Monday, March 21, 2011

Keep Your Cool_Part I

Before I moved to China back in 2001, I was under the impression that the Chinese were a very calm bunch.  I think many Westerners have this idea (stereotype?) in their minds of the solemn, stone-faced, cool-as-a-cucumber Chinese from the mysterious and ancient land.  Even the Chinese play this up;  they do teach to keep your cool in any and all situations.  A calm spirit is an admired spirit here and folks exalt this ability.  In comparing and contrasting Chinese to Westerners (again all from my worldview and time here spent), the Chinese themselves think and say that Westerners are emotional and excitable and Chinese are calm and logical. 

Today I want to break this stereotype for the greater good of China manufacturing.  After 9 years of observation, living here and interacting with society, I can safely and confidently say that CHINESE FOLKS ARE FREAKING OUT. 

Now before I get ugly comments and ugly emails, I’m not saying this is across the board for all individuals and I’m not saying there are not certain situations where they maintain their composure.  But what I am saying is that myth of this supernatural calmness existing here is very far removed from the truth.  I would even go as far to say that folks here are more excitable than what I’ve seen from Western nations and the surrounding Asian neighbors. 

Case in point: bloggers (and not only Western) are commenting the styles of crisis management of both groups in wake of last week’s Japanese tragedy.  While folks in Japan are orderly, allowing their neighbor to go first and making the best of a rough situation, the Chinese were rushing to buy salt.  And now that they realized that they were losing their cool over the whole salt debacle, they are now rushing to get refunds on the high-priced salt they fearfully purchased in bulk!  Something else to lose their cool over… 

Typical Scene:  Traffic Jam, Argument, Chaos.
Almost weekly or bi-weekly in China do I see public arguments.  I don’t mean two folks quietly hashing out their differences, but there will be a curious crowd gathered in a large circle, while two folks stand in the middle and scream at one another.  Usually over that great debate that has plagued mankind for centuries:  “who was right and who was wrong”. 

On the surface, Westerners do seem more emotional, but here’s the difference.  We have mini-ups and mini-downs all day long, on a daily basis.  We laugh, we frown, we smile, we may kick the tires on our car and say a curse word but we are fine in 5 minutes.  The Chinese don’t do this.  They keep the same surface look and feel, but inside they are boiling over and the slightest thing will eventually set them off.  It’s as if there is no release valve and so sooner or later, they combust.  How does it all play out, into arguments, fights, corruption, riots in the under-developed areas (which is the majority and which happens very often), their driving and on a daily basis, hoarding, nervousness, uneasiness, etc..   

There’s a bit of a “fearful” atmosphere in China, especially from the upper-mid-aged folks to the elderly.  These people have seen more social change and development in their lifetime than most folks have or will ever see.  I think of my own in-laws who went through the Cultural Revolution and that their daily life is night and day different from the life that they lived.  This was one of the most closed-off societies in the World for thousands of years and suddenly they are open and booming.  It’s highly competitive, folks don’t feel secure in their jobs, they make low wages, they are not highly skilled, etc, etc… It’s crowded here, it’s easy to get lost in the rat race.  Take all the daily social factors plus add in the concept of “face” over which many Chinese will fight to the death and you got quite a complex, nervous society.


So what’s my point?  They’re nervous, so what?  In my next post, will talk about….drum roll…you guessed it…how this affects your offshore manufacturing.  Don’t misunderstand me folks, my goal here is not to show the bad about China.  If I didn’t love and support this nation, I wouldn’t have lived here for this long. Only giving a perspective that from outside and especially Western point of views, is not considered.  

As said in my first blog post, the point of my blogging efforts is to illuminate from my point of view on “life” and “China manufacturing”.  With Part II, this theme does both, bringing it into full circle.  

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