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Debating with the Chinese.

Popularity 24Viewed 10354 times 2014-4-10 17:17 |Personal category:foreign perspective|System category:Life| debating, china

Debating in China (or anywhere else)
This is not, before I start, a dig at the Chinese or anything, it's not me telling anyone how to live nor is it me complaining about Chinese cultures...this is a small blog about my personal gripes when debating with someone in personal and could extend to any country (Minus the first point). Don't get all upset about it. 



你不了解中国
I was reading another blog on Chinese culture and how one of the biggest gripes that the Chinese have is that foreigners don't understand the culture. In some cases I do agree with this sentiment, not every foreigner integrates well and fully grasps the Chinese culture. But sometimes, it feels like it's a fall back position when a Chinese person loses a debate with a foreigner based on politics or international relations. I feel argument constructing is not one of the strong points in China (personally though you may disagree). In my high school at least we had a lot of classes in debating, then with university came a lot of classes on critical thinking which helps you analyse and de-construct arguments and I do think that there is a serious lack of this kind of education in China. For me, it's frustrating when, mid debate, rather than reinforcing their point with some evidence or facts, many times I have seen my friends just give in and resort to 你不了解中国. And I am thinking, "I don't thinking when debating about Chinese relationships  with Australia for example you have to fully understand Chinese culture or China." I could easily come back with "yeah well, you don't understand Australia, so how can you be so certain"...but I just can't be bothered any more. This catch all phrase really annoys me in debates as it's like a "get out of jail free card", an "I win the argument, your point is invalid" button. 



Assumptions and generalisation. 
So often debating I hear things like, "oh the Chinese are like this" or "Americans are like that". When debating with someone, you cannot just assume something is true, nor can you generalise a whole country if you want to prove your point. We are all different people completely and stereotypes are not so often true. I don't agree Chinese girls are only with Americans for green cards, I think that maybe a few are, but certainly not all of them. Also, don't forget that places like, Africa, America China and Europe are so huge that even their cultures vary vastly within one country or continent. Examples being North and South of China, North and South of America. You cannot claim to know, or even understand a countries culture simply by living in one city. reverting back to point A, 你不了解中国, I would argue that no-one truly understand Chinese culture, it's such an enormous country with so many people, nationalities and different outside cultural influences influencing each areas own personal culture it's simply impossible t fully understand it in one lifetime. 



Don't take a hissy fit (throw a tantrum)
If you think you are losing a debate or someone proves you wrong...it takes a bigger person to admit this. Rather than backing into a corner and blindly holding to your own ideas for the sake of losing face, you will lose less face and could even gain respect by being willing to both learn from the others opinion and back down. Don't get angry either when debating. There is a major difference between debating and arguing. Debating is how we learn, arguing is how we lose friends. 



97% of facts are made up on the spot
Don't try to quote numbers unless it is a particular field of interest that you are very knowledgeable about. So many people when debating just spout random numbers like such numbers prove them beyond a doubt...this is not true. You can estimate, "I read somewhere that, if I remember correctly, 47% of statistics are total rubbish" and even state that your sources are vague then that's ok. but stating like you are god "actually 48% of statistics are total rubbish" makes you sound like a human google engine. It doesn't prove you are right by just shouting out statistics. 



It's ok to not know what you are talking about
I am Scottish and am pro Scottish independence for my own reasons, nothing to do with hating the English, I will just say misrepresentation and leave it at that, it's a debate for another day. Now it's ok if you aren't too sure about Scottish politics, yeah we are little tiny country in the ass end of the atlantic eclipsed eternally by our bigger brother Britain. However don't start telling me that Scotland shouldn't leave the U.K. as the U.K. produces great leaders like Thatcher and it's beneficial to stay in a big country just so our government comes from a larger selection pool." Not only do I personally hate Thatcher (there was a massive street party in my city when she died I might add), but you have just shown you have no idea what you are talking about. Politics is not reduced to having a larger selection pool and neither is my own political opinion. If you want to hear mine, you can ask but don't then form your own opinion on the basis of "Britain is awesome, Scotland is nothing ergo Scotland should stay" as you really don't have any idea what you are talking about and you can end up offending someone. If you don't know anything about the subject, it is really ok to take a back-seat and listen in, you don't have to have an opinion on everything. 

