Understanding China

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We have a saying that after spending one month in China you could write a book; after a year in China, you could write a chapter; in five years you could write a paragraph, and after five years you could write a note on a postcard.

That saying has become almost an urban legend but it is essentially true. I can still recall the day when, walking down a street in downtown Shanghai after being in the country for about a month, I experienced an illusion of such extreme clarity that I said to myself, “I could write a book on this place”. I cannot explain the mental or sociological processes that combine to cause that initial illusion of understanding and clarity, nor the forces that so effectively and progressively dismantle it to a condition where the more time we spend in China the less we understand it.

My Chinese friends tell me I have a deep understanding of China, of its people and culture and, while the praise is flattering, it is also largely undeserved. Indeed, after fifteen years in the country, there are days when I am blindsided by something so basic that I am convinced I understand nothing, and I would have to say that if China cannot be understood by Westerners from the inside, it most assuredly cannot be understood by Westerners from the outside who have no useful contact with anything Chinese.

Westerners live in an illusionary black and white world framed for them by the programming from their Zionist media and are mostly incapable of escaping their ideological indoctrination. There is an adage that you cannot understand a painting when you are inside the painting, that you must step out of that painting and look back on it, to see it as it really is. Few Westerners are capable of this because of the propagandised indoctrination taking place from birth. This social indoctrination is true of course for all societies, but the Zionist West, unlike the vast majority of the world’s population, views virtually everything about other nations and peoples through a series of political-religious ideological lenses that cast a rather severe chromatic aberration on anything seen through those lenses.

These ideologies are of capitalism, democracy, colonialism, militarism, White supremacy, Darwinism, Christianity and Zionism, these forces conspiring to twist the truths of China so as to almost eliminate any possibility of real understanding while simultaneously disdaining any real need to do so. The White man, the Zionist West, here including Japan, sees the world as Metropole and periphery, the non-white world populated by inferior beings meant to be exploited by coercion or military force, their resources used to enthrone the West while enslaving the world, all according to God’s plan. To see the truth of this, we need only examine their deeds, history providing ample testimony to this assertion.

The Western media are notorious for their incessant and shrill China-bashing, but it seems true that virtually everyone outside China is reading from the same script. We must have hundreds of publications and websites named China Labor Bulletin, China Economic Review, China Auto News, China anything and everything . . . , that are not in any sense Chinese, but are media sources established by Westerners who are primarily but not exclusively Zionists and who, mostly deliberately, misinterpret and misrepresent the facts and fundamentals of China. We have Western-produced statistics on everything related to China, from GINI coefficients to bank debt, from GDP to National Income and standard of living, from education to health care to longevity and infant mortality, all of which, even when based on numbers initially obtained from official Chinese government sources, are then massaged and misrepresented to prove the opposite of reality. We have hundreds, and perhaps even thousands, of books about China, mostly written by these same people viewing the country through those same ideological lenses and thus mostly being works of historical fiction, many reprehensibly so.

The ingrained notion of superiority, white supremacy in fact, is a major obstacle to understanding even for the well-intentioned. When the Chinese travel to a foreign land and witness a foreign culture, they think “I’m different”. When Americans (and Canadians, Brits, Aussies) encounter a foreign culture, they think “I’m better”. It is also true that the Americans particularly, but the entire white and English-speaking world in total, have no respect for, and see no value in, any other culture, secretly believing that all the world wants to be like them and that claims to cultural protection are merely an excuse to avoid the inevitable, which is to become American clones. It is in this combined and complicated context that sincere individual Westerners attempt to understand China, an exceedingly difficult task in the circumstances.

The Chinese are not handicapped by the horrors of Christianity or party politics, and they mostly do not view outside events through a distorting lens. Westerners are fond of portraying the Chinese as being brainwashed, but in my long experience the Chinese are the least brainwashed of all peoples while Americans are the poster boys in this regard.

Due to all of the above, when Westerners look at any aspect of China, they may see it clearly, but most often do not understand what they see. Because they view the world through their ideological lenses, they interpret their misunderstanding in terms of what that event would mean if occurring in their country and in their culture. And from this misinterpretation of a misunderstanding, they then make judgments and form conclusions which are invariably wrong and often foolish.

