'Business' in China: AnecdotesO
As you know, a while back there were many discussions pertaining to working in Asia. Specifically, a lot of discussions centered around the perception that the rising "Dragon" that is China would soon become the dominant economic force in the world. And then there were the talks of China being the so-called "land of honey and milk". Will this be the case? I don't have a crystal ball. But I want to share an experience I've had during my stay in Beijing for the past several months that lead me to strong believe that the United States won't be displaced from its hegemonic grip on the world anytime soon.
I recently went to a chain dry-cleaning store in Beijing to get my Brooks Brothers suit ready for a presentation I had later that week. I was initially reluctant- but the store looked like any dry-cleaning laundromat littering the states. I asked them to be extremely delicate with it, and was assured that it would be taken care of. Can you guess what happens next?
I come to pick up the suit a few days later. They seemed fidgety- my Spidey sense told me something was off. After 30 minutes of searching for my suit, they brought it out- my heart tanked. In front of my, was my $1000 Brooks Brothers suit- splotched with patches of white. Yup. I've seldom been speechless, but this was one of those occasions. What do you say? They apparently accidentally spilled bleach over it. Yup. I demanded to see the manager right away, but was told he's unavailable. I then demanded payment for my suit (or at least as much as I could recover)- their response: "There's no way" (in Chinese). I panicked. I called the police and they told me they don't deal with these situations. I called my uncle who is a corporate attorney in China. He told me that the only way to realistically get these guys to compensate would be to hire some "大哥's" (Big Brothers) and intimidate them. He offered to call his cop friends to "intimidate" in an unofficial capacity. Ultimately, two guys came out from the basement of the store, and told me forcefully to leave the premises. Needless to say, I never got compensated for that suit.
Summarily, just wanted to give everyone who perhaps has never had the chance to work in China some perspective. China, for the foreseeable future, is a society governed by “人情”- relationships, and power hierarchy. It is a society in which the rich and well-connected routinely mold, bend, and break laws to further their own self interests. It is a country where who-you-know is often a sufficient condition to do whatever you need. All people, from the poor, to the rich,live in fear. They fear a change to the status-quo of the power hierarchy.
Do some of these problems exist in the United States as well? Yes. They exist in all societies. But, there's one fundamental difference between China and the United States. US society is governed by the rule of LAW. Personalities will always have an influence on society,but they do so within the bounds of what is allowable by Law. And if the Law is violated, every person seek legal reprisal.
Anyway, just a rant. Still pissed off about that suit.