Very well argued, Grace, thanks for this insight. I think that you are right, that cultural memory is not only in visual or formal aspects of the past, but also in ways of thinking about the world and communicating. Good point that writing and language also contains connections between people and their collective histories that cannot be eliminated or ignored. I'm sure that you are right, and that the differences between latin-based languages like French or Spanish and Chinese lead to patterns of thinking and behaving that cannot be neutralized by globalization and international distribution of consumer products. But we are focused on product design, and I am not sure if non-visual cultural memory is as significant in this area. Lenovo came out with a PC that is specially designed to appeal to the Chinese market. I am not exactly sure what makes this design "Chinese", maybe you can tell me.
Take a look at this article in the NY Times. It is about a new museum designed by Chinese architects. It makes reference to a very old type of Chinese building. What do you think about this? Is this what you are talking about when you say that old Chinese styles and imagery can be used in designing for the Chinese market today? Do you think that Chinese people would like the idea that a museum design is based on an ancient Chinese building, or would they prefer that the building was very Western-looking?