West Meets East January 2013
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Globalization increasingly resembles a true exchange of international investments, practices, and cultural influences. Perhaps most salient commercially, Foxconn (New Taipei City, Taiwan)—which is well known as the main manufacturer of many of Apple's (Cupertino, California) electronic devices—reportedly is considering opening manufacturing plants in the United States. Establishing manufacturing operations in the United States would stand in stark contrast to the company's previous focus on low-cost labor in Asia.
In the West, philosophical and moral notions from Eastern cultures are gaining attention as potential aids in attempts to solve various ethical dilemmas. Independent public-policy think tank the Legatum Institute (London, England) recently invited the Dalai Lama, the head of Tibetan Buddhism, to suggest ethical principles that the financial industry could follow. On the basis of his professed Buddhist-Marxist beliefs, the Dalai Lama argued for "secular ethics training," which he believes could counteract people's "failure to exercise appropriate moderation and restraint in the blind quest for ever greater profits."
Cultural attitudes also appear relevant in the areas of education and skill acquisition. Jim Stigler, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California), found that Asian and American cultures perceive a student's struggling while learning in very different ways. American parents tend to think that struggling indicates a lack of talent and therefore encourage the student to turn to another activity that he or she might be more successful at. In contrast, Asian parents and teachers see intellectual struggle as an opportunity for the student to persevere and succeed as part of his or her personal development.
Friction will likely occur—particularly when monetary and cultural influences mix. Recently, the Qatari government received approval from French authorities to invest more than €50 million (about $80 million) in the low-income suburbs, or banlieues, of major French cities; these areas typically have a high concentration of Muslim residents. Qatar's investment has been met by significant opposition from officials across the French political spectrum. At the extreme, Marine Le Pen, head of France's far-right nationalist party (the Front National), compared Qatari investment to an "Islamic Trojan horse" that a conservative Islamic government is trying to use to interfere in France's domestic affairs.