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-10 20:18
One basic obstacle to getting Chinese students to debate is how to get around the concept that they have already learned the right answer in school!
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-4-11 00:20
ColinSpeakman: One basic obstacle to getting Chinese students to debate is how to get around the concept that they have already learned the right answer in school!
It's interesting you say this. I was telling people that there were bears in Scotland and they were believing me...and after I told them "not to believe all the rubbish that comes out of my mouth". I think the issue is that a lot of the time, some of the Chinese take you too much at face value. Especially if you are a teacher
Reply Report Maierwei 2014-4-11 12:23
Ah... the "你不了解中国" card is used so often in any kinds of debates. Or when there is a problem that needs to be solved by them. Great post as always!
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-4-11 13:45
Maierwei: Ah... the "你不了解中国" card is used so often in any kinds of debates. Or when there is a problem that needs to be solved by them. Great po ...
Thank you :)
Reply Report winnielin0205 2014-4-11 16:50
Although I myself is a Chinese, I do agree with you on this. I was often answered by " you don't know the truth" or " you don't know nothing about my situation" when I offer a advice to someone. Actually, all I advised is that " you can try...." . If my advice is not suitable, just tell me that it doesn't work, and I am totally fine with that. But please don't end up with that "I-don't-know-thing" . If someone debates using that words, I totally stop debating and ask them to tell me exactly what I don't know since it seems he knows it well.
Well, now I advise little and debate little. It's kind of depressed when someone tell me that I don't know it well without knowing how much I know....
Reply Report teamkrejados 2014-4-11 17:41
In life and in debating it is always good to be assertive and never good to be aggressive.
Reply Report xuedongi60 2014-4-11 18:11
As a Chinese college student,I strongly agree with you about the point"many Chinese students seriously lack of the critical thinking",so when Chinese students have to make a choice for themselves,especially an important event,many students have no ideas because they do not know what they really want to be.
Reply Report Zoggles 2014-4-12 00:02
Would agree with almost everything said, but there is also a much overplayed 'You're just a little See Pee See minion and know nothing' card that is so commonly used in the opposite direction...

The '你不了解中国' card can occasionally have merit, but does strongly depend upon the topic of debate, but 9 times out of 10, 你不了解中国人 would be more appropriate.
Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-12 05:02
I love the phrase you are just a LITTLE SEE PEE SEE minion. It sounds so much more interesting than CPC when used.
Reply Report KIyer 2014-4-12 06:22
good points on debating and how to truly exchange ideas without getting offensive or defensive!
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-4-12 09:30
ColinSpeakman: I love the phrase you are just a LITTLE SEE PEE SEE minion. It sounds so much more interesting than CPC when used.
When I read it I get the idea of some sort of minion from despicable me watching people pee...can't help it, just my immature mind
Reply Report robert237 2014-4-12 12:58
It sounds like you are thoroughly convinced you think you "win" most of your debates.
This is the reason people go to a "fall back" position because it is more polite then telling you to go feel yourself.
Instead of boring people with a long debate just tell them "I'm smarter than you are and you must listen to me".
At least it would be more honest of you. Either that or go back to high school.
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-4-12 16:44
robert237: It sounds like you are thoroughly convinced you think you "win" most of your debates.
This is the reason people go to a "fall back&quot ...
Lovely assumption...real nice way of just picking a fight.

Yeah, I wouldn't say I win all my debates, is that what you want to hear? I think especially since living in China I have been doing more of the trying not to have an opinion. And if you look at my other blog post, things Chinese people shouldn't say, you will notice it is I who backs down in that argument and agreed with the others point.

Sounds like you have, rather than describing me,  just described yourself as you know what I am like from one glance at a blog I have written. You must be super intelligent.