As one example, a high-ranking American politician said recently in an interview that the Chinese need to rid themselves of what she termed their “shyness and lack of confidence”. It was beyond the limits of her understanding to realise that what she was seeing was neither shyness nor a lack of confidence, but modesty, one of the most beautiful characteristics of the Chinese people. Noah Webster wrote “modesty results from purity of mind”, and further that “unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor.” Westerners are often tempted to agree with the above politician’s appraisal because Chinese will seldom react or respond to these open provocations, however, the lack of response is most often simply because the Chinese are too modest and polite to tell you what they really think of you. I can testify that the Chinese are not lacking in confidence compared to any other civilisation, and also that they have little respect for the American version of “in your face” which they view not as confidence but as arrogance, rudeness and disrespect. And yes, I know better than you that some Chinese can behave very badly, many tourists coming to mind, but these are in no way typical Chinese but some kind of aberrational subset I have not yet been able to clearly define.

As another example, I was walking down a street with an American acquaintance who commented on the proliferation of “wheelchair ramps” which appear on virtually every street intersection in every city small and large. He then proceeded to give me a dissertation on China, the Chinese people and the Chinese culture, based on the apparent ubiquity of these passages. I had to interrupt my education to inform him that those were not wheelchair ramps but were instead designed for bicycles.

More than a few Western journalists have told us that China’s conviction rate for accused criminals is 99.9%, this number having been extracted from thin air because China does not assemble and publish those statistics for all levels of courts from all cities, towns and counties. However, the comparable conviction rate in the West, at least for Canada and the US, is about 60% or a bit less, this differential attributed to the highest level of democratic virginity in the West and an extraordinarily high level of police and judicial corruption in China. But is that necessarily true?

More importantly, what does the 60% Western conviction rate mean? It means that nearly half of all the people charged with a crime, were in fact innocent and that it required the trauma and expense of a court trial to keep an innocent man out of prison. Or, if we want to be stubborn, we can look at this from the other side and claim that 100% of those charged were in fact guilty, but that a clever and expensive lawyer let them walk free. Is that better?

It is true that China has a high conviction rate, but that is because Chinese police conduct what are perhaps the most thorough and conscientious investigations of any country. The police will not lay a charge until they are 100% certain of a man’s guilt and also that they have not only sufficient evidence for a conviction but also the greatest volume of circumstantial evidence for a judge to determine the most appropriate sentence. It is the Western system that is corrupt and badly flawed, not China’s, and China has no FBI to lay fraudulent charges as a method of harassing political dissidents.

I was once standing on the Maglev platform at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport, and watched while a man and his wife were having a heated discussion with a policeman that lasted for several minutes. I wasn’t close enough to learn the topic of their debate, but the argument ended with the man’s wife kicking the policeman in the shins. I can think of more than a few Western cities where that wouldn’t have been a good idea.

The truth is that people in China are not afraid of the police. In Canada or the US nobody will pass a police car that is driving at the speed limit on a highway, but in China it happens all the time. I commented on that to a friend who said, “Why should I be afraid of him? He’s my servant, not my master.” In China, I can argue with a policeman and challenge his conclusions without fear of arrest for “disorderly conduct”, but in real life it goes much farther than this.

I once lit a cigarette in a shopping mall (Yes, I know. Don’t tell me), and a policeman approached to tell me I couldn’t smoke in the mall. Of course I already knew that; I was preoccupied and wasn’t thinking. I told him that, and I apologised and told him I would leave. He walked me partway to the door, his colleague joined us and said something humorous and we laughed, and I went outdoors. I saw them when I returned, I waved and they waved back, and we were friends. The important consideration is that he didn’t want to punish me; he didn’t want to start a war; he just didn’t want me to smoke in his mall. So long as I was willing, a warning was sufficient.

If I accidentally drive my car where I shouldn’t, the result is the same. In Chinese cities, we sometimes see a car parked on a sidewalk, this usually because the owner has an urgent necessity to stop for only a minute in an urban area where parking is almost non-existent and traffic is heavy. But so long as the street is clear and the sidewalk has sufficient room for pedestrians to pass, the police will ignore the car for a short while, cars normally being towed away only if they actually block traffic and cause bedlam; never as a means to collect revenue as is so common in the West.

This is an aside, but the only country in the world similar to China (to my knowledge) is Italy. In Rome, I once asked a policeman (this is a true story) if I could leave my car in a driveway for a few minutes while I ran across the street to have a quick coffee. He agreed, but asked that I leave my keys in the car in case he had to move it. The driveway was the emergency entrance to a hospital.

