… and why the Chinese women take in a favoured place in business.

Eight million Westerners a year are travelling to China out of which one million are on business trip. No worry, if you have no plans to travel over there yourself yet, the Chinese did start travelling all over the world. This year some twenty million people will travel abroad and the number increases by thirty percent per year.

[…] forty percent of Western expatriate families living in China or where the husband is a frequent business traveller to China, who stays longer periods there, break up because a Chinese Madam Butterfly has broken into their marriage. China not only spreads her spell over individuals.

[…] Let’s first start to understand the psyche of the Chinese as individuals first. This picture also can reflect the mind of Mainland China on the world stage. Your first reflex might be: just ask Chinese psychologists.

Wrong, psychology is still a very young science in China and the universities have had psychology on their curriculum only for a couple of decades. Even in Hong Kong that has been strongly influenced by the British, there is no strong establishment for psychologists. This is basically because the Chinese do not want to be analysed and they consider psychology as a kind of voodoo-ism, another western product just like religion is.

If you want to grasp the psyche of the Chinese you will have to study her philosophers. Do not follow the path of beliefs or religion; they will not give you insight in Chinese-ness. In fact never any religion could touch ground in China; the more philosophy does the job.

Basic Chinese philosophical belief is that we as humans are only sure about two things: we have been born and one day we will die. What is before the first point and what is behind the last point, cannot be grasped by human intellect. But there are other things we are pretty sure of and that is, that between the major milestones of our life, all things change continuously. Just look at Nature.

[…] According the Chinese the West has been hijacked by the mono religions which have controlled mankind most of the time. But this did not turn our fortunes or give relief to our burning uncertainty in our mortal life.

That’s why a new strategy was launched at the end of the Middle Ages. The Lord Almighty appointed an earthy prime minister. One of the first premiers was Isaac Newton. For sure you remember the story of Adam and Eve and the apple. The same apple would change the course of history again. This time the link was laid between the apple falling from the tree and the sun going down under the horizon.

The New Science explained how both the apple and the sun where controlled by a mysterious power of gravity. Even more it all could be predicted with the help of mathematics. Now mankind started shooting rockets to heaven without angles falling down on earth. But despite the New Science, the uncertainty of life did not fade away, even worse the laws of science did not explain what makes us happy or sad or where the mood comes from which influences the stock markets. Even purely physical events like earthquakes completely escape from any control by our computers and institutes.

Now that it became clear that after religion also science did not give all the answers, a new strategy was launched in the West: find it out yourself. ‘Je pense donc Je suis’ said Descartes and from now onwards you yourself have to take the lead, each for himself.

Also the Orient was confronted all the time with the basic ‘uncertainty’ of what life brings. But their approach was different from the West. Much more pragmatic is the East. Just look at Nature, here also everything is born and dies. Do not fight nature, try to follow and be flexible. If God has created life, for sure he knows better.

Do not waste your time in speculating what’s in the after life. People are not in need of dictates or doctrines. God has programmed his will in the peoples themselves. Chinese cannot understand why we westerners are searching like crazy to find a Holy Grail or some better fitting explanation of ancient texts?

You never will grasp the being of being. When you repeat the words of Descartes ‘I think, so I am’ in front of a Chinese; his reply will be: ‘…and I lie so I am the lesser’. The Westerner feels flattered with this reply and most probably he will miss the real point of what has been said… that the Chinese feels superior!

Out of these basic differences between West and East in philosophical orientations there is a whole series of derived differences which have been confirmed by our famous psychological tests.

Chinese are ‘polychrome’ which means that for them ‘time’ is cyclic while the Western time is running linear till it reaches the day of last Judgement. The Chinese will execute more easily simultaneous tasks than their western colleagues. Chinese New Year, which they call Spring Festival is a moment of celebration but it is also the moment which appeals for a change. Many Chinese will reconsider their prospects around Spring Festival and change job or start a new project or business.

Chinese attitude toward ‘fate’ is also fundamentally different. Just like everything that happens, also fate comes in cycles. There is bad fate but also good fate that calls as opportunities to be grasped. People should not be passive towards fate; a lot depends on our own awareness and attitude. ‘Fen Shui’ or geomancy is in fact a kind of risk analysis of short term and long term nuisances. If you build a house near a river bed there is an increased risk of flood.

Everything moves in short and long term cycles along the patterns of chaos. Chaos is a ubiquitous phenomenon. The course of a chaotic event is very sensitive to the initial or starting conditions and it tries to find a path to a pole of attraction or it aims to keep away from a pole of repulsion. The Chinese genetic system seems to be programmed to continuously scan directions of fate and opportunities. Once you have detected a particular wave of fate it is up to you to follow or avoid, cooperating or obstructing its course. Never confront the wave, just catch it at the right place and in due time. This attitude makes it that the Chinese excel in entrepreneurship and flexibility.

The lack of psychological benefits which religion can provide in life is by most Chinese peoples being compensated by their guanxi. This is a network of personal connections, commitments and obligations which each individual spins around him. This provides the Chinese with a buffer to compensate for the daily uncertainties and problems which everybody encounters.

