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Feb 10, 2008

Who Am I?

The perception of Chinese society is often by the West characterized as collectivist. The domination of the Confucianist system and subsequent emphasis on family certainly has generated a society focused on the well being of the whole. In order to grasp the entirety of the Chinese societal model, however, one must look at the legacy of the Confucian education system. For thousands of year, the Chinese system was based upon Confucian ideals: family/filial piety and a strict education system. Potential scholars only advanced by memorizing Confucian texts, poetry, literature, and history. Memorization was the primary and only means of advancement. The scientific method and innovative thought were not only not part of the learning standard but also were discouraged. This model continued even after the Communist takeover as indoctrination of Marxist ideals (the most important), science, and math became the sought after education ideals. Science and math, similar to poetry or history, can be taught through and implemented with prescribed solutions.

As McGregor states, China, therefore, went from a nation of bookworms to a nation of indoctrinated bumpkins to a nation of engineers. Regardless of the transition, there has not been a change in the learning pattern. All of the previous methods have been based upon being led by a school of thought or person. Consequently, the ability to innovate and "think outside the box" has been practically purged from Chinese culture. Their sense of competition, however, has not. While on the outside there is the appearence of working together, eating together, etc, there is still the individual desire to surpass one's peers as taught through the centuries long way of education. The result is a nation of ferociously smart and driven people without the necessary skills to think outside of "their bosses'" mindset. Benevolent dictatorship has been the apparent method of success throughout the years. The 21st century will call upon a different more comprehensive set of tools and talents.

The keys to working within China's ever evolving market, culture, and society ultimately rest in adaptability. It is imperative to understand China's past and culture in order to succeed but also realize, in many ways, they are just as unfamiliar as to what lies in store for their future. Traditional Western models will not work due to the inherent interconnective nature of relationships. The traditional Chinese model based solely upon these relationships, however, will not work either due to transparency and other Western ideals valued by the outside world.

The Chinese language's fundamental ambiguity sums up everything. There is not a definite "Yes or No" in the Chinese language. All activities, situations, experiences, and business is nuanced in such a way that one never has to say yes, definitely, or no, definitely. Thereby, all options are left open to what suits at the moment, at that particular time. Fluidity has been what has allowed all aspects of the Chinese culture to continue to adapt and flourish for the past five thousand years.

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