Thoughts on my quick impression of some comments I skimmed on a Next Gener.Asian Church blog post:
I think low-church expressions of faith among Asians often represent an attempt on some level to assimilate to Western individualistic culture in the choice of what to emphasize when we articulate the faith. At the same time, and ironically, this choice also allows certain aspects of traditional Asian culture to remain uncritiqued by the gospel, particularly some idolatries of power structure that may be deconstructed by the rival reality and authority of the Church. I’ll talk about mostly Chinese people, with whom I’ve interacted the most, since I myself am Chinese and speak Chinese.
Among these is the place of shame and public repentance (which, in some places, may be none): the advantage of a low-church way of doing things is that pushing everything into the individual conscience keeps things looking clean at the same time that people can reserve public shame for drastic measures. Take a second look at ‘Asian values’ in the political sphere and you may see a connexion.
I think there is a historical tendency supporting this as well. Low-church faith is especially easy structurally for Chinese culture because the bulk of religious-looking activity has long been a matter of buffet-style pluralism (viz. the way people visit temples), while the complex of the more official, public rites for heaven and grain and ancestors remains attached to whatever the people view as the civil government. In mainland China, under the communist régime, this can clearly take the form of the insistence that the gospel has no political meaning whatsoever, despite its inherent exposé of the idolatries attached to any Caesar on earth.
Obviously, this thought is still very little developed, but it may represent yet another reason for me to advocate a coherently high-church Protestant piety.