mPulse

Monday, September 1, 2008

Thoughts on the China Market

At the The China Vortex, Paul Denlinger discusses how there is no unified "China market", no monolithic, simplistic, single-minded Goliath that the rest of the world is trying to deal with. While I do not have the depth of on the ground experience that Mr. Denlinger has (I have not yet been blessed with the opportunity to visit or do business in China), I can see the truth he brings to the discussion.

One of the great pits that Western culture falls into when dealing with the China problem is just that: It is seen as a problem, not an opportunity to expand and learn from a culture that deals with life, philosophy, and business in a very different manner.

This should come as no surprise to any astute student of History, or even modern geopolitics, as the way that nations deal with perceived threats or challenges is to create a national culture of The Other, the us-v-them foreign policy.

When Japan was the country du jour in the 1980s, the Western World respected it, in a very shallow way, as a fellow industrial nation with a strong warrior culture. However, it was treated in a simple way, with Western media portrayals that strengthened perceived stereotypes, and plastered over the profound differences that exist within Japan, and within the Japanese people.

China is even more of a victim of this Politics of the Other, having spent more than 50 years as one of the adversaries in the Cold War, being vilified and portrayed in the least flattering light possible. Even without the base Human interpretation of simplistic interpretations of the Other, the West is crippled from the start in its attempts to understand a nation as large, diverse, and fractured as China.

China is far more than Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and small cadre of smaller, but no less important industrial / post-industrial metropolitan areas.

Drawing on my experience in trying to interpret Internet performance data from within this nation, it is clear to even the casual observer that the Chinese Internet does not simply exist in the major cities. It extends into the far reaches of the country, fractured by the internal conflicts of the connectivity providers, government officials at a many levels, and the unstoppable drive and creativity of the people who see the Internet as an opportunity to make their way in their world.

Cultural and national stereotypes are the way that humans ineffectively deal with the differences that exist. But just as the terms "All Brits..", "All the French..", "All Germans...", "All Argentinians..", et al. should be treated with disdain and seen as a sign of ignorance, using the words "All Chinese..." or "All of China..." should be quickly quashed and carted off to the dustbin of simplistic paranoia and xenophobia.

There is no such thing as a threat. As it is often stated in other contexts, a threat is simply an opportunity that is hidden by your own prejudices.

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