Distinctions are What We Make Them: West v. East

The readings about Chinese rhetoric struck me as just that– readings about how others read Chinese rhetoric, rather than a way to get to the source of something and really understand it by myself. Moreover, because I would never understand Chinese rhetoric without a translator, this week’s readings made me think heavily about the concepts of bias and the influence a translator will have on the works he or she is translating.

Despite the cultural gap though, I see plenty of similarities between what is mentioned about Chinese rhetoric and what we have read so far about Western rhetoric. When Xing Lu mentions China’s distrust (even in modern times) of flowery speakers, it reminded me of the discussion we had in class about the different rhetorical strategies of Obama and George W. Bush. Though Bush could easily be seen as ineloquent, he had a certain charm about him—there was no embellishment there, only simple words that everyone could understand (even if a few of those words hadn’t technically been invented yet). Obama, meanwhile, is very well-spoken, to the point where his intelligence alienates a good portion of his constituency. This seems to make many Americans wary of him, just like the Chinese are wary of their more embellishing orators.

I suppose the main point I am going for is that while Xing Lu spends page after page showing how the West has misunderstood the East and the East misunderstood the West, that our cultures are not actually so different at all. The same rhetorical strategies will crop up again and again in culture after culture because there are only so many one can use to begin with. However, because these two cultures misunderstand each other, they will not see these similarities– even with a multicultural and bilingual author like Xing Lu explicitly pointing them out.

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