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Hi all,

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.

Comments (47)

  • ElijahPrice's picture

    They don't call it Guanxi for nothing.

  • PiperJaffrayChiang's picture

    The US will be the dominant power until the end of the world... in 2012.

    Anyways... I'd imagine bankers in China are more well off than 99% of the population. Are you saying that we're in a position to step on the backs of the poor & powerless there?

    =========================================
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  • ibhopeful532's picture

    No absolutely not. @piperjaffray.

    Power >> Money in China because the CCP is an authoritarian government that controls everything. No matter how rich you are, if you piss off someone who is in the power hierarchy in the CCP, you will lose all your assets like that/

    Power > Money. Bankers can have all the money in the world, but perhaps even more than in the west, they can be fucked over big time by 'big brothers'.

  • PiperJaffrayChiang's picture

    So this incessant corruption among the rich and those in control will hinder China from being the ultimate economic power eh? I can just imagine having to pay an exorbitant protection fee to these "big brothers" with tire irons just to walk across the street every morning. How is the situation in HK where it's mostly governed by legacy British rule of law?

    =========================================
    We are excited to formally extend to you an offer to join Bank of Ameria

  • ibhopeful532's picture

    Oh Hong Kong is completely different story. Definitely much, much better. The legal structure there is very mature and definitely comparable to the State. Hong Kong also has legit dry-cleaners.

  • PiperJaffrayChiang's picture

    I've heard about rudeness in China like people spitting on the ground or bumping into you like it was nothing, but spilling bleach on your expensive suit at a well-known laundry chain and then telling you to GTFO is just medieval man.

    =========================================
    We are excited to formally extend to you an offer to join Bank of Ameria

  • runningcitylikediddy's picture

    you gotta pull out your glock like we do in the states....

  • Edmundo Braverman's picture

    ibhopeful532:

    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.

    I'm really not seeing how this is any different than the States...

  • ReadLine's picture

    I don't know. If a small dry cleaner in the US fucked up your suit do you think they will pay $1,000 just like that? I don't doubt your claim that china has much more corruption, but the US is far from perfect too.

    In the US I suppose you could go to court for your suit. But that would take alot of time/effort. And if they refuse to pay after the court sentence than it will take even more time. Most people would probably just give up and end with the same result.

  • accountspayable's picture

    In the US, banks control the government. In China, the government controls the banks. It's no coincidence that the Chinese stock markets are highly correlated to the successes and failures of governmental policies

  • AstonMartin's picture

    China did not start modernizing until about 30 years ago, the U.S. has been at it for 200 years...what the hell are you expecting? Are India, Brazil, and Russia any better? For China to have gotten to where it is now in such a short span of time is already unprecedented. True, the legal, financial, and government systems in China have not kept up with the pace of economic growth, but give it some time. There's a reason China is still a "developing nation."

  • In reply to ReadLine
    she_monkey's picture

    ReadLine:
    I don't know. If a small dry cleaner in the US fucked up your suit do you think they will pay $1,000 just like that? I don't doubt your claim that china has much more corruption, but the US is far from perfect too.

    In the US I suppose you could go to court for your suit. But that would take alot of time/effort. And if they refuse to pay after the court sentence than it will take even more time. Most people would probably just give up and end with the same result.

    exactly my thoughts... my suit got shrank by a NYC dry cleaner and I got about 5 minutes of "i dont understand what you're saying" when I tried to explain that they've fucked up my only-interviewsuit-in-college (okay I had bought more at the time but this was really my first investment of that scale) of >$500. the other owner came out and basically told me to bring the suit and somehow prove that it was shrunken ... yea didn't happen

    when you demanded your refund, did you tell them that it was a "$1000-us-dollar" suit? any small business owner of the right mind would do whatever they can to avoid that payment. the bleach could've been just a mistake..

    sorry to hear about your suit though ..

  • abacab's picture

    The future of Chinese Economy hinges on a bottle of bleach and a suit (owned by a 20 something year old).

  • UncleKevin's picture

    IDK if evidence of corruption and lawlessness in Chinese society suggests that country will not continue to progress. Look at the US over the past 50 years. Mobsters used to run NY, Boston, Chicago etc.

    Maybe money is circulated in the corrupt circles, but eventually even the mobsters have to go to Starbucks (retail) and spend money that is taxed. Gov't eventually benefits from the increased $$ in the country and they can finance the proper law enforcement.

