Xiaoming Guo for Waterloo
Westerners living in China are puzzled that why Chinese does not say “thank you” to close friends. Western families have table discipline that family members say thanks to each other. In the contracts, Chinese families seldom say “thank you” among family members.
The Western culture is Christian culture. Christian culture considers that Human Nature is selfish and greedy, or the sin. Human has sin naturally in the eyes of the West. In the west, Human is evil in essence. “Thank you” is a formal etiquette that admired other for their altruist deed. “Thank you” is like to say that “Hey, how can you do me the unselfish thing? That’s unnatural. You must have the grace of God!”.
The Chinese culture is Confucian culture. Confucian culture considers that Human Nature is good and kind. If one is selfish and greedy, it is because he or she gets a bad cultivation. Chinese society is build by altruism relationships. Confucius emphasized the relation between parents and children, between brothers and sisters, and extended these altruist family relations to the whole society. When C does B a favour, it is considered Natural. If the B says “thank you”, C will consider that B is not taking C as a best friend. A best friend is just like a family member. They share the livings together without distinguishing personal boundary. A “thank you” marked a personal boundary. “Thank you” is used for a stranger, or new friends, or formal business transactions. If a friends say “thank you” to you in China, that means your not one of their peer group yet.
The west used “thank you” very often reflect the Western individualism. Everyone has a boundary with others. China is a society without so much of a personal boundary. Best friends are a collective entity, “than you” will split the entity into two separate identities. It indicates a transaction between two entities.
The West exchange gifts among family members in Christmas. This custom is ridiculous in the eyes of Chinese. Chinese family shares the income and the property. A wife is supposed can use the money earned by her husband. You cannot send something to someone that she is entitled already. Exchange gift or “thank you” will destroy the family. It splits the solid entity of a family into separate individual entities.
Chinese society is functioning based on altruism. Western society is functioning based on self-interest.
Western sociologists, regardless Karl Marx or Max Weber, view the society as conflicts of interests. Taoism and Confucian view the society as a harmonic whole.
The West may not understand why Xi would like to build a harmonic society. Harmonic society is the ideal of Confucian society. The West is fear that China becomes too strong, anticipating that China will be greedy and put national interest above the world as the West powers always do. They are using their mindset to speculate Chinese behaviours.
Please think about why China doesn’t need “thank you” among familiar friends. Please welcome China rising. China will bring the world peace and harmony.
Domestically, Xi is building a harmonic society. Internationally, Xi is building a shared destination of Human Being. If you have doubt, ponder the puzzle why Chinese do not say “thank you” among best friends.