ImageNo I’m not a sympathizer and certainly not a bigot, I’m a realist.  I look at a situation, I work hard to unravel the layers of distracting untruths, with the sole purpose of reaching a level of understanding about the matter at hand.  Whether this be a simple problem or a multifaceted complex issue that has been maligned by uninformed public opinion and governmental diplomatic posturing.

Like the book written by Simon Winchester about Joseph Needham and his love for China (“The Man Who Loved China”, 2008, Amazon) I too have had a long love/hate affair with the country, its people and the government regime.  My journey over the course of several years (20+) has taken me from being a traditional Western thinker to one that now as a bit more understanding about the hidden realities behind China.  It isn’t a matter of adopting but a

China is not many of the things that one makes them out to be.  These include such things as, matter of understanding and reaching Imagea place where you can live comfortable with their realities in balance with yours.  I harken to think of the Yin-Yang and how it permeates ones need to not only to have countering opposition but to also have balance.  Even with the notion of Yin-Yang one comes to realize that the line between the two is the gray area which holds matters in balance.  Sometimes that line is far too wide, created by bias and misinformation while at other times the line is hardly visible driven in almost all cases by some level of humanitarian caring.

  • Land grabbers,
  • Human exploiters and violators,
  • Ignorant,
  • Producers of bad products and
  • Control freaks.

Maybe as Western thinkers conditioned by our own masses and lead by an ever weakening level of governmental leadership its best to shift blame from ones own self-made and controllable issues to a party that is diametrically different than us.  To a society that has sat for over 2,000 years in self controlled isolation, to a country who’s behavior is always held in suspicion.  Thus China becomes the poster child scapegoat as did other countries such as Russia during the Cold War and Iran during present times.  In essence it becomes a very slippery slope since the mere accusations are never quite enough we have to ratchet up a bit more using trade sanctions, UN resolutions, etc. and all the while creating a widening barrier than a respectful coexistence.

Land Grabbing Barbarians

China pursuits of lands held by others (Japan & Philippines to command control of the South China Sea) appears at first glance as grabbing even though this dispute started and its illusive resolution has continued ever since the end of World War II.  Add to this a Imagemix of maritime security, traditional territory waters and the promise of fossil fuel and voila you have a conflict.  Even the United Nations has not been able to bring a suitable solution to this matter.  This has allow other countries to jump in with their own bias and opinions on the matter rather than to either solve or understand the matter at hand.  But the plot doesn’t stop there it is them compounded by some countries in the region who’s own regimes are of concern as a result of rampant corruption, extortion and a general inability to properly manage their existing territories let alone take on more.  While I don’t wish to lead  you into thinking that sovereign rights should not be sought after one must consider the effect of granting rights when they cannot be upheld.  It would be turning over a child to a pedofile or sending someone home with a drink driver, it isn’t just irresponsible but the resulting effects have the potential of being horrible.   So why does China want more South China territory, or for that matter mineral rights and construction projects in such regions as Africa?

In so far as barbaric behavior is concerned its a matter of public policy.  Control means to maintain a stable and harmonic social climate.  For these reasons certain past incidents of public discontent are forbidden to be discussed, new actions are promptly addressed and dissidents are dispatched.  Its not that you don’t have freedoms in China its really that they enforce responsible behavior.  This is quite different than in Western nations where freedoms are used as justification for actions no matter how irresponsible they might be.  Anyone who has lived in the West has had more than one occasion to get a bit frustrated with freedom abuse that is driven by irresponsibility.  Legal technicalities, freedom of the press to give opinion devoid of confirmed facts, public accusations being thrown about and the uniformed having knee jerk reaction to every public incident by commanding a law (even when one already exists or evidence has shown that its an issue rarity and not a prevalence).  Yes, in China the news is state controlled and heavily laden with good news and not all of the ugly fuel that sometimes spins another lunatic into playing as a copycat.  Is that so wrong and have you or others exclaimed that it would be nice to get some good news once in a while?  Like a parent Chinese government watches over its children.  This is not an easy task but firm a decisive, impartial attention, is what makes a family that works together and not one free wheeling to each person’s individual whims.  It easy to judge one based on its past but none of us have pasts that aren’t flawed by mistakes.  While Westerners enjoy absolution based on admission the East prefers to act upon its mistakes (without a need for public exploitation).  Its far too easy to say we are sorry and to continue upon a path of no change, but for China change is and will remain a cornerstone of their society.

Crappy Products

Do you ever wonder why China made products are lousy.  Some of you may remember that there was a time when Japan was the poster child of lousy products.  Them along came W. Edward Deming and put forth the quality principals of Plan-Do-Check-Act and tImagehis transformed the way the Japanese produced products.  It became an epidemic of sorts that now permeates Japan and the of the industrial world.  So why hasn’t China caught on to these principals and have they ever been introduced there?  First and foremost the Chinese are intimately aware of Deming and many of the other principals of industrial quality control so one must ask the question as to why aren’t they being used?  In actuality they are but in the scheme of producing products for a consumer base, whether it be an importer or as a direct sale one must balance cost with expected useful life.  It is the West that created a disposable world, it is also the West that has created an unquenching desire for certain brands and products.  Its from this demand that inbuilt obsolence becomes created.  This is why Westerners won’t by a $10,000 TV that would last a lifetime, a $50 light bulb, a $500 battery or a $200,000 automobile they want, expect, demand and actively engage change.  Very few want things that last forever and given the choice close enough is more than acceptable than perfection in most cases (baring dangerous or medical related areas).  The Chinese are not stupid they know about pricing, demand and obsolescence.  They also understand that if you want perfection they can deliver it but the consumer must be willing to accept the price.  If you don’t believe this fundamental concept take a look at some of the things they have accomplished in the areas of technology, construction and even the arts (as demonstrated at the 2008).  Innovations such as papermaking, printing, gunpowder and the compass go back to 1000 BC.  But there are hundreds of other examples and despite period of intellectual disruption they managed to overcome, utilize and balance practical construction with life longevity and price.  By comparison driven by price Western companies have won and lost businesses because they failed to considered practical durability.

