events that unfolded the popular culture in China included the successful TV melodrama Aspirations and Yearnings, Vive JIAO YULU versus Vale SAN MAO, and the rock music, represented by CUI JIAN (Wang, 2007).
In Indonesia, just like China, popular cultures comprise of the products that have mass appeal and available in large quantity. In Indonesia, popular culture is seen in films, the TV, and literature. The primary purpose of popular culture is for entertainment, with less emphasis on seriousness and quality. As pertains to westernization, the contentious matter in popular culture in Indonesia has been a distinction between high and low culture, commercial and artistic films, and common and serious literature (Heryanto, 2008). Just like western popular culture, the Indonesian popular culture is modernized, characterized by hybridization of western and other foreign cultures. Under the New Order Regime, the Indonesian culture is focused on the promotion of the traditional dance, emphasis on the struggle against Dutch and overcoming the communism in 1965. The national culture borrows heavily from the Javanese cultures and practices, which is focused on maintaining social order and attitude towards the West (Weintraub, 2011).
The popular culture is produced by ordinary people, and not professional artists and companies. The materials produced are inexpensive, informal, unique and innovative, and they give a means of expression and communication for lowly social classes. An example of popular media includes community radio, television, local writing competitions, street art, and theater rakyat (people’s theater). For a long time, the television was under national control, particularly during the Sukarno regime. Until the 1980s, the only broadcasting television was Televisi Republik Indonesia (TVRI), and it was seen as a medium for national cohesion (Weintraub, 2011). However, the New Order regime allows the multifaceted airing of various channels, which include digital and pay television. Most programs are made locally, especially on the free-to-air channels. The western culture has influenced the Indonesian television by the adoption of soap operas, reality TV, and game shows. However, most programs are identifiably Indonesian in content, characters, plots, and storylines. One of the remarkable authors who commented on the impact of the West on Indonesia Nilan 2006 on her work “The Reflexive Youth Culture of Devout Muslim in Indonesia in Global Youth?” where the focus is on hybrid identities and plural worlds. The author considers how devout Muslims in Indonesia take in western and foreign cultural products, with an emphasis on consumers of cultural products. The author further explores the growth of Islamic pop culture and its relationship with western culture.
Therefore, Indonesian culture can be said to have been shaped by the interactions of the primary and foreign influences. Indonesia is situated along a trade route, and it was, therefore, able to interact with complex cultures and belief systems of Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and Confucians. The result of this interaction is a mixture of complex cultures distinct from the original native cultures (Weintraub, 2011). The West has influenced Indonesia in science and technology, and the contemporary forms of entertainment such as television, movies, and music. Other countries such as India have impacted Indonesian films and songs. Dangdut is an example of an Indian-rhythmical song, which is mostly combined with the Arab and Malay folk music. However, despite the foreign influences on some cultures, some parts of Indonesia still preserve the original indigenous cultures, with many groups practicing traditional customs and ethnic rituals.
Japanese culture has also experienced an influence of westernization and foreign cultures. Japan is located in East Asia with a population of over 125 million and the country is considered homogenous ethnically, where Shinto and Buddhism are two primary religions of Japan. The Buddhism has been integrated with the local and religious systems. Linguistically, the Japanese language resembles the Korean and Chinese language (Craig, 2015). The beginning of modern Japan dates back to the Meiji era between 1868 and 1912 when the nation re-opened its doors for industrialization and modernization. Post-War Japan is arguably the second largest economy in the world, coming second after the United States of America. Due to its interaction with the western countries, Japan is known as the first non-western nation to attain advanced capitalist state. The culture of the west has significantly influenced the Japanese culture, and most of the aspects seen in the Japanese popular cultures have been borrowed from the global environment.
The modern Japanese popular culture encompasses Japanese cinema, television, animation, and music, among others. The popular culture retains the old artistic and literary norms, and most of the styles of presentation can be traced to traditional artistic forms (Tsutsui, 2013). Modern types of popular cultures play both the role of entertainment and an element of differentiation between Japanese and western cultures. By the end of US occupation of Japan in 1952, the Japanese popular cultures had been significantly influenced by American culture. However, instead of letting the western culture to replace the local culture entirely, Japanese “Japanized” the culture of the west by imitating and appropriating the originals. One of the common Japanese popular cultures is Anime (animation), which involves using an animated cartoon to convey a message. Unlike the western animation, anime includes a detailed character design, which allows for a rich connection between the viewer and the character. The animated films in the Japanese culture date back to 1920s, where Walt Disney influenced Tezuka Osamu. Disney influenced the contents of the Japanese comic books, and the toys or video games. Japanese Anime has also been developed to films, where western knowledge has been adopted in cinema screens such as sci-fi.
An element present in all the local popular culture is the translation of the local works into the English language to reach a wider audience (Ang, 2001). However, there have also been non-local writers writing in local languages, for instance, non-Japanese authors writing in the Japanese language. Other western elements in the Asian pop cultures include the violence and sexuality, which is common in the west of culture. The western family life has also influenced the popular cultures in Asia, with most people adopting western-like lifestyles, citing its appropriateness and desirability. For instance, gender equality and rights, which originates from the western civilization has been an issue in Asian pop culture. The culture of the west has been widely adopted, though countries still attempt to preserve their indigenous cultures. Therefore, due to globalization, the Asian countries have been forced to accept the western influence with little or no impact. This is because western cultures are predominant and it stipulates the commercial value of any work.
Overall, there are many western and foreign elements in the Asian popular cultures. This typology has explored some of such items in China, Japan, and Indonesia with emphasis on the mentioned popular cultures. The acceptability of the western values in the Asian cultures has been characterized by minimal opposition due to the globalization effect, which has created a global village, with the power to control what happens in local cultures.