In the US, in Canada, and in many European countries, overstaying a visa – by even one day – will give you cause for permanent regret. Normally, you will sit in a jail cell until you have paid your fine and have a paid ticket out of the country, at which point the police will take you to the airport and put you onto the plane, and you will be prohibited from returning for quite some time. I once overstayed my visa in China by about three weeks although in my defense it was due to a misunderstanding that wasn’t my fault, an excuse that would bring me no sympathy in Canada or the US. But going through China’s customs and immigration exit, the officer gave me a stern look and said, “You know, you shouldn’t do that”. It was only then that I realised what had happened, and when he understood the unwitting nature of my transgression and my sincere regret at its occurrence, he let me board my plane free of harm. Once again, he didn’t want to punish me, he didn’t want to start a war; he just wanted me to obey the laws.

Once, for reasons I cannot recall, I filed all my utility bills neatly together in a desk drawer and forgot about them. A month or two later, I found little white notices stuck onto the outside of my front door, which were requests for payment. The management office asked me to leave with them the bills and the cash, and they called the utility companies who sent a courier to pick up the payments. No penalty, no interest, no recriminations, no denial of service. The utility companies didn’t want to punish me; they didn’t want to start a war; they just wanted me to pay my bills. I once arrived home after dinner to discover my house had no electricity. It was merely a breaker that was quickly reset, but at the time I wondered aloud to a friend if perhaps the electricity had been cut off because I’d forgotten to pay my bill, and she said “I’ve never heard of such a thing”.

Westerners are fascinated by the Chinese cultural concept of Guanxi, which Wikipedia tells us “defines the fundamental dynamic in personalized social networks of power, which can be best described as the relationships individuals cultivate with other individuals, and is a crucial system of beliefs in Chinese culture.” Also that Westerners use the term “instead of referring to “connections” and “relationships” as neither of those terms sufficiently reflects the wide cultural implications that Guanxi describes.” (1) This is both true and false, proving that Wikipedia doesn’t understand Guanxi any more than do the columnists at the New York Times. We have a saying in the West that “It’s not what you know, but who you know”, the concept of an individual benefitting from friendships and connections being universal and not particular to China.

But in China, friendships and so-called ‘connections’ have a flavor of trust and responsibility that exists nowhere else in the world, at least not to my knowledge. A good friend was purchasing a new house for her parents and wanted to pay the full price in cash with the signing of the contract so as to benefit from an attractive discount. She was $200,000 short and called to ask if I would lend her the money to complete the payment. I agreed without even having to think about it, and transferred the money to her account the same day. If I recall correctly, she gave me an IOU at one point but I have no idea what I did with it, and the loan was repaid. In reverse, when I purchased my last house I wanted to pay the entire amount in cash with the purchase contract for the same reason, but most of my money was sequestered in bank GICs that didn’t mature for several months and I was $35,000 short. I was chatting about my house with another friend and asked if she would lend me the money. We immediately walked across the street to her bank and she gave me the cash, no questions asked.

There is an organic strawberry farm near my home, with the sweetest strawberries I have ever tasted (the most expensive, too). I sometimes would buy a basket as a gift for the girls in the property management office. One day, I locked myself out of my own house, having neglected to leave a set of keys at the office. But a young girl at the office took great pains to find a locksmith, who had to come from another city 40 Kms distance to unlock my door. When I discovered I had no cash with which to pay him, the young girl, maybe only 20 years old, negotiated the man’s price down by 40% and paid him from her own account.

To say that such things wouldn’t occur in the West, even with family, is a huge understatement. In China, they are normal, underpinned by a cultural quality of trust and obligation that cannot be fathomed by someone living in the West. The English language, precise as it is, has no vocabulary to explain the quality of these relationships and the inseparable obligation inherent therein.

One major complaint that corporate executives, especially Americans, express about China is that the Chinese often don’t follow the terms of a contract. From an American point of view they are correct, but that American point of view is as black and white as is their political religion, hence the culture shock. To Americans, the Chinese signing of a contract is only an intermediate stage in a permanent negotiating process whereas it should rightfully form part of the Ten Commandments since it is written in stone. This is easy to understand but it bypasses completely the Western ideological intellect.

