Chinese Culture in the Karate Kid


When it comes to movies, intercultural communication can play a significant role in displaying how humans interact with one another. When analyzing a movie, there are four important steps to take. These four steps are comprised of describing what the movie is about, specifying its relevance to intercultural communication, picking two concepts and then analyzing the movie based on those two different perspectives. After much thought and deliberation, I have chosen to watch a movie that has revamped a classic from the 1980’s – “The Karate Kid” remake from 2010.

Movie Description

In order to understand the movie “The Karate Kid”, it is crucial to grasp the plot before proceeding to interpret its relevance. Dre Parker, the main character in the “The Karate Kid,” and Sherry Parker, Dre’s co-star and mother, move from Detroit, Michigan to Beijing, China due to his mom getting transferred there for her job. Once Dre arrives in Beijing he meet’s a young lady, Meiying, who he begins to fall for almost instantly.

While they get better acquainted, Cheng, a well-trained Kung Fu student, notices them and attempts to separate them through the use of his martial arts skills. Dre being much smaller and having no training, falls victim to Cheng’s violence – creating a hatred that will follow them until the conclusion of the movie. Later on, Dre is walking home and spots Cheng. While a car passes by and blocks his advance he tosses a bucket of dirty water on Cheng and his friends and tries to run away.

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Unfortunately, Cheng and his friends spot him and pursue after him.

After an eventful cat and mouse chase, Cheng and his friend surround him in a dead end alley. They all begin to assault Dre and hurt him without mercy. Mr. Han, who is a janitor in the building Dre lives in, observes this brutality and very unexpectedly comes to his rescue. Cheng and his friends try to attack Mr. Han and the harder they try the more Mr. Han immobilizes them. Mr. Han shames Cheng and he and his friends run away from this stranger. Later that day, Han heals Dre’s injuries with a special ancient Chinese healing procedure. After bearing witness to Han’s amazing skills, Dre asks him to teach him Kung Fu – a request Han is not so willing to accept. Mr. Han decides to take him to Cheng’s instructor, Master Li, to discuss the problem with him. Instead of helping to solve the differences between the two boys, the instructor insists that Dre fight Cheng on the spot – to settle this with more violence. Han instead proposes that Dre compete at the upcoming open martial arts tournament – an offer that Li happily accepts. After this, Han takes Dre under his wings – working for weeks on rigorous Kung Fu training.

The training Dre has received is both mentally and physically challenging. Dre begins to develop under Mr. Hans training and soon the tournament has arrived. Dre and Cheng (as well as their instructors) are prepared to end this once and for all. After many hard fought preliminary matches, and an injury from one of Cheng’s team mates as a result of an illegal move. Dre is almost eliminated from competing due to the severity of the injury. Dre decides to move forward to the final match even with his serious injury and they both arrive in the final match together. Even after months of bullying, Dre persevered and in a spectacular display of talent, defeats Cheng in the Kung Fu tournament.

Relevance to Intercultural Communications

While watching “The Karate Kid” there are many features of the movie that qualify its relevance to intercultural communications. One way it is relevant is due to the fact that there are people from different countries interacting with each other – using different languages with each other in their day to day life. While Dre parker is in Beijing, China he speaks English but he has to learn how to speak Chinese so the people who live there can understand him. Kung Fu, a major focus in the movie, is yet another way we are able to learn about the heritage of this culture – showing how it can shape individual’s day to day lives. Seeing how the Chinese have different roles for each gender and how to show respect, is yet another example. “The Karate Kid” has many aspects in the movie that makes it a relevant movie to intercultural communications.

Literature Review on First Perspective

One perspective that I will choose to analyze “The Karate Kid” with is its –deep structure (Samovar, Porter, McDaniel, Roy, 2017).Deep structure is the underlying values that a culture holds and it explains the actions they do (lord, Hall, 2005). One aspect under the deep structure of culture section that I will be looking at is what unifies the culture and makes it so unique. The second aspect I’ll be looking at is how the elderly are viewed in the culture, are they respected or forgotten. Another aspect under deep structure is their social organizations/institutions and how it affects them personally. Another aspect I will be looking at this culture with is the perception of silence, are they being respectful when not talking or are they trying to avoid confrontation (Ha, Li, 2014). The last and most important aspect is the roles of the genders in this culture, showing how they value each gender and what their purpose is portrayed to be, will they have higher education or be viewed as just as a subject of someone(Bossler, 2015).

