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  1. Behind Cultural Identity:Communication Patterns of Chinese Descent AN Ran, Ph.D South China University of Technology Email:

  2. Abstract: This paper: presents the dynamic character of the cultural identity of Chinese descent. explores their communication patterns. shows that due to the inner feelings towards Chinese identity, these Chinese descent try to be flexible and adapt themselves to life in China. emphasizes that the sense of multiculturalism should be obtained by Chinese staff and students.

  3. Introduction Sun Yi-shan considered ‘Chinese descent’ as an important element in his thoughts (Meng, 2007). Chinese President, Hu Jing-tao, also points out that all internationally dispersed Chinese descent are the active promoters of Chinese civilization, and the good communicators between China and other countries (Meng, 2007). Lin (2007) points out that China should try its best to stimulate Chinese descent to connect with China in all possible ways.

  4. However, literature review in Chinese academic journals appears while China promotes and opens its door to allow Chinese descent entry into China, it pays little attention to their psychological adjustment, communication patterns and the feelings towards their Chinese identity. This requires further effort and understanding.

  5. None of the paper is about Chinese descent as international students in China

  6. Some relative papers, such as:---Identity conflict in overseas Chinese in American (Lin, 2007);---The acquisition of cultural values in Japanese returnee students (Sasagawa et al 2005);---The relationship between international students and Japanese host students (Shigemasu & Ikeda, 2005).

  7. Challenge from methodology Halualani (2008) argues that research in intercultural adaptation in universities has been limited by its methodology. That is, researchers normally define what intercultural interaction is in their imagined ideal state, and use questionnaires and statistical analysis to arrive at their conclusions. This kind of questionnaire’s limitations include: 1) Students from different geographical areas are usually treated in the same way; 2) Mistakenly assuming that only different countries have intercultural problems and ignoring the differences of ethnic and nationality groups within countries.

  8. My prior research There is no significant correlation between Chinese identity and having Chinese friends” (An, 2008). Aim of this research: Try to discover the communication patterns of Chinese descent behind their recognition of cultural identity. Whom do they normally communicate with? What drives for these communication patterns? What are the result and implication by choosing these different patterns? Research method: Data were collected by both questionnaire and interview. Analyses were mainly based on the interview.

  9. Research method and process Initially, a questionnaire collected demographic information from 91 respondents at SCUT. The information is as follows:

  10. Six students were chosen for interview. These students had stayed in China for an extended period of time and were used to the university life in China. The information on these 6 students is as follows: Note: G= Gender; M=Male, F=Female; Generation=Generation of descent since forbears departed China.

  11. All interviews were open-ended and semi-structured. Each interview lasted around 30 minutes. After getting permission, interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed into a word document. Then all interviews were categorized and analyzed. The framework questions for the interview were: 1) What is the background of your family? 2) Why did you choose to study in China? Was it your parents or your decision? 3) Do you find any communication difficult with Chinese students? 4) Do you feel any difference in cultural value? 5) Which kind of students do you like to communicate with? Who are your best friends? 6) What gives you most difficulty in your life and study here? Give examples.

  12. Results Issue of Chinese identity. From questionnaire to interview, the data shows clearly that students acknowledge that ‘I am a Chinese’ if their parents are of Chinese origin. However there are different degrees of recognition. Some think ‘I am half Chinese’. If one parent is Chinese, the other is not, a student might think he is not Chinese at all. According to the data collected, almost all students identify they are Chinese. See the following quotes:

  13. Interviewer: Do you feel that you are a New Zealander? Ma: No, I am a Chinese. Interviewer: You think you are a Chinese but how about your classmates (Chinese students) view? Do they feel you are the same as them? Ma: No, my classmates think I am an international student, not the same as them. They don’t know how to deal with me. But I don’t feel any difference with them. I speak Chinese, like Chinese song and singer. Interviewer: Do you feel you are Chinese or Vietnamese? Zhou: My parents always joke that I am half Chinese and half Vietnamese. Interviewer: What’s your opinion? Zhou: I am half Chinese and half Vietnamese.