I want to use an analogy here, one that compares China to Japan but that applies equally to the West. Japanese chopsticks are tapered to a pointed end and, when the Japanese eat fish, with these chopsticks they can easily first pick out all the bones and then eat the fish. But Chinese chopsticks are not tapered and are typically blunt at the ends. Thus, the Chinese eat the whole fish, and then pick out the bones one by one as they find them. In the West, this is how we view a marriage. We know there will be rocky periods in the future, but we want the marriage and we proceed with the implicit understanding that we will work through those periods as they arise. The Chinese apply the same intent toward business dealings. It isn’t wrong; it’s just different.

One day, when my children were much younger, I arrived at home to find a window broken. I asked what happened and who did it, and one of my sons confessed. But what do you suppose my reaction would have been had my son said, “I refuse to answer on the grounds that I may incriminate myself” or worse, if he had said, “I don’t think you can prove I did it, so I plead not guilty. Give it your best shot.” I am by nature a gentle person, but any kid of mine taking such a position would receive a slap on the head he wouldn’t forget.

And now we come to China’s judicial system, which operates in exactly the same way we raise our children. If you are caught doing something wrong, you confess, you admit to your crime and, if you have some good sense, you apologise, express your regret for what you have done, and throw yourself onto the mercy of your father. It helps immensely if your regrets and apologies are sincere. But, with Chinese police and courts, if you want to be stubborn and arrogant and force the police into a lengthy investigation and the courts into a long trial, you will receive no mercy when found guilty, and no clever lawyer will save you. That is precisely what we teach our children. If a child lies and tries to avoid blame, the punishment will inevitably be more harsh, and that is as it should be. In this sense, the Chinese judicial system is perfect while the Western system is stupidly flawed. In Chinese courts, lawyers are not permitted to lie or to cast unfair aspersions or to attack vulnerable witnesses as they do in the West.

It is the same with the process of plea-bargaining that the Americans are desperately attempting to push onto China as a superior method of dealing with crime. But it is not superior; it is instead an enormous fraud being perpetrated. The problem is that Chinese judges have proven almost impermeable to bribery and Chinese lawyers have not been trained to lie in a courtroom. So what to do when Americans are charged with crimes in China, as they increasingly are and increasingly will be? The benefit of plea-bargaining is that it removes judicial decisions and sentencing from the judges and the courts and turns this discretion over to two sets of lawyers on the hopeful theory that lawyers can be bribed more easily than can judges. Again, in this respect the Chinese system is perfect while it is the Western (American) justice system that is so badly flawed. We need think only of the recent events in the US where Jeffrey Epstein avoided 200 years in prison for his international underage sex trafficking ring, accomplished only by removing decisions as to guilt and punishment from the courts and placing it entirely into the hands of lawyers and money, all done without the benefit of sunlight.

Let’s return for a moment to the Western media. I will begin with John Bussey at the Wall Street Journal who, in one brief article titled, “China: Bullying to Prosperity”, won a Nobel Prize for dishonest and unethical reporting. This was his article in part:

“Watching China bully Wal-Mart Stores this week – and watching Wal-Mart prostrate itself under the beating – is an embarrassing reminder of a simple fact: China, the world’s fastest growing major market, has the upper hand with U.S. business. Its array of protectionist barriers, weak rule of law, and siren-like market make events like this all but inevitable. In the company’s stores in the city of Chongqing, nonorganic pork was labeled “organic.” This was the mistake. The pork was otherwise fine. Seizing on this error at a time when inflation is a hot-button issue in China, officials accused Wal-Mart of cheating the public by charging premium prices for regular meat. They fined the company, shut down all 13 Wal-Marts in the city and jailed a number of Wal-Mart employees. The actions played well in the national media. There’s little if any recourse in authoritarian China when something like this happens to a U.S. company. There aren’t regular courts. Like many other U.S. firms that have run afoul of nationalist sentiments in China, Wal-Mart could only beg forgiveness. It has nearly 350 stores in China with revenue of $7.5 billion. So Wal-Mart dropped to its knees.” He finished with an astonishing claim where he cleverly quoted a (non-existent) “American executive in Beijing who watches these matters” who supposedly said Wal-Mart had done far more than Chinese companies “to secure the safety of the [country’s] food supply.” (2)

We should all feel sorry for poor baby Wal-Mart, with only $7.5 billion in revenue in China and being forced to “drop to its knees” because “there aren’t regular courts” and “authoritarian” China has “a weak rule of law”. Bad China, no question.