Your comment contributed nothing, just got a little gripe off your shoulder. I applaud you kind sir.
Reply Report huaren2323 2014-4-12 19:03
Hey mate, I go along with Robert, in discerning from your blog your infallibilty by assuming that all Chinese will hide behind 你不了解中国. Well I am a Chinese and would amuse you by on line debate on whatever topic. I believe one big factor is that you are using your Aussie English and logic. Try me anytime...skype MSN YM...well I am in Hangzhou on pleasure trip and have plenty of time. My skype address for this purpose will be frank.gallahad Name the place time and date or even face off..would be happy to fly to Beijing or anywhere else mate. Chinese are not the timid aborigine that you can bugger off.
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-4-12 19:59
huaren2323: Hey mate, I go along with Robert, in discerning from your blog your infallibilty by assuming that all Chinese will hide behind 你不了解中国. Well I am ...
Please...do quote where I said ALL Chinese hide behind this...I was stating that sometimes this happens in an argument. Like I said at the start it can happen everywhere.

What is it with you people? You are so hostile on these things, like someone is not allowed to have an opinion without jumping down their throat.

Chinese are not the timid aborigine type that you can bugger off? What does that even mean? Who's buggering anything, when did I say that?

And again, read my blog...there is a difference between debate and argument. your comment "name the place, time and date or even face off" is looking for an argument.
you doubly show your own ignorance as...I clearly stated in the last section...I AM SCOTTISH...I have no Aussie English logic as you like to put it.

To clarify "although I suggest you read again" 你不了解中国can only be used in China or about China, why...cause it would sound stupid if not coming from a Chinese person talking about China as of course you understand your country better. But other countries cann just as easily fall to the "you don't understand position"
Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-12 20:11
Well Sean did start his blog by saying he was not out to offend -any Chinese (or other) by the post. There is no doubt that we have some great debaters, Chinese and others, in this Forum. It is hard to know what dynamics are involved without the detail on subject matter of a debate. The more it brings cultural differences into the perspectives on a topic, the harder it is to think in terms of winners and losers as points of view can be so fundamentally different.
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-4-12 20:39
huaren2323: Hey mate, I go along with Robert, in discerning from your blog your infallibilty by assuming that all Chinese will hide behind 你不了解中国. Well I am ...
As an aside, I am not questioning your own debating skills, that was never my objective. I am sure you are fine at debating.
Reply Report huaren2323 2014-4-12 20:52
seanboyce88: Please...do quote where I said ALL Chinese hide behind this...I was stating that sometimes this happens in an argument. Like I said at the start it ca ...
Sean my boy. I am a Chinese and a Canadian. So be careful when you paint your Scottish brush across a forum.
Reply Report robert237 2014-4-13 01:10
Your debating method can be summed up with the school yard phrase:
I am rubber, you are glue, what bounces off of me, sticks to you.
I guess I should have started my first comment like your blog,
"this is not intended as a dig at any thinly veiled China bashers".
Then it might not have offended you as much.
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-4-13 01:19
robert237: Your debating method can be summed up with the school yard phrase:
I am rubber, you are glue, what bounces off of me, sticks to you.
I guess I should  ...
In your own words:
Instead of boring people with a long debate just tell them "I'm smarter than you are and you must listen to me".
At least it would be more honest of you. Either that or go back to high school."

And you don't deem that offensive? Of course you meant to offend.

and how would you know what my debating method is like?

That's the difference. I honestly, didn't intend to offend any Chinese people. This is some of my personal experiences with some Chinese people, not all. Some Chinese are in fact excellent debaters. This is why I stated at the start it is not a dig. You however intend only to offend. Which really, is pointless and meaningless.

You think I am bashing the Chinese. Rather than being a troll, why not offer some constructive criticism on my piece, maybe quote where you think I am somewhat harsh, you never know, I may change it. Again, your second comment still fails to contribute anything. I applaud you again

As for any Chinese people reading this, I do apologise if you feel I am china bashing. Everyone is different and I am not generalising your country. Just a few pointers in debating though which I notice sometimes

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