When our Fundamental Perception Clashes with China's (EXCERPT, After The Chinese Honeymoon)Oct 21, 2022
Intuition and comprehension, rather than the truth and facts, form the basis of our perceptions, and they are misperceptions until our flawed presumptions are identified. Yet, those flaws are abstract and demanding to recognize across disparate cultural differences, so we are left struggling against the burden of our myopia. To understand Chinese thinking, we must correctly interpret these contrasts over time, recognize patterns of discord, and integrate our persona with their oddities. Playing and winning the China game inside the Chinese arena will require such an endeavor.
In the macro, we begin with fundamental philosophical differences regarding society itself, where one side believes success comes from letting its citizens choose their own destiny, while the other indoctrinates its citizenry that only through serving the party, ensuring its survival, and contributing toward its preeminence can there be a collective success. Once Westerners set foot in China, their individual aspirations barrel on a collision course against collective determination. However, conflict is entirely preventable with minor attitude adjustments that can eventually lead to synergistic cooperation, a.k.a. real Guanxi connections.
Eddie wanted to travel to distant planets after watching the original Star Wars movie and play major league baseball after dominating as a little league all-star pitcher and shortstop. He then dreamed of becoming a rock guitarist after listening to Eruption on Van Halen's debut album and playing golf on the PGA tour after watching Tiger Wood's historical decimation of the field at the 1997 Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Eddie fantasized about Amanda and Carmen, twin brunettes in his first and second-grade classes and countless others throughout his matriculation, including college and later while pursuing his MBA degree.
As Eddie's potential was held back by his wishful aspirations, his counterpart on the other side of the world was still recovering from the painful chaos of the Cultural Revolution, a sociopolitical movement lasting more than a decade designed to purge all capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society. Eddie was encouraged to study hard to one day become a doctor or win a Nobel prize. At the same time, across the sea, families were torn apart, and over 10 million urban intellectual youths were sent to the countryside in the Down to the Countryside Movement.
For the rest of this book, 'I' am Eddie Lee and will speak through my mixed-heritage doppelgänger.
By the time I arrived in China on my first business trip in 2004, the disappointment of an underachieving reality had fostered a constant survey to escape back into my fantastical aspirations. I rationalized that I could still become a professional musician or golfer, and I was forever waiting to meet my Cindy Crawford. Then nirvana began enrapturing my senses after clearing customs and arriving on the other side of a mystical gateway where every drink was a youth-giving elixir and every smell was infused with intoxicating fragrances of decadence. Indeed there were many alluring reasons why so many during that period sought business trips and assignments in China, a setting colloquially known as the Wild Wild West meets Las Vegas, where all transgressions stay strictly unspoken.
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