But that’s not exactly how it was. China had had years of trouble with Wal-Mart repeatedly breaking every law on the books. Those same stores had for years been selling ordinary pork labeled as organic, each time being caught and fined a trivial amount, 8 times in the prior 7 months alone. It was so bad that when the inspectors were leaving the store with the confiscated illegal products, Wal-Mart’s staff were already busy labeling yet more ordinary pork as organic. It was just a game where the retail price was several times higher and the profits so huge that the nuisance of inspectors was trivial. What changed the game was that this last time the inspectors made a wrong turn as they were leaving the store, and found themselves in a refrigerated room with 75,000 kilograms of ordinary pork labeled as organic. And thus was Wal-Mart “securing the safety of China’s food supply”. But according to the WSJ’s Bussey, a low-level clerk made an innocent “mistake” and mislabeled a few packages of meat, but the mean, authoritarian Chinese government which has no courts and no rule of law, made the company “drop to its knees”.

I can provide dozens of heavily-documented cases where foreign companies, mostly American, have committed the most egregious crimes in China, yet were repeatedly warned rather than being severely punished as they would have been in any Western country. In one case, Coca-Cola was forced to destroy about 100,000 cases of bottled drinks because of an atrociously high level of chlorine which, it was discovered, was poured into the drinks to kill an equally high level of fecal bacteria. In the West, the company’s business license would have been canceled, especially considering the lies the company told, even going on national television to claim their product was “perfectly safe” when it patently was not. It is also worth noting that of the ten largest corporate consumer frauds perpetrated in China in recent years, eight of those were by American companies like P&G, OSI, Nike, GSK, KFC. (3) (4)

In a similar instance, the Western media stridently reported, ad nauseum, that “a Chinese human-rights lawyer” had been imprisoned by “The Communist Party”, ostensibly for being a Chinese human-rights lawyer. Once again, bad China. But once again, that’s not exactly how it was.

It was true that this lawyer had on one or two occasions acted for someone who had a complaint about the system, the story being weaved in the Western Zionist press that he was unjustly tossed into prison for daring to assist a challenge against the “authoritarian, totalitarian, and brutal” “Chinese dictatorship” and, even worse, daring to challenge the shaky position of The Communist Party of China who would exterminate anyone for the sake of maintaining their “feeble grip on power”. In only one article of nearly 100 that I read on this particular case in the Western press, was there even a suggestion of an extenuating circumstance. In only one article, the very last sentence made vague passing mention of “a tax problem”.

That “tax problem” was a bit more than nothing. In China, there are various classifications of purchase receipts, only one of which is usable for corporate expense tax deductions. In many Western countries, even a cash register receipt is usable in this regard, but in China we must have an official receipt containing a government stamp. Since these receipts are equivalent to a tax credit of 25%, they are valuable and are sometimes traded. If I have official tax receipts my company cannot use, I can sell them to you at 10% of face value and you can save 15% on your corporate income taxes. In this case, this ‘human-rights lawyer’ and four of his friends, all lawyers, had been running a business where they printed counterfeit tax receipts and sold them to unsuspecting businesses, in total more than $300 million worth. All five were arrested and thrown into prison but, according to the Zionist media, this lead lawyer (only) was imprisoned not by the courts, but by “the Communist Party”, and not for a massive counterfeiting fraud but for defending the poor and helpless who were victimised by the vicious communists. When Westerners have only a diet of daily articles like this presented to them by their most trusted media, how is it possible for anyone to accurately understand anything about China?

China is renowned for its low crime rates. Cities like Shanghai and Beijing, along with Tokyo and Singapore, lead the world in almost all aspects of personal safety. I have travelled through almost every part of this country, from the largest cities to rural areas, in daylight and darkest night, alone and with companions, and in 15 years I can honestly say I have never once had the slightest concern for my personal safety, and in fact the thought had never entered my mind.

In this context of absence of crime, China has bypassed cheques and cards in favor of a universal mobile phone payment system but is still in some ways a cash society, surprisingly still using bills for many large transactions. In any city in China we see on a daily basis people standing in line at an ATM, patiently waiting while one person is feeding huge wads of bills into the machine, 10,000 RMB at a time, the pile of cash often exceeding perhaps $US50,000. This is such a common transaction as to be completely ignored by everyone. In my 15 years in China, I have never heard of anyone being robbed at an ATM.