  • eliteculture's picture

    I agree with Power>money but the chinese government is very centralized, although corrputed but very efficient to get things done. They only have one party in their congress. Think about how efficient will that be when they execute their policies. Very dangerous with a dictator but very efficient with a good congress leader. That is all it matters. Can we get a bill pass within a month? Hell Noooooooooooooo

  • abacab's picture

    China's stimulation package roll out has been considered the best among all countries (including US and most of Europe) this time around. They have gotten a lot done with tight control in last 20 years compared to rest of Asia, with no significant natural resource like floating in oil.

  • In reply to abacab
    cdnbanker's picture

    brick:
    The future of Chinese Economy hinges on a bottle of bleach and a suit (owned by a 20 something year old).

    Very well said. Silver banana for you.

    OP, your myopic outlook and self-centered world view is laughable. Corruption and an inadequate legal system are the signs of a developing economy. Over 100 years ago, the US was the number one counterfeiter in the world.

    And if you think any dry cleaner in the US will compensate you for a ruined suit, think again. All cleaners absolve themselves of all responsibility for shrinking, dying, or otherwise damaging your clothes.

    Sorry to hear about the suit though.

  • IBD4PE's picture

    $1000 Brooks Brothers suit......thanks for the laugh

  • In reply to ReadLine
    Stalking_Horse's picture

    Big law suits take a lot of time, but this would be a small claims case in the U.S. (think judge judy). A single afternoon. Collection might be more difficult.

  • levelworm's picture

    US will be the dominating force in mid-future. I believe most Chinese eilites know that too.

  • Happybear's picture

    Honestly, that is by FAR not the worst thing that could've happened to you. Sorry for the loss though.

  • abacab's picture

    The Rio Tinto guys in Chinese jail for alleged price fixing, now that's something worth complaining about.

  • In reply to cdnbanker
    UncleKevin's picture

    cdnbanker][quote=brick:

    And if you think any dry cleaner in the US will compensate you for a ruined suit, think again. All cleaners absolve themselves of all responsibility for shrinking, dying, or otherwise damaging your clothes.

    Well US dry cleaners are still Asian, so that isn't much of a point.

  • rebelcross's picture

    Everyone seems to be missing the point that there is no such thing as Power > Money. In China no power = no money, and that's all you really need to know.

  • gorilla4sandracing's picture

    That's why you always ask a native for recommendations in China.

    But same thing happens anywhere. My college only had one dry cleaner in the 20 mile vicinity and messed up clothes all the time. If you actually think American cops would deal with something like this... you're dead wrong.

    Only difference is Americans can sue for the most minor of offenses. This doesn't really exist anywhere else.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Are you a CEO, CFO or other executive facing these or similar charges?
    Why should you go to jail for a crime someone else noticed?

  • In reply to UncleKevin
    CarolinaHeels12's picture

    actually they don't have sales tax in china

  • PiperJaffrayChiang's picture

    Well in America you can sue for just about anything, I see it as the flip side of China being too authoritative, power gone to the layman's head.

    Anyone remember the $67 million dollar pants story?
    http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/LegalCenter/story?id=...

    the Korean cleaners actually wanted to settle for $8000 which was already too good of a deal...

    =========================================
    We are excited to formally extend to you an offer to join Bank of Ameria

  • brutalglide's picture

    You generalize your experience with one dry cleaner into making broad statements that Chinese government is corrupt/isn't bounded by law? Drawing some pretty big conclusions there coming from someone with little experience

  • In reply to PiperJaffrayChiang
    h.e.pennypacker's picture

    PiperJaffrayChiang:
    Well in America you can sue for just about anything, I see it as the flip side of China being too authoritative, power gone to the layman's head.

    Anyone remember the $67 million dollar pants story?
    http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/LegalCenter/story?id=...

    the Korean cleaners actually wanted to settle for $8000 which was already too good of a deal...

    Ha! I was interning with a lobbying group in D.C. that summer. We went to the trial to support the cleaners and talk about tort reform. That judge is a douche, and every colleague hated him (surprise, I know).

  • Wapping_Banker's picture

    Im sorry, but you yanks are funny........

    How does a story about a cleaner messing up your suit have anything to do with whether or not China can become a major superpower. I dont see the logic...what you described can happen to anyone and anywhere....

    It is true that you nedd Guan Xi to get anything done in China......you just gotta accept that.....and if you dont have any good contacts....then tough...ppl have worked hard down the years to gain this......

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  • MarkyMarkWahlbergWasAwesome's picture

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