Thursday, June 14, 2007

China vs. USA, part 1 and the GFC

As much as we know or don't know about China, I know I am learning a lot. I am learning so many little things that I don't even know where to begin. However, there are a few big things that make China a different place compared to Western life. Below are a couple of items that I will begin to add on to over the remainder of this summer.

#1: Chinese businesses have not learned the "lifetime value of a customer." As a business in China, you are most likely operating in the moment. Their is no thought for the future. The business is used to working hard for a quick sale and then they do not expect that person to return.

A personal example...I went to a place to eat near my building. I made it a point to try most of the places nearby that had crowds, so that I would be familiar with them and know if I would like to eat there regularly. Anyway, I had a hard time ordering (this was my second week in town and I knew nothing), but they brought out some things for me to eat and a warm beer (one of the first words I learned...I later learned to ask for a cold one). When I was ready to pay, they brought me out a total that seemed very high for the amount of food I was given. I knew I was being charged more than I should have been, but didn't know how to tell them that in Chinese. So, I paid the bill and left. I have yet to return. The food was decent, but I was mistreated. They couldn't understand that I was not a one time sell, but that I would return over and over again and possibly bring friends along. So, they made a quick buck and lost out on a repeat customer. Most people already know it is easier to keep a customer than to get a new one, but we learn to quantify this in grad school. It is quite powerful to learn how much a customer may give to you over time. If this seems very logical to you, it is. However, I have learned that most businesses in China and most tourist areas subscribe to the policy of getting as much as they can with no regard to the future. There are cultural reasons for this in China, such as the tradition of haggling over goods and just being skeptical or disapproving of foreigners. However, I don't know if these reasons are true...I will ask and confirm them. Whatever the reasons, this same problem of being charged more, because I am foreign to this country, happens almost daily.

#2: The Chinese that speak English think they understand Westerners. However, I beg to differ. In most respects they get it all wrong. I am not eating at McD's, Pizza Hut, or KFC. I am not wanting to but "sexy DVDs" or pretty girls. But when I walk down the street i am targeted by all the hawkers and one by one they hunt me down and offer these items. How many foreigners are taking them up on their offers? I do not drive my car everywhere or want to take a taxi where ever I go, and I don't sit in an ex-pat bar every night drinking over-priced beer. Chinese people come up to me and ask for American dollars, when they wouldn't dare ask their fellow Chinese citizens for money. If they knew the exchange rates they would be asking for Yuan and not the Dollar, but that doesn't excuse their perception of me as Mr. Money Bags.

The point of that is that whenever I say or do things it usually is a surprise to them. All day long it is, "Don't you want to do _____?" or "Don't you want ______?" But the reality is that I don't want or do those things. Like the Chinese, we all do different things and often want different things to, beyond the absolute necessities of life (water, clothes, shelter, etc.).

In all fairness, most people in the US don't understand China. I came here with many stereotypes and most of them are proving false. So, it works both ways.

Since the government has blocked again I am unable to reply to comments. I use a website that allows me to see my blog, but it won't let me see every page. I assume this blocking is temporary, like the last time, but who knows when they will let us access the site again. The people here call it the Great Firewall of China (GFC). I don't run across it to often, but the government does restrict a lot. The main sites I have seen restricted are Wiki, Flickr, & Blogger. The government might have good reason to. With web access becoming increasingly popular, things such as what this article refers to are becoming increasingly common. In China people also organize together through mass text (SMS) messaging. A protest halted construction last week using this method.

So, in reference to the comment made on yesterday's post...
Welcome to the IMBA program. Thanks for stopping by and reading. I look forward to meeting you this Fall. I am familiar with the Express paper in DC, because I was living in Silver Spring before I started the program last year. I am glad that Wuxi is getting some exposure in the US. It seems, from the online news and TV, that this disaster has really pushed the Chinese government's efforts to acknowledge the environment and its responsibility to it. Hopefully, their efforts won't die down once this issue is out of the papers.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the welcome. I'm bracing myself as I've been warned it's intense. It's very interesting to read your blog, a great insight into China.

    That sucks about the blocking of the blogger site. My roommate and I, before I left DC, went to a seminar on Chinese cybernationalism. Really interesting stuff. Apparently it's huge and there have been "hacker wars" between Chinese hackers and US hackers. Also interesting is 70% of their internet users are under the age of 30. It's only like 30% in the states. The guy who gave the lecture has a book out on it if you are interested. It turns out there is less censorship than you'd think, it's all reactionary and the driving force are the hackers.

    See you in the fall!