Urban governments in China often expropriate for redevelopment downtown land containing old and dilapidated housing, leading the Western media to decry the “brutal, authoritarian displacement” of citizens, but once again that’s not exactly how it really is. These old homes are not heritage sites but mostly miserable and impoverished one-room hovels sharing a common kitchen and bathroom, where windows and doors leak wind and rain, and lacking both heating and air conditioning. The local governments move an entire small urban community into a suburb where they have built lovely new apartment buildings that are turned over to the people free of charge. The new homes are one or two-bedroom apartments, built to a good standard, with real toilets and bathrooms and kitchens, far nicer than these displaced citizens could ever have hoped for. Anyone who doesn’t want to move, will be paid a cash sum for their old home but, with urban housing being very expensive, accepting the new home is the universal option. In similar fashion, the Chinese national government recently built more than 60,000 new homes in Tibet, given to the people free of charge, to remove them from poverty, put them together in real communities, and help to protect the environment. The Western media unanimously refused to report this.

Further with housing, China’s national and city governments take action to moderate house prices on the dictatorial communist prmise that houses are homes to live in, not “assets for speculation and profiteering”. In the very large centers homes are quite expensive, much less so in the suubrbs and second and third-tier cities, but even so about 90% of all Chinese own their own homes and about 80% of these are fully paid. Bank mortgages are uncommon in China although growing to some extent. The Chinese do not like “the feeling” of being in debt and a high savings rate is contained in Chinese DNA, leading to housing down payments of typically 40% to 50% with the balance being borrowed from the extended family and repaid interest-free over time. China is the only country to my knowledge where a young couple can easily borrow money for a house purchase from aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and pay cash for their first home, and low-income couples are often able to purchase below-cost subsidised housing from the government or, surprisingly, from many State-owned corporations that build low-cost housing from their surplus profits. Socialism at its finest.

On this same note, I wrote in my article on Socialism that in Xi’An there is a school with one of the finest campuses in the world, hectares of green grass, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, flower gardens, lovely condominiums and townhouse residences for the faculty and students. The school was built with surplus profits of a local state-owned tobacco company that wanted to give something to the community. The firm not only built the school but pays the annual operating costs.

Further with housing (and other major purchases), the Chinese do not like the feeling of buying anything that is used, this applying to homes, automobiles, major appliances. If the Chinese purchase a used car, it will be a first car and a maximum of one or two years old, the remainder disappearing into the rural areas as temporary but affordable transportation. If a Chinese buys a used home, their first act is to completely gut the interior, stripping the entire dwelling to bare concrete, and reconstructing the entire home to make it ‘new’, this renovation simply taken for granted as part of the purchase cost.

Let’s return for a moment to the unpaid utility bills. In the West, utility companies typically cut off electricity or gas immediately on the due date, then charge the homeowner a substantial re-connection fee, a financial penalty, and extra interest on the due amount. This harsh attitude is surprisingly derived from the West’s twisted Christianity where, according to the bankers, you have committed a sin – an offense against God – by failing to pay your bill on time and therefore “deserve” to be punished. The utility company doesn’t cut off your electricity because it needs the money but because it wants to punish you, to make you suffer for your transgression against the god of money. The Chinese, not having been terminally infected with this sacrilegious version of religion, cannot fathom the existence of such an attitude. The West, in their eagerness to destroy China, cannot in turn fathom the concept that “freedom of religion” inherently includes the possibility of freedom FROM religion. But the Chinese do in fact have what we might term a religion (in addition to Buddhism), one that derives from Confucius, and teaches gentleness, forgiveness, and understanding. Confucius taught only reform and education, never punishment, at least not in a civil context. This brings us to the surprising but inescapable conclusion that the Chinese are far better Christians than are the Christians themselves.

This is one reason China, with more people than the US and Europe combined, has only 1/1,000th as many lawyers. The Chinese way is to settle disputes by discussion and negotiation, never by force. This is so true that in many police stations in China, the first room you see when you walk through the door is a ‘negotiation room’ or a ‘dispute settlement room’. The police will moderate many forms of disputes that can potentially be settled without the filing of criminal charges or civil lawsuits. The American way, and in fact the white man’s way is to call the police and hire a lawyer, which is why Americans spend more each year on lawyers than they do on the purchase of new automobiles. The Chinese way is better.

This is probably an appropriate place to point out that, aside from the normal border disputes between neighboring nations, all the world’s wars have been initiated by the Christians and Jews, following in the footsteps of their God whose major commandment was “Thou shalt not kill”. In case you don’t know, China has never started a war with anyone, and the country’s last battle was a minor border skirmish about 50 years ago, one that was begun by India not by China.