I will concede that there are times when language is a barrier.  Even today with a growing legion of English speaking Chinese the gap of understanding continues.  However as with any communication, even intra-Western, the need for confirmed understanding is essential and demands mutual cooperations, not one sided blame pointing.

Hush

ImageThe silence of control.  What am I giving up and what am I not?  As Westerners we always struggle with the need to know and yet if or when we discover the information we are then challenged with that to do with it.  Whether this be a matter such as religious norms or discovery that some other form of beliefs (or practiced behavior) were simply wrong.  Have you wondered whether it might be more peaceful to not worry about these matters and to stay focused on issues that you are in direct control of?  I have never been one to hold back an opinion, regardless of how controversial or anti public sentiment it might be.  In retrospect this consumed time, caused heightened distress and ultimately lead no where.  I justified it as sharing to help others…. but did it or did it simply add fuel to an ever growing fire?  Guess it might have been best to concentrate on ‘my’ matters and a little less on jumping into the fray of issues.  In China issues become less a matter of debate and a whole lot more about building public sentiment.  Things are done for the common good (sort of like what I attempt to do with sharing my opinions but have a large amount of uncertainty as to whether it is of any good at all) and in many respects this is what other non-communist/non-socialist regimes are also attempting to do… create positive and formative communities.  Its simply a matter of how you get to the goal that is the difference and from my vantage point there are no real right ways but certainly some to work better than others for the societal context involved.

So I guess I would prefer not to know, to maybe trust those in power, to create the right atmosphere and conditions.  Thus far with disclosure we haven’t had that happen and when no information came forth it seems to be ok at least in terms of the impact that it has on society as a whole.

Values That Matter

ImageWhat matters more to you?  Serenity-Calm-Security-Nest Egg-Social Caring?  I think we all want something along these lines and in the West we have to work really really hard to achieve these.  Yet many do not have serenity, struggle to remain calm, feel that in the midst of a horrible economic downturn that security and nest egg achievement are at risk and that social caring is not for the average citizen (in fact it may not even require citizenship).  Yet in China these matters are more a way of life than a matter requiring personal attention.  One could argue that serenity and calm is disturbed by China yet the actions are simply a matter of a much more complex effort by China to benefit their citizens.  Their view of Yin-Yang are much more black-white than grey, while the opposing party is taking a much more defensive stance.  The need and compelling actions of China is to maintain sovereignty and to do so with control, leaving nothing to chance (thus the minimization of free will).  I think most Westerners would take a similar stance but might fall a bit short as to what extent they would defend their actions.

In absolute terms China saves the most money (only 2nd to oil rich Qatar – Forbes 11/18/2013) and this compulsion of control, security and wealth accumulation becomes a prime target for foreign complaints.  Its seems like they want everything but we fail to understand why.  Maybe its years of sacrifice or it is driven by a paranoia over the direction the non-China world is going in.  Regardless they have the determination and the fortitude to save and save big.  At the country level it appears, in such exploitations as Africa, that China wants it all.  But have you ever wondered why?  At 1.354 billion and growing, even with the one child policy, the demands of society are gigantic in every aspect of life.  Energy, housing, food, transportation, recreation, clothing, education and every imaginable service China is in need.  If you can’t secure these needs domestically then you need to have a way to do it internationally.  One can chose to buy, or they can chose to invest with your own self-interests in mind vs. commercial interests whereby you dispatch the fruits of your efforts to others (including shareholders).  I don’t think anyone would put at risk their family without taking appropriate measures to insure the quality of their life.  In China the people have grown to live modestly, even for the growing affluent population.

I remember on several trips to China seeing enormous hotels with very low occupancy.  It caused me to wonder why would anyone build such large structures that would remain with low occupancy.  It wasn’t about trying to impress the West but it was built with two factors in mind, population growth and future demand.  Unlike struggling developing nations China also spends large sums to maintain these facilities and does not allow them to fall into disrepair.

So Why The Love Affair??

ImageAside from having a relationship with China for a very long time (20+ years) I have been warmly received in China.  I have not tried to change their thinking but I have been gifted with the privilege of being caringly taught by the Chinese.  From those early years where nothing made sense, Western solutions were the ‘right’ answer, and the challenge of letting go of my norms was difficult I have learned to accept China for who it is.  Nothing more, nothing less and with that it has allowed me to consider them as friends.  They are not my enemy we are probably are in fact our own worse enemy.  Failing to understand, unwillingness to bend (as a willow in the wind) and coming to accept our differences with joy can and will achieve mutual benefit.  We have all heard the horror stories of doing business in and with China, we have all heard of quality issues and may have even rang in with complaints about their dominance in so many areas.  But have we attempted to fully understand China?  Have we ventured onto their soil with a Western playbook and expected them to roll over and capitulate to us (in a nation where just about every consumable we might have to sell is already available in their nation)?  I would challenge each and everyone to take a hard look into that mirror and to objectively ask yourself…. Did I do enough to understand China?

China is and will remain a formidable country regardless of foreign opinion or human outcry.  They will remain capable of self-independence and a willingness to achieve the unachievable.  I think that most of us want to be a part of a winning team, while not necessarily being on the team itself.  But that doesn’t mean that as fans that we should simply sit by and watch.  It means a level of dedicated commitment appropriate to increase awareness and understanding for which others may be devoid of.