The United States and China are two of the most powerful and influential countries in the world. In terms of traditions, culture, and world view, there might not be a more polar opposite comparison one could make between two nations. They sit on opposite sides of the world. The US is the worlds largest and most powerful capitalist country, while China mirrors this in a communist fashion. One could go on and on highlighting the differences between the two nations, because there are many. The ways in which the two countries perceive different aspects of time are no exception.

The Chinese represent a very traditional culture, they focus on the past, remember their history and ancestors, and they have a long-term point of view. For them time is a cyclical. They believe events repeat themselves which is why they place great importance on focusing on the past and honoring traditions (Yau, 1988). In contrast, Americans tend to focus more on right now, or the present (Brislin and Kim, 2003). Time is viewed as linear by Americans. It goes in one direction, always moving toward the future (Zuo, 2001).

The Chinese tend to remember past events better than Americans. They view past information as more important than Americans do. They also perceive past events as being closer in time than Americans did (Ji et al., 2009). A possible reason for this is that in Chinese culture events are looked at in a much more contextual manner. They take a more holistic view than Americans and look at how past events may effect an event in the present (Nisbett et al., 2001).

Many people think of time as a physical thing, numerical, and exact. This cultural comparison of the United States and China shows that there are many different aspects of time and that culture has a lot to do with how you perceive it.