  14. Erikson (1950) is one of the earliest who systematically studied the concept of “cultural identity” and developed the theoretical frame for it. Erikson placed cultural identity at the core of both individual and the group culture. According to Lustig & Koester (2007), the process of forming cultural identity has three phases, which were also shown in interviews: 1. unexamined cultural identity “My grandfather said that my origin is Fujian. I am a Fujian person. I am the third generation living in Indonesia.”2. cultural identity search, “For example, if one (Japanese) has joined a group, one should follow its rules. While Chinese think in another way, they feel more free since the group is theirs. Another example, the attitude towards “beauty”, if it is snowing, Japanese will clean the snow in front of their houses, they create beauty by their efforts, Chinese seems to wait until somebody else to do it”.3. cultural identity achievement. “I am half Vietnamese and half Chinese since all habits at home are Chinese but behavior at school and society are Vietnamese.”

  15. communicate primarily with those coming from the same country Chinese identity communicate with Chinese students communicate primarily with other international students very rarely communicate with any students Students of Chinese descent showed four communication patterns, which are linked to the outcomes of their acculturation.

  16. Analysis1: (with home students) Students have a predisposition to communicate with those coming from the same country and to return to their home-culture. While they recognize their Chinese identity in concept, they have not developed a strong affinity with Chinese people or Chinese culture yet. The following quote from a Vietnamese student of Chinese descent exemplifies this : Zhou: Knowing we are all Vietnamese, we are very happy, and speak Vietnamese, no matter whether they are Chinese descent or ethnic Vietnamese. Interviewer: You mean you feel closer with Vietnamese? Zhou: Yes, I don’t have this feeling when I was in Vietnam.

  17. University staff need to appreciate the feelings of these students towards their own country. It is a sign of tolerance in Chinese cultural characteristics. It is also the deep sign of the multicultural heritage stamped in Chinese culture. Understanding is the first step of guidance. Promotion of Chinese culture must bear in mind and respect other cultures. Ji (2007) emphasizes his opinion of multiculturalism.Actually it is not reasonable and wise to expect the Chinese descent to assimilate fully to Chinese culture. Recognizing the cultural differences will involve in intercultural communication competence training. Only if the sense of multiculturalism was obtained, staff could experience and appreciate the different nature of culture (An, Zhang, et Hao, 2008).

  18. Analysis 2: (with Chinese students, 25% of the answers) ‘I don’t like this, that they (Chinese students) only want to practice their English and do not want to say Chinese.’ This quote shows that Chinese students do not prepare well in cognition and accepting Chinese descent. Chinese students’ sense of getting benefit will influence Chinese descent’ acculturation. No doubt, it is related with the multicultural attitude of Chinese students, i.e. cognition of multiculturalism by host society and offering helps to the international students. Du (2008) emphasizes ‘strong culture should own its strong capability in adaptation’ (p.68). It is very important to educate Chinese university students the sense of multiculturalism, openness and tolerance. “No Chinese friend will be very sad” is significantly correlated with “really want to have Chinese friends”. There is no significant correlation between Chinese identity and having Chinese friends” (An, 2008). The fact of cultural identity won’t bring the sense of belonging will lead these students turn back to their home culture and forget the real meaning of Chinese identity.

  19. Analysis 3: (Communication with international students) This pattern will develop a sense of multiculturalism and competence of communication as multicultural person, so that to be vague in the concrete meaning of cultural identity. Interviewer: How about your communication with your classmates? Li: Very good. No matter they are black, brown, male or female. Interviewer: Do you like to make friends with Chinese or international students? Li: International students. Interviewer: Who are your best friends here, Chinese or international students? Li: Sri Lankan…

  20. Kim (2003, 2008) develops concept of intercultural personhood based on ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. Kim identifies intercultural identity, which displays openness, adjustability, and adaptiveness. Intercultural identity is no longer seen in terms of bicultural, multicultural, or multiethnic identity. Rather, intercultural identity surpasses one specific form of culture to form a meta-identity, cosmopolitan, or transcultural identity. This is the sense of no rigid cultural boundaries, surpassing the conventional social categories. It could represent both in individuation and universalization. It is the effect of different cultural elements mixing and elevating. Its realization is related with the determination of participating in intercultural adaptation. The competence of intercultural identity could be developed and realized through the model of stress-adaptation-growth dynamic. The communication of students of Chinese descent with other international students reflects this concept.

  21. Analysis 4: (almost no communication with others, feel lonely) For those students who are unable to communicate across cultures, the situation might lead to serious and adverse changes in personality. Long periods without resolution of deep inside feelings of being marginalizing by the home culture and the host culture, the stress caused by this conflict of cultural identity can cause further communication difficulties and further dysfunction. Related research indicates the ability to recognize and deal with culturally generated and expressed emotions has been correlated with positive intercultural adjustment, and effective resolution of matters such as depression, social anxiety, academic achievement, competence, etc. (Izard, 2001; McKenzie, et al, 2000).