One indication of the inherent socialist and humanitarian nature of the Chinese people is their attitude to innovation and IP, a powerful point of dispute between China and the capitalist West. In the West, in years past, patents were granted for a period of only three years, enough time for an inventor to either produce or sell his invention, and this only for creations deemed to be socially useful. There was no patent protection for Barbie’s plastic breasts or Apple’s ridiculous “rectangle with rounded corners”.

We can think of it this way: if you tell me a humorous story and I repeat it to another person, you are not offended if I fail to credit you as ‘the owner’ of the joke and in fact you are pleased that my appreciation was sufficient to relate it onward. This is essentially the Chinese position on innovation. They are not offended that you liked a creation so much as to copy it and improve it and, in real life, this flurry of activity from the entire nation that surrounds a new invention produces real creativity and development. Most every new invention is primitive at the outset, requiring much modification and amendment to result in its eventual perfect form. In the absence of the designed hindrances to innovation and competition by the West’s brutal IP laws, the natural Chinese way is to permit a new invention to escape into the national population where potentially millions of people will contribute to the modification and development, resulting not only in an astonishingly rapid evolution of a new product but its free ability to benefit the entire population instead of being jealously restricted to the selfish benefit of one person. This is the reason that China’s IP laws are so much less aggressive than those of the West, especially of the US. The natural, innate and deep-seated Chinese concern is for the benefit of the nation, of all people, and I worry that China is being corrupted by the vicious greed inherent in Western capitalism evidenced by the country’s “tightening” of its IP legislation.

There is one other item worth noting here, that of the pace of change in China. Western countries required the best part of 100 years to industrialise and move from agrarian societies to urban development, while China managed this in perhaps 30 years, one generation. When young people in China are married today, they want a new house, a new car, and a foreign vacation. When their parents were married, they wanted a bicycle, a radio, and a sewing machine. I have spoken to many Chinese in their early 30s who tell me that when they graduated from university only ten years ago they couldn’t have imagined owning a new home and having a car and taking European vacations only ten years later. Such enormous change inflicted on a society with such speed, naturally creates a great many strains, and it is much to the credit of China’s national government and the extraordinary quality of its leaders that these strains have been managed while maintaining a powerful coherence in Chinese society, the exceptions being mostly minor.

This is so true that consistently in all polls at least 85% and often 95% of the population express great trust in their government and support of its actions. (5) The NYT ran a recent editorial that must have choked them in the writing, but that grudgingly admitted the Chinese very broadly support their system of government and that it appears to be working very well for them. In an Article in The Economist magazine, the writer, in deep shock, bemoaned the fact that “a disconcertingly high percentage of China’s population appear very happy with their government”. A few years ago, the Americans, disbelieving these statistics, attempted to provoke the Chinese people to a “Jasmine revolution”, flooding the Chinese social media with a call to congregate in Wangfujing in downtown Beijing to protest against their “brutal totalitarian government”. Unfortunately for the Americans, the Chinese had no such interest and nobody showed up to protest. The only participant was then-US Ambassador Jon Huntsman who came to view the (non-existent) results of his handiwork, and who was recognised and so ridiculed by the shoppers present that he put his tail between his legs and ran for cover. (6)

However, due to the rapidity of social change, it is possible in China today to see remnants of the prior generation incongruously mixed together with those of the new age. What this means is that your picture of China can be very much colored by your focus. The national government has indeed brought 800 million people out of poverty in a very short time but we can still find pockets of poverty simply because it is not possible to do everything at the same time. So, in a railway station somewhere, we can see in one view the sleekest and fastest fifth-generation 350 Kms/hr. high-speed trains next to a first-generation 50 Km/hr. train. When totally different generations coexist simultaneously, we can look at any sector and find evidence to prove whatever point we want to prove. Those who want to disparage China will simply choose a focal point that places the country in an unfavorable light and present that as the basic condition of the entire country.

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Larry Romanoff is a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West. He can be contacted at: [email protected].

Notes

(1) Guanxi – Wikipedia

(2) John Bussey | The Wall Street Journal

(3) China scandal costs OSI Group hundreds of millions

(4) Drug Giant Faced a Reckoning as China Took Aim at Bribery

(5) http://www.unz.com/article/should-we-compete-with-china-can-we/

(6) China’s jasmine revolution: police but no protesters


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Articles by: Larry Romanoff

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