Literature Review on Second Perspective

The second perspective that I will choose to analyze in “The Karate Kid” comprises of three theories from chapter six “cultural values – road maps for behaviors” (Samovar et al., 2017). One theory I will use is “Kluckhorn and Strodbeck’s value orientations” which proposes the values a culture believes (Samovar et al., 2017). The parts under “Kluckhorn and Strobeck’s value orientations” are nature/person orientation, how they perceive their time orientation, and what kind of activity orientation do they identify with (Hills, 2002). The next theory is “Hall’s high-context and low context orientation” (Samovar et al., 2017) which states that all cultures can be situated in relation to one another through the styles in which they communicate (Wurtz, 2005) and to see if a culture communicates in ways that are implicit and rely on context, or a culture that relies heavily on explicit and direct language (Yilmaz, & Granena, 2015). The Final is “Hofstede’s value dimension” (Samovar et al., 2017) which is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group to another (Taras, & Kirkman, 2010). The parts under “Hofstede value dimensions” are to see if the particular culture is an individualistic/collective culture for do they do things together as a whole or by themselves (Yoon, & Ferle, 2018), what kind of uncertainty avoidance they belong to, what kind of power distance they belong to, and whether they identify with masculine or feminine traits in their culture.

Analysis on First Perspective

Deep structure is the first perspective that I will use to analyze the Chinese culture with for it shows what unifies them, makes them unique and explains a cultures collective actions. The Chinese culture has many parts of their heritage that unifies them as one and makes them so unique. In the movie one piece that makes their culture unified is the way they expect every student to dress alike for school and wear their schools uniforms when they go on field trips. There’s also their architecture that makes them so unique. The way their architecture makes them unique is how their temples, and the famous Forbidden Palace (that were respectively built thousands of years ago) both have such a look to them that is no longer built today and portray the importance that nature and architecture had then and still have on Chinese culture today. Another aspect that I looked at in the Chinese culture was how the elderly were viewed in the Chinese culture.

The elderly are looked at with possessing both knowledge, experience and wisdom which is deserving of all younger generations at all times. Silence plays an important part in the karate kid for it shows respect for others, an example from the movie is when Dre parker defeats Cheng in the Kung Fu Tournament and all of Master Li’s students turn to Mr. Han and Dre and silently bow to them showing respect. The organizations/institutions contribute a very big part in how the Chinese culture works as a society. The institution of schools is very important to the Chinese culture for they believe that hard work is the building stone, along with the use of knowledge, which will lead to their future success. Another important organization or institution that the Chinese view very highly is the institution of Kung Fu. Kung Fu teaches respect, body control and perseverance and is a form of entertainment that unifies all ages. The last aspect of the Chinese culture is the way they view the gender roles. From the movie you can see that females are viewed to be secondary to males, but also possess traits to be of great value such as being creative with the arts and music and tasked with teaching their families about their Chinese culture.

Analysis of Second Perspective

The second perspective is to establish how the following three theories show the cultural values of that society. The first theory is “Kluckhorn and Strobeck’s value orientation”. Under this you can tell by the movie the Chinese cultures person/ nature orientation is harmony with nature. Mr. Han takes Dre Parker to an ancient Kung Fu temple where ancient traditions have been practiced for thousands of years and people were meditating, balancing and were trying to be one with nature. Another part underneath this theory is the Chinese time orientation (which is future oriented) where everyone in the movie is looking to the future to meet their parents expectations for them. An example of this in the movie is where Meiying’s parents want her to get into the Beijing School of Music.

The last part underneath this theory is China’s activity orientation which is called being-in-becoming. This idea shows that they believe in development and growth that will lead to the improvement in all aspect of life. As an example in the movie Dre slowly is becoming more respectful, cleaner and is becoming a better martial artist. This shows his continued development and growth. The next theory to analyze the Chinese culture with is “Halls high-context and Low context orientation”. Underneath this theory the Chinese are a high context culture. Which means most of their conversations meaning is not communicated through words but by gestures. The last theory to analyze the Chinese culture with is “Hofstede value dimensions”. From the movie you can tell the Chinese are a collectivistic culture for they put importance on family and the community and they are selfless.

As an example Mr. Han is willing to help Dre Parker so he can learn Kong Fu for the upcoming tournament even though it is going to be personally painful to do so. Another Part you can tell under this theory is the Chinese culture is a high uncertainty avoidance culture where everything has its place. An example in the movie is where Dre Parker goes to school in Beijing which requires him to wear a school uniform. The unpredictability of what is to be worn is removed. The next part you can tell about the Chinese culture under this theory is China is a High-power distance culture instead of a low power-distance culture. Where high power people view subordinates as being different from them. In the movie some people are portrayed as being superior to others like Master Li, and males being superior to females. The final part of this theory is whether or not the Chinese culture is a masculine or feminine culture. In the movie you can tell the Chinese culture is a masculine culture because the men in the movie are assertive and tough, and the women were modest and sensitive.


“The Karate Kid” definitely qualifies as an intercultural communication movie – one that encompasses two of the greatest cultures known to man. This movie shows that even after flying thousands of miles away from home, away from family, friends, and all social norms, an individual can learn to fuse the two worlds together for the better. While the world has come a large distance from where it used to be, in terms of intercultural communications and acceptance of different cultures, this movie displays that there is still room for growth – growth that can be achieved with a little effort and tolerance from all.

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Chinese Culture in the Karate Kid. (2022, Feb 23). Retrieved from

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