Commenters here chastising Richard for ignoring genetics is truly beautiful.

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East Asians are genetically similar to one another. That is why differences persist across cultures and after immigration. The correlations between these variables are likely due to differences in average cognitive ability and average position on the life history continuum. Stereotypes are a consequence of actual differences rather than the driving force behind those differences. This explanation is under-considered because people treat it as their moral duty to avoid seriously grappling with these ideas and crazy internet people are willing to get people fired or harassed for embracing this or similar views (e.g., Bo Winegard, Noah Carl, Bryan Pesta).

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Brilliant application of Goodhart's law, which states the fastest way to get information from the internet is not to ask a question but to confidently proclaim a wrong answer. Richard's incorrect attempt to explain why racism is the cause of disparate outcomes is meant to invite us, the commentariat, to supply the correct one. So far, seventeen comments in, no-one has. I guess it falls to me.

Kendi's groundbreaking work on stereotype within the US is too nuanced to be simply ported over one-to-one in Asia. Yes, East Asians here are subject to stereotype, and yes stereotypes exist also in Asia. However, in their home environment East Asians share something in common: light skin. All define themselves in contradistinction to 'dumb', 'lazy', brown and indigenous people of color. East Asians are the white people of Asia, and similarly benefit from racism and stereotype there. They, like the white people of Europe, were fortunate enough to gain political and technological power that they use to subjugate and exploit BIPOC they encounter. All of the non-white, non-East-Asian countries we can compare with are full of innocent beautiful brown bodies who are held down by racism. We don't have a control-group world in which these other peoples were allowed to thrive wtih which to compare the world we have.

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The common cultural aspect of East Asian is family-based, not institutional-based and thus, was inherited in a very similar manner to genetic. You'd be surprised if you ask any of those from E.Asian and Vietnam, if they know about Guan Yu or Romance of Three Kingdom - a fantasy-historical novel about ancient China that deeply how people think, from proverbs forward or how the three-follows were expected of woman in the family. This is how E. Asian have strikingly similar behaviors regardless of where they are, especially in listed categories.

However, this is not true for separated families. In twin studies of Korean babies, the Korean kids share the similar genetic from biological parents that influence their intelligence and height, but their belief and subsequently their behaviors are mostly of the adopted parents. Follow-up, their social outcomes are closer to of white families they are with, from drug-uses onward.

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The East Asian countries in question all have a history of strong (compared to their central and southeast Asian neighbors) central government. They also have a history of literacy. And they aren't independent: the origins of both the Japanese and Korean legal traditions lie in the Chinese classics.

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Mar 22·edited Mar 22

He only mentions Confucianism in passing, and that seems like the elephant in the room. I've lived in both South Korea and China, and the respect for hierarchy and harmony and emphasis on self-improvement through hard work and education permeate both cultures. Also, elite Koreans used Chinese script to communicate (Korea didn't have its own written language until the Middle Ages), and Japanese readers can understand a lot of written Chinese in ways that English readers can't understand German. Elites in all cultures were heavily influenced by Confucianism and China throughout history, and these trickled down over time to the masses. If it is genetics, we have ample Korean adoptees to study, and nothing has yet turned up.

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Don't forget a key part of the package: East Asians love wearing masks!

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> If having a similar culture doesn’t mean being similar in terms of language, religion, moral psychology, political institutions and history, pop culture, or sexual attitudes, what could it mean?

Language does not seem to have a big influence on culture. Basque is not related to any language in the world, and yet Basque culture is much more similar to Spanish culture than other linguistically related countries such as Romania. Not to mention that during most of history, they did have a shared language: Classical Chinese was the lingua franca! Classical Chinese was not only used for communication between countries, it was also the language of official and intellectual works. Much of literature was also written in Classical Chinese. This only stopped relatively recently. How is this any different than when Latin was the lingua franca in Hungary?

Political institutions come and go, and often result from accidents of history that do not reflect the culture of the country. In a few decades, (part of) Germany went from being a monarchy, to a democracy, then fascist, then socialist, to a democracy again. Is that because of German culture? Did North Korea become socialist and South Korea democratic because the North and South were culturally different? You're right that the political events of the last 150 years have resulted in cultural differences, but that doesn't undo a millennium of being part of the Sinosphere.

Modern Chinese, Japanese, and Korean pop culture influence each other quite a lot! Anime-style art is ubiquitous in China and Korea. Local versions of Kpop-style bands are really popular in China. Not to mention the influences of Japanese colonization in places like Taiwan.

>Pop culture. Japan and South Korea have produced pop cultural products that have large fan bases abroad. China has not, remaining unattractive to outsiders, or as Peter Thiel calls it, “weirdly autistic.”