  22. The problem of loneliness, is exemplified in the following quote: Ma: When I was in New Zealand, my school is for girls. So we might be open in character. But here, the girls are not open compared with me. It seems the boys are shy and avoid to approach me. Interviewer: How do you get rid of your loneliness? Ma: Go to internet and shopping. Interviewer: You mean you go shopping also by yourself? Ma: Yes. Interviewer: Do you want to make a friend? Ma: I am trying. I have been by myself for a year. I cannot live like this for another two or three years. If I have more friends, it will help me in many ways. I know it’s not good without a friend. I am trying, no matter from this university or other universities. I am making friends in class, through MSN, and university network. First I have to step out and make contact with people.

  23. According to Salovey, Caruso, & Sitarenios (2001), emotional intelligence refers to one recognizing the meaning of emotions and the ability to identify the relationship among those emotions, also to use it as a basis in reasoning, problem solving and enhancing cognitive activities. The most important skill of emotional intelligence is emotion recognition. It is the threshold skill because only after the recognition can regulation occur and obtain its meaning.Students of Chinese descent recognize their difference with Chinese people and culture and adjust themselves consciously, which indicates that they are acting rationally. During the process of intercultural adjustment, they do not give up. Although sad and lonely sometimes, they actively and positively adjust themselves to meet the needs of environment.

  24. Analysis 5: Behind these communication patterns are inner feelings towards Chinese culture. Interviewer: Was it your parents who asked you to learn Chinese? Li: Yes, my parents said I must learn Chinese because I am Chinese. If I cannot read and write, that is not allowed. Interviewer: Why do you choose to study in China? Gu: There are two reasons. One is I want to learn something interesting, the other is my mother’s relatives are all Taiwanese. I want to communicate with them, so I learn Chinese. Zhou: When I was young, my parents told me we came from Chao Zhou. We speak Chao Zhou dialect at home. My parents do not allow us to speak Vietnamese at home, we must speak Chao Zhou dialect. My parents are very strict to us about language speaking at home. If I speak Vietnamese with my brother at home, we will get punished.

  25. Students of Chinese descent displayed a deep and indelible identification towards China and Chinese cultural heritage. These connected feelings were passed to them by their parents and grandparents unconsciously or explicitly. Just like one poem describes: something in your heart, which arouse your feelings, but you cannot describe it clearly. It is just like tearing up a piece of paper, it will form into another piece of paper in the wind, the flying shape is like a butterfly (An, 2008). The strong recognition of and commitment to Chinese identity by parents and grandparents influences the students, and leaves an impression in the descent’s mind. This impression, deep or shallow, conscious or subconscious, can be aroused by Chinese imagery and scenery, clearly shaped in the Chinese descent’s mind, mixing with their feelings, and become a standard for their judgment and behavior. For them, this Chinese identity is dynamic. As a more comprehensive understanding of Chinese culture develops, this recognition will deepen; The conceptual identity will change into a practical behavior. This special and dynamic sense of identity is not only returning to their ancestor’s culture, but also is the integration of bi-culture and multiculture.

  26. For these Chinese descent, the change of their cultural identity reflects and is the realization of their intercultural identity. It is especially influential in determining the form and effectiveness of an individual’s interaction with other human beings. People can communicate effectively with another group of people when they obtain knowledge and experience of another culture. Because cultural identity is dynamic, complex, and evolving in nature, it changes as dynamic life change. It is very possible, after a certain period of time studying in China, the identity of “I am a Chinese descendant of Indonesia” will change into “I am a Chinese”.

  27. Conclusion: This paper stresses the importance of being aware of feelings of belonging towards China held by Chinese descent, which will increase the ability of self-monitoring and self control in the process of intercultural adaptation. It needs to address, in particular, how influencing the cognitive determinants of effective intercultural communication between Chinese staff and Chinese descent can improve the outcomes of multicultural education. In today’s globalizing world, the intercultural adaptation process of Chinese descent not only reflects the principles of intercultural adaptation theories, but also have its own special characteristics (e.g. the recognition of Chinese identity), which provides a great potential for future research.

  28. Thank You!!