“You stupid American, my Chinese friend scolded me. You insult
I was shocked, speechless. I had thought that what I had just said, in complete privacy on a remote hilltop outside of
I had arrived in
That’s what made Professor Xu, as I shall call my friend, stand out. I couldn’t recall him having said anything complimentary about
And that was when he lambasted me with his “You-stupid-American” rebuke, a verbal stinging I shall never forget. It was a searing tutorial of what really counts in
Fast forward to early 2008. The pride of the Chinese people assumes a different form, as the Olympic Torch Relay is interrupted in city after city by highly visible protests triggered by the unrest in
One of the torchbearers in the
The Power of Pride
Chinese pride invites itself into diverse policy debates. Rarely does it dominate and determine decisions, but often it affects and influences them. Consider China’s spaceflight programs, including the Shenzhou manned spacecraft and lunar missions, both an apparent luxury in a country still fighting vast poverty, but both enthusiastically supported by an overwhelming majority of the people.
Why? Pride. Consider also the longstanding internal debate at the highest levels of the Chinese government during the final decade of the last century over whether to seek admission to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Although the contesting views pitted the economic benefits of foreign investment against the heightened competitive pressure from foreign companies, an underlying motivation, though it was rarely voiced, was that China belongs in the WTO because China is a great nation and must be counted as a world power.
Pride expresses the visceral feelings of a people whose civilization of culture and technology led the world for centuries, only to be humiliated and oppressed by foreign invaders and stymied and scourged by domestic tyrants. Now that
In every sphere of human endeavor, from business to culture, Olympic athletes to space taikonauts, music and art to modern science and ancient philosophy, China seeks its fair share of world leaders. For example, in every industry of importance,
Although economic improvement a higher standard of living, financial success, luxuries of life are goals in every country, there is extra energy to achieve these goals in
The change in the economic lives of the Chinese people has been staggering: Since 1978, when Deng Xiaoping initiated reform,
Over one billion people have access to television; three decades ago only 10 million did. In 1978 there were 200 foreign companies doing business in
The old communist ideal of the glorious masses in common class struggle is archaic and irrelevant. It has been replaced by something new and dynamic and historic, an economic engine fueled by personal dreams and national pride.
When doing business in
Robert Lawrence Kuhn, an international investment banker and corporate strategist, is senior advisor to Citigroup. He arranged and is a partner in a joint venture for commercializing sports in