The first virtue of Chinese is social responsibility. This is usually expected of all of us as citizens, yet the Chinese carry it to the utmost. For example, many of my stduents in their twenties and thirties send money home monthly to at least three or four family members, and sometimes to many more than that. Rather than buy records and clothes for themselves, they think of the great-aunts, their cousins, and their grandfathers.
Chinese men are unfairly accused of male chauvinism in rellationship to other men in democracies; alone among the world's men, they may carry economically a huge amount of older female relatives upon their shoulders, and they do so uncomplainingly. And Chinese women are equally patient with family burdens.
The second virtue is stoicism. Like Canadian people, the Chinese people excel at the quieter, less glamourous virtues. They bear up to a remarkable degree, taking all of life's problems and injuries unto themselves, with no expectation of bouts of emotional understanding, since the mammoth population of China, in conjunction with the vicissitudes of her twentieth century history, allow no time for the luxury of individual catering-to.
Not only do they bear up without complaining, they amazingly turn to few patterns of anti-social behaviour. Chinese people rarely if ever drink heavily, do drugs even of the prescription variety, burst out into fist-fights, waste money foolishly, or loose their tempers in irritation. They are sturdy, resilient, temperate, thrifty, patient, and modest, and it is no surprise why they are favourites of Immigration Departments.
The third major virtue of the Chinese people, is, surprisingly, generosity. This is not first understood by us because theirs is not like our own generosity, though equally valuable. Societies where Christianity has left its mark stress altruisim and charitableness to the stranger. The Chinese are not only generous to every last relative, wherever he or she may be, they are domestically gracious to those of us who visit from other lands.
From students on stringent budgets who insist they pay for their teachers to invitations to stay all over the country, they express a lavish abundance of good will, offering hearth, home, and family to help the traveller to China. In the simple farming people of such areas as Hunan Province, I was especially moved by the acceptingness and warmth of several interwoven families who welcomed the returning son and his Canadian guest.
A uniquely Chinese trait is the giving of time. This virtue I have never seen in any other people to the degree I see it in the Chinese, and I can guess how much they misunderstand us when they travel to Western democracies. Can they know that someone likes them when we never spend such amounts of time on people at the onset of any relationship?
Whatever small or large problem you have - missing your train, stepping on a rusty nail and needing a tetanus shot, or trying to buy the hooks for a mosquito net, the Chinese friend will wait patiently for hours as you sort things out, translating, enquiring, and mediating on your behalf.
I can only hope that when they travel to our countries, they will find a similar hospitality.