This network will share experiences and views and act as a last resort or back-up. The personal guanxi also has a broader version which we call Chinese Bureaucracy. This is the toughest place where Chinese practise their skills in social navigation which in most cases has the meaning of acquiring power in the network. No wonder that in China every problem becomes a political issue.

Since the last Emperor of China returned to citizenship a vacuum in the supreme power has been created. That explains why the Communist Leadership is so powerful. Nobody anymore can talk and negotiate with Heaven which was emperor’s privilege and task. This link has been replaced by Science which is China’s biggest admiration and envy towards the West.

Once China will have cleared her backlog in science I can bet that a new Great Wall will be erected. A wall with only a few holes with pipes for the inflow of gas, petroleum and commodities.

Another reality of life is that the world is increasingly becoming more complex. Despite the use of very advanced computer models for forecasting in all areas, we still ‘feel’ as if we are nowhere. The economy is driven to a great extend by an unexplained mood. Mathematics does not get a grip on anything that has to do with the principles of life.

Recently a step forward might be mathematics based on the concept of triple-logic which seems to be more effective in playing a role in understanding pattern dynamics in chaos. It could well be that the Chinese have an advantage in pattern recognition and handling or processing of chaotic phenomenon, although hardly any research in that direction could be found.

Take for example indirect communication. This is mainly a feature where patterns of behaviour and expression has to be decoded and returned by the receiver too the sender.

The holistic approach of Chinese medicine is another example of pattern processing. Maybe the most explicate case of applications of chaos theory is to be found in China’s language it self. In the West our current languages have evolved along a linear stream of decoding simple signs or characters.

This is being processed in a rather small bandwidth of interpretations, which further on is being transferred into a limited set of meanings. Meanings which are black or white, good or bad, short or long, etc. which are called dichotomies. This should not completely surprise us because our philosophical operating software is based on the logic centric version which Aristotle deployed twenty centuries ago and which is the basic of western culture.

It is because of their way of ‘processing language and content generation’ that the Chinese need so much time in negotiations. In fact negotiations will never end, simply because after reaching a stage of understanding or implementation, the new situation and its context is also due to renewed judgments and consideration which are needed to find the next best direction where to navigate to.

Chinese rhetoric has the typical structure of ‘because….so”. The western style is one of sentences like “ if….then”.

Chinese also are masters in “double thinking”. This means that they can easily build up reasoning along different paths simultaneously”. This mental feature makes it easier for a Chinese to live in a Big Brother state. But to survive happily in such an environment you need to combine it with yet another complementary skill, which is the capability of “balancing”.

Chinese have a genetic micro program which allows them to keep the balance between many issues at any moment and still be ready to move to a new direction or another point where they can pause in equilibrium. This explains why in the eyes of a Chinese you never may lose your temper because then you show that you are not able to balance.

How to build up these skills of double thinking and balancing your views has been written down in what is China’s oldest book. The Book of Change (also called the ‘I-Ching’) is written in the terms of Yin and Yang. The book is much older than the Bible and more widely spread across the globe.

In the West it is mostly considered as exotic fortune telling because most readers interpret it in the context of the time that the book was written. In ancient time all behaviour was expressed in terms which depicted Nature, like water, wind, fire, metal, the animals etc.

But when you manage to read the Book of Change in the concepts and dimensions of modern time, it turns out to be a ’unique oeuvre which stimulates the modes of operation of the human brain’. This is a statement by Carl Gustav Jung and he added that it operates in a way which brings our conscious and unconscious mental features in balance and which at the same moment points to acts with targets which are achievable.

Beside these macro-psychological patterns and characteristics there do exist also the minor psychological features which can be measured in our familiar psychological tests. The Chinese are better in memorizing which of course is triggered by their language with its many signs.

Chinese are less aggressive especially at young age. When it happens that they lose control they will express it verbally rather than physical.

The Mainland Chinese are the absolute best in motivation. They work hard and are prepared for big sacrifice in order to achieve their goals and esteem as well. This ‘achievement drive’ is balanced with a weaker score in ability.

In order for a westerner to operate effectively in China, she or he will have to acquire the skills of indirect communication. Respect and adherence to the Chinese rituals is the first step which should be taken. A totally different type of observation is that the Chinese man seems to pump less testosterone in his blood than what the western macho’s do.

This can explain why Chinese men have less hair on their body. This gives a social advantage to the Chinese ladies who can be very outspoken and assertive. Maybe this phenomenon can explain why western men so easily get caught by the honey yellow fever. This is the phenomenon of westerners falling for the (aggressive) charms of Chinese woman. Chinese would explain it as a balancing act of macho behaviour which seeks for compensation by the exotic purity of a white lotus flower.

This again is an example of how the Chinese see life through the windows of yin and yang. A very effective and simple way to handle yin and yang is to picture yin as the female psychological features and then attribute a male behaviour to yang. Yin dominates in the East and the West is controlled by yang.

That’s why the best way for a western man to be successful in China is to practise harmony with his wife or girl friend. That’s also why western women should have an advantage in doing business with Chinese.

Source: Extract of: “Navigating through Chaos in China: A Cultural and Business Compass for Managers and Business Leaders.” (2006)