If you limit yourself to last few decades, perhaps you're right (with the possible exception of Hong Kong cinema). But there was a time when Chinese culture was hugely popular in Europe: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinoiserie Even today, many aspects of Chinese culture are pretty popular abroad (food, martial arts, etc... ).

Sexual attitudes also come and go, and are often a result of political institutions. In 1975, Spain was still a semi-fascist ultraconservative country. By 2005, it legalized gay marriage.

The article has a lot of interesting points, but you are underestimating the shared cultural heritage of East Asia. We have historical records of what Japan was like before cultural contact with China. It was very different. I have zero idea what Japan would look like today without cultural exchange with China. You cannot say the same for the Netherlands.

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I've spent a lot of time thinking about the issues you posit here, and have written about lot about Asians and other racial issues on my own Substack. I've heard many different viewpoints for East Asian success, from the woke "Asians are a wedge group being used by whites to oppress Black and Latinx people", to the conservative "Asians are successful because they work hard", to the Steve Sailer-esque "Asians are genetically like that". I've heard Amy Chua talk about the "Triple Package" that explains group success (she also puts Nigerians, Mormons, etc. on this list). I've heard Malcolm Gladwell come up with pop-psych theories about rice vs. grain farming and how that turns into cultural difference.

My main theory is that the influence of Confucian values leads to East Asian cultures valuing harmony over everything, but that fails to explain Japan, which was not very influenced by Confucianism.

The only other valid theory I can see, and what I believe you are trying to imply, is that there is something genetic about East Asian behavior, perhaps shaped through hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. I don't think we'll ever truly know.

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Me thinks that what Richard’s tryun to saay is that the blank slate has got some writin on it…

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Americans are so good at stereotype threat that they know southeast Asians should be stereotyped to do about as well as whites while East Asians should be stereotyped to do the best.

Stereotype threat is also so strong that in Malaysia, a country with a Malay majority, it makes the Chinese population outperform to such a great degree that there has to be explicit and aggressive affirmative action in favor of the majority population.

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There are two problems with what you posit. First, you liberally mix up small c (values) and big C culture (K Pop).

But second, you ignore the deep rooted historical connections between China, Korea, and Japan and to some extent Vietnam. Yes, they are distinct almost in every respect except they all had extended period of independent adoption of Sinitic big c culture and much of its administrative state (all at one point or another used Chinese characters - Japan still does).

So, what I'd say they share is sources of elite narrative reproduction (which explains the educational outcomes) and administrative state (with strong familial dimensions) which explains the economic success. North Korea and Vietnam are outliers for different historically contingent reasons.

In fact, from the perspective of elite narrative reproduction and administrative state tradition, we could simplify the world into four overlapping and mutually interconnected cultural spheres:

1. Helenic - anywhere Alexander the Great and Cesar and their descendants set their genocidal designs on

2. Indic - South and South East Asia

3. Sinitic - East Asia

4. Other - fragmented parts of the world with various traditions interrupted by the global spread of the Helenic tradition (parts of Africa, many parts of the Americas) - they still contribute to elite narrative reproduction but only within the overall schema of one of the other traditions.

These don't map neatly onto economic development over the last 100 years or so but explain a lot of the variation we're seeing. They certainly explain cultural affinities within.

These traditions are not independent of each other from the very start - Indic tradition spread Buddhism to the East, Helenic tradition develop in contact with the Indic. They each got huge injections from the Others at different parts of their development (e.g. Mongols, Turks, etc) but the other by and large did not leave behind independent traditions.

Perhaps the most impactful of the Others is the Farsic (Persian) cultural tradition which sits between Indic and Helenic and fed strongly into both of them, yet was never fully absorbed. What sets it apart is the significant interruptions to its administrative state tradition that is likely to never resume in the way that Indic and Sinit traditions have.

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I wonder if China's failure to produce any pop culture isn't just because the state still exerts so much control over culture there. The Soviet Union similarly failed at pop culture, despite the fact that Russia on the eve of Soviet take over was a major producer of internationally popular literature and music. There's something to be said for having a marketplace of ideas, it forces artists to produce things that at least someone will want to consume voluntarily.

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Christianity barely exists in China? Funny how a non-existent faith makes the CCP so nervous that it has demolished churches, torn down crosses, and imprisoned pastors. The Wikipedia article provides the stats, admits that counting is not easy, but gives estimates that vary from 30 to 60 million.

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Couldn’t the differences between China and “Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan” be called US military occupation.

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I don’t think this article really does enough to dispute the “Confucian values” theory, especially since Confucianism tends to promote precisely the same values that seem to correspond with what makes East Asian societies unique: education, social harmony, and family values. The cultures of these countries can be quite different overall while still sharing similarities in these particular areas due to all of them being historically influenced by an ideology that heavily promotes them.

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