Since the unprecedented process of globalization, the whole human beings have been witnessing the rise of transnational corporations, the popularity of instant messaging, and the close integration of intra- and inter-national economy, society and culture, which gradually breaks down the differences among them and recreates the similar environment. On the other hand, there are also certain scholars, asserting that cultural globalization is a bi-directional exchange, since the foreign cultural products would influence the local lifestyles and values while the foreign should make certain modifications to be localized for holding fixed competitive advantages. As for this paper, it refers to two examples – Bhatan and KFC – to demonstrate the homogeneity is just the surface, while every cultural component still possesses its specific essence.
The cultural imperialism’s view on western culture
Citizens are more exposed to the American fast food, British business suits, Hollywood movies and low-cost daily necessities from the Third World. As such, many academics and practitioners state that the global culture is shifting towards homogeneity; and when surrounding by the well-known brands, like Starbucks, Haagen-Dazs, KFC, McDonald’s, Zara, H&M, and Coach, many are concerned that the distribution of their products is kind of cultural invasion, namely, such western mainstream cultural values are erasing local cultural specificity, and some even term this phenomenon as Western cultural imperialism (Peoples & Bailey, 2011; Campbell et al., 2010; Indo & Rosaldo, 2002). Johan and Ruge (1965) announced that the western culture products are useful tools for the neo-colonial Western power to homogenize weaker developing countries’ culture, ideas and traditions. The globalization disseminates the West-dominated culture, from music, eating habits to cultural values to the other world. Even the most isolated countries’ culture may be threatened by the dominated-western culture as following example.
Bhutan, a small landlocked state in South Asia, switches on television in 1999 as the last nation on the world to watch TV. In order to modernize Bhutan, the king started to introduce a lot of western culture products, including the TV. This Kingdom is highly focused on spirituality and environmental protection on its domestic culture with restricted tourism. For thousands years, this Buddhist culture nation is lived peacefully and the crime rate was extremely low in there. However, because of the limit of domestic TV programs, Bhutan’s TV stations have to broadcast mainly imported programs, such as Boxing Federation, American Idol, Pop music videos and BBC news. In 2000, the isolated kingdom started to plug into the internet. Things seems to change dramatically, this country is plunged into a crime wave in the first beginning of 21st century. The crime rate, including murder, fraud, drug offences rate, was highly increased. The authorities of Bhutan gradually noticed that this country’s unique culture is threatened by western cultures, so the authority even announced that TV controlled their people’s mind and made them crazy (Bhutan Information, 2006). It seems that introducing of western culture or modern information adversely erodes this country’s Buddhist culture.
Cultural imperialisms criticize that Bhutan is just one of countries whose culture are threatened by western culture products. It seems the continuing growing global trade in western cultural products, such as films, music, literature, destroy the cultural diversity. The cultural imperialisms think that the cross-cultural exchange is actually not equity, which means the traffic in culture moves primarily in one direction – from the Western World to the Third World (Rosaldo, 2002). The domination of Western Culture is leading to the world cultural homogenization. Peripheral cultures of the Third World will be gradually assimilated, resulting the decreasing of culture identity. Cultural diversity is a resource of creativity which supports economic development.
However, Globalization should be considered as equal as ‘Westernization’. There are two kinds of cultural diversity – the across cultural variety and the within cultural variety – often move in opposite directions (Cowen, 2002). During the culture exchange process, the diversity in within culture increases in the receiving society because the people in their may have more choices, and the across cultural variety is decreased because their culture are more homogenized. Therefore, it may not correct to conclude that the dominated-western culture threats or destroys the culture diversity of the world. At least, the within culture will be increased in these western-culture receiving countries. As to Bhutan, the people in there may have more choices to make. Above all, globalization is a historical activity in periodic wave and no on should be isolated under current global environment.
Culture Localization may keep the culture diversity
No culture is static and the ongoing culture interacting process will make all culture more interrelated and interdependent (Knotter et al., 2011). It is noticeable that every cultural component still possesses its specific essence. Thus, many peripheral cultures have already been injected into western culture. It is not possible for the non-western people to resist western culture. Contrarily, making the western culture localization can keep culture diversity. It should admit that the acceptance of exotic issues from the local normally resides in the curiosity and novelty; and until the local is progressively familiar with the foreign brands, their fellowship may due to the approval of high-quality and fine workmanship. On the other hand, the existence of western cultural products could be identified in almost every corner of the globe, but they are almost unable to have the same cultural meanings as they do in their own homeland (Campbell et al., 2010).
Take Kentuchy Fried Chicken as an instance. KFC has been widely considered as the representation of American food culture, which is incorporated the principal American cultural elements: fried, chicken, convenience, and fast-moving. When obtaining most success in the western world, it started to stair on the Chinese market, which has the largest consumption market without few planned exploration. In 1987, the first KFC restaurant was opened at one of high streets of Beijing, China; up to now, KFC outlets in China has become the major profit source for the international division of the parent company (Eriberto & Lozada, 2005). From the original novelty and consideration of modernity, the continuing approval of the present Chinese is due to the convenience and clean; the young generation in China deems such eating habits could better accommodates the contemporary pace of work and life, though the old still considers it tastes foreign. If being western contributes to the former success, KFC is attempting to suit for the local environment and become a routine part of local life for ensuring achievements.
According to the research of Eriberto & Lozada (2005), the Chinese children have exerted a significant part in the localization of KFC, affecting many modifications of KFC business strategies and tactics. First, the Happy Meal was introduced, containing the smaller hamburgers, smaller salad and smaller bottle of soft drink; meanwhile, in many KFC restaurants, a part of place is set aside to be the children’s corner, so that being in KFC is not only eating, but more of fan and pleasure. Second, since children are always accompanied by parents, KFC also introduces many specific meals with the considerations of health and localization for adults, like rice, soya-bean milk and Beijing chicken roll, which are all unavailable in the USA. Third, in order to accommodate the work pace in China, KFC presently offers various kinds of breakfast series, and these offers comprehensively consider the traditional eating habits of the Chinese, incorporating fried twisted dough sticks (Youtiao), porridge (Zhou), sesame seed cake (Shaobing). Facing with the proliferation of foreign fast-food brands in the Chinese market, KFC spends more efforts to emphasize its compatibleness and uniqueness of products to continue attracting consumers, and it can be considered that such KFC culture is no longer a single, homogenized global one, instead, specificity and uniqueness is given rise to in the consumption process within the connections with historical contexts and social relations.
In sum, there are a lot of evidences to demonstrate that dominated western cultural forms have influenced some countries’ culture, or there is no denying that the world is becoming to some extent homogenized (Rosaldo, 2002). While the author thinks that the diverse culture identities are not threatened by west culture. In the culture exchange process, the within culture diversity will be increased, which means that the culture receiving country will have more choices when facing problems. People can not say the peripheral culture was been eroded when seeing Starbucks in China or India. Globalization is a trend that any country in the world can not be ignored. Just as KFC, making western culture integrated with the local culture is a good method to keep the peripheral culture alive. By this way, the cultural homogenization and heterogeneity can exist in the same time.
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