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Western Fashions Hit Traditional China
It is still hard for housewife Chang Zheng in this capital of southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to accept the fact that her daughter has dyed her hair blond.

However, 49-year old Chang regularly says "Bye-bye" instead of the Chinese "Zai Jian" and dines with her family at the American fast-food chain Kentucky Fried Chickens.

As China's development accelerates to compete with world economic powers, some incoming western fashions and lifestyles are flooding the country, which is proud of its millenia-old culture and tolerance of novelty.

"Chinese people are now picking up new things as easily as a sponge absorbs water," said Zhou Keda, a professor with Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences. "A competition between Chinese traditions and western lifestyles is underway in China."

For those who were born in late 1970s and early 1980s, when China started its reform drive, fashionable Western names and brands such as Coca-Cola, KFC and Philips, words that their parents usually find difficult to pronounce, are used in everyday conversation.

It is not surprising for these twenty-something young people to be familiar with western icons considering the overnight success of foreign giants such as Wal-Mart and Pizza Hut in major Chinese cities as well as many real estate projects being named in connection with foreign lands.

A recent Gallup poll of 4,000 Chinese people showed that 29 percent have watched western movies, 10 percent have purchased foreign audio-visual products and 11 percent have read Western publications.

"My Chinese customers have really picky tastes in coffee," said the boss of a locally-based cafe, which was formerly considered a luxury in China and now sells more than 20 coffee varieties.

It is widely accepted that the development of communication technologies such as the Internet has played an important role in spreading Western fashions.

Statistics show that one third of Beijingers aged between 18 and 29, an age group most sensitive to fashions and trends, have surfed online. More Chinese young people than ever now use the internet to find jobs, friends or even lovers.

The internet is only one of the trendy choices of Chinese city-dwellers. Western sports such as rock-climbing and bungee jumping have also become favorites of many young people who enjoy the challenges of these demanding events.

Experts say that it is still too early to judge whether or not Western fashions would exert a negative impact on Chinese traditions.

"Rapid development will certainly bring China things that are beyond immediate evaluation. However, it is absolutely undeniable that the lives of Chinese people have been considerably improved during the past two decades," said Zhou Keda.

(Xinhua News Agency March 20, 2002)

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