Reuters columnist Edward Hadas has written a piece titled Why "suzhi" should go global. Suzhi (素質) is a value that appears to be getting a lot of buzz in China these days. If I've got the characters right, a literal translation would be something along the lines of "simple quality." Su might be rendered "simple, innocent, pure," zhi as "quality or character." Hadas interprets suzhi as an ideal associated with being a good person. But there is no tender-minded, empathetic passivity here. Reading about a young woman who began memorizing classical poetry at the age of three and training by holding ice cubes for fifteen minutes at a stretch, I imagine something along the lines of the martial artist's inner stillness from which decisive action springs.
But whether or not the interpretation I have just spun from my own first impressions is accurate, I am struck by the fact that Hadas is doing what anthropologists say they do, taking what appears to be an alien other's concept seriously, and, moreover, going a step further. He doesn't just treat the alien concept as an object for analysis. He recommends that others take it seriously, too, as a value they might want to see incorporated in their own lives or the policies their nations or other organizations pursue.
Is this columnist beating the anthropologists at their own game?