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A dose of dumb: Asians can't understand Western music

So I was watching an old recorded show about participants in the most recent (?) Tchaikovsky piano competition held in (I assume) Russia. I wasn't watching too closely, or I could tell you more about the program and event; sorry, I only caught a few moments here and there.

At one point, an old European fellow connected to the event weighs in on the abilities of a particular Japanese competitor. He's impressed by her performance because (my paraphrasing from the Japanese subtitles I saw) "Asians don't have a native understanding of Western music; it's not part of their culture". 

Now, I don't want to harp on the fellow; I can't even say whether the subtitles accurately depicted his words or not. (I've seen Japanese subtitles on TV get things really wrong.) But I've heard the same thing stated or questioned elsewhere – I once even saw a "reputable" publication (TIME? Newsweek?) question whether famed Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Seiji Ozawa's Japanese background allowed him to understand "Western" music!

I hope that any boneheads who think like that can answer a simple question:

How does a hypothetical Mr Chen Zhou from Guiling, who's studied Chopin for 20 years, have any less understanding of that music than a hypothetical Mr Hans Schmidt from Munich who's performed the same 20 years of study? Assuming equal training and exposure and zeal toward the subject, how is the music of Chopin one iota less a part of Mr Zhou's mindset, his "culture", than it is part of Mr Schmidt's?

Anyone have an answer?


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