How To Understand China In One Word

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

Excerpts from A Tale of Two Cities (1859) by Charles Dickens

If you are asked to use one word to describe China, what word will you use? “Undemocratic” because both Facebook and YouTube are blocked in China? “Prosperous” because you have seen the towering skyscrapers and flying high-speed trains in China? “Inhuman” because you have seen the report of Yuling Dog Meat Festival? “Rich” because you have seen crazy Chinese shoppers of luxury goods in world major cities? None of the above could generalize China so easily, but one safe and sure way to describe China is, everything in China is under transformation, which means, nothing in China is completed or perfected yet, nor anything has never started yet.

1. From lack of creativity to full of creativity/From uniformity to diversity

Suppose there are ten phones made-in-China with same inch yet different brands on the table, you can find it easy to think they are just different models under one single brand, because they have almost completely same looks, functions and specifications. Almost every single new change in a new iPhone can invite numerous copied designs in Chinese phone industry, Chinese manufacturers do not even have to think but simply copy their industry leader. The origin of Chinese people’s lack of creativity actually can be traced back to ancient Chinese imperial examinations in which essays were formulated around a rigid, artificial structure. This kind of unnecessarily uniform education system has far-reaching effect on the present Gaokao (Chinese National Higher Education Entrance Examination) which leads to lack of focus on teaching critical thinking and ignoring students’ emotions, values and personalities. As a result, Chinese students or suppliers tend to focus only on how best they can take after their counterparts, so they can achieve same high grades or profit. However, with the rapid development of Chinese economy and society, Chinese people are shifting their attention to the awakening of people’s individuality and personality, for example, people are praised for being who they are, expressing what they think and doing what they like rather than merely according to common expectations. So are Chinese products, the world witnesses waves after waves of technological innovation in Chinese industry, that is why Chinese companies including tech giants like Huawei are paying more and more importance to intellectual property.

2. From money-driven to ideal-driven

Chinese people is more or less regarded as a nation with no faith, as generation after generation of people are being taught to believe in socialism and Marxism and regard the religious beliefs as superstitious. But do Chinese really have no faith and have nothing in mind to rely on? Not exactly, Chinese people do root their actions and words in money, family ties and human connection (Guanxi). Though these concepts are not written on the country’s textbooks, every Chinese is consciously or unconsciously enacting these essentials in their life. The first a few questions that come to people’s mind when talking about a certain profession are: Does that earn you a lot of money? Do you have any relatives or friends of high stature taking care of that line of work? The answers to these questions usually determine how much likely someone can earn respect and achieve success. People care less about what contribution that certain profession does to the other people and focus on more what that profession can earn for the family and themselves financially and respectfully. However, despite everything to the contrary, Chinese people are also changing, more and more people dedicate themselves to solving virtual problems and creating something really revolutionary for the mankind. Examples include Jack Ma who completely changed the way people do business and shopping, Pony Ma who changed the way Chinese people are connected with one another, etc. Chinese people find out they are too much focused on the material gains and begin the shift their attention to the betterment of environment, science, ways of doing things, and social well-being.

3. From unprofessional to professional

Business lies are not lies. But sometimes Chinese business people tend to abuse this way of communication in business, they are inclined to think they can do everything possible to achieve great business, because they believe whatever that can be done is not wrong, so long as they do not get criminalized easily. Some are looked up to by many others because they can make huge fortunes even if by scamming their buyers or shirking taxation in some “clever” manner. They believe the person who makes the most money is the real winner. Sure enough, their way of doing business certainly will not fit the world outside China, that is one of the reasons why many world giant companies find China a very difficult market to fit in, such as Amazon, eBay, Yahoo or even Google. Fortunately, as noted in the beginning of this analysis, nothing in China is perfect yet, but China is also experiencing significant changes in the way of business, more and more companies find out the long term advantages of ensuring transparency, professionalism, good quality, good service and integrity. Take Alibaba for example, Jack Ma’s team is vigorously striving to eliminate faked goods out of Taobao, although the effectiveness is another matter to discuss.