Crossing Over with Hong Huang

Today I joined Hong Huang on the talk show of Crossing Over on ICS, talking about for quite some time, and also talked about a topic I don’t have too much idea – sexual harassment.

Hong Huang is one of my favorite star – her movie Perpetual Motion was completely different from any movie I saw, and was astonishingly unique. To be more exact, Wendy is a bigger fan of her.

During side chat, Hong Huang’s comment on Baixing was confusing. I said: how come! It is such a simple business model and such a simple website. She mentioned she saw many painting ads in one of the category labeled “Home Delivery”. I said she was lucky (or unlucky) since we are doing the category change during the time, and she saw a very short window of category disorder. Sorry for that, and now it is OK.

The talk show of about 1 hour will be on air sometimes during the Olympic on ICS.

“Are you the exclusive talk show guest for ICS?” Wendy asked.


Olympic Paranoid

Although no body claimed that, China, especially big cities like Shanghai, already entered into a special emergency period. The security of most of government buildings, including TV station, which is surely part of government, if not one of the most important one, has been dramatically tightened.

I reported the security measures in Radio and TV station before, but this time, it is far more than that. Instead of asking you to wait in the lobby of the building to wait to be “claimed” by someone working in the building, they stopped all visitors at the GATE of the whole area. It is not a pleasant experience to stand on the Weihai Road under the Sun and watching taxis running around.

Besides that, the photo ID is scanned using a old style scanner (which means it is really slow) at the gate. I thought it replaced the requirement at the service counter at the lobby. I was wrong. I still need to hand in my national ID to replace it with a badge, so I can use it to enter the building.

The last step is a scanner that was used in airports. You have to put all your belongs in the scanner, and enter the magnified gate by yourself. It is said that scanner is very tough to get in China these days since it is equipped everywhere.

I didn’t see a torch, and I don’t have plan to see an Olympic game, but I did feel the pressure everywhere because of the game. Hopefully, the joy and safety of game will compensate all the trouble.

2 thoughts on “Crossing Over with Hong Huang

  1. Google is malfunctioning here when i typed into a super-harmonious word.

    hopefully compensate? not that easy, believe it or not, i already got some hatred issue

    it’s a very bad example if the five rings got away with it

  2. Oct 8the, 2008


    First I would like to say that I appreciate and generally enjoy this program. I do, however, wish to make some critical remarks about a recent episode during which the topics included guanxi – the traditional Chinese “friendship in business” approach to business. I am not sure when this episode aired originally but I caught the program last week.

    During this episode both Hong Huang and her guest on this program – a young man who is the CFO of a Shanghai based company, made some commments which I found to be questionable, at least, perhaps even irresponsible.

    During their conversations Hong Huang and her guest compared Chinese guanxi to American business practices and stated that America has its own version of guanxi. Now, it may be true that in America, as in all cultures, who you know is often as important as what you know. But surely only a naive perspective would suggest that the use of influence and personal relationship in business in the West can be equated with the use of guanxi in China. Yes, in the West we do sometimes, perhaps often, use our personal influence in business, but we do not openly offer bribes to government officials. The use of personal influences with government officials is criminalized within the legal system of all modern nations, and that, in fact, includes China. This is why I was shocked to hear Hong Huang’s guest report that he bribed a government official, to expediate his home purchase, but at the same time he stated that this is not illegal.This kind of action is certainly illegal in China and runs counter to China’s entry into the WTO.

    Yes, in America, in the west, influence is important at times and is sometimes used illegally but you would never hear an American CFO, any American, talking openly about how he bribed a government official, certainly not without fear of legal action. Yes, in America influence peddling does occur but this is culturally a negative thing and is strongly dealt with in American law, and has never been an accepted part of American culture such that Americans would defend the activity. And certainly no mature American I know would seek to defend a flaw in American culture by suggesing the same flaw exists in another culture. And certainly no American would go on a popular TV program and talk openly about bribing government officials. I was shocked by Hong Huang’s and her guest’s cavalier, insensitive attitudes – but I tell you I was brought to pose mostly by the open admission.

    Just a moment ago I suggested that only a naive perspective would suggest the use of influence in America is equivalent to or similiar to the widespread, culturally (and until recently legally) accepted use of guanxi in China. But I think neither Hong Huang nor her guest are naive. Both seem to be educated people with considerable knowledge of other cultures. No, I do not think these two individuals commented as they did because they are naive. Both Hong Huang and her guest sounded as though they were doing a bit of face saving – trying in some way to brush off the damaging effects that guanxi has had on trust in China amoung the Chinese and trust of China by other nations and peoples. Perhaps it is a hard pill for the Chinese to swallow, but, from a Western perspective it does, when one examines public behaviour, the substance and degree of regulation in China, that the Chinese people do trust the Chinese people less than Americans trust each other – perhaps guanxi has had much to do with this. I mean if you are in the habit of using guanxi how can you trust a person to do their duty when you play a game where the highest bidder gets the win – and that any “bid” is not just about money but is also about future and family plans, past greviances and present demands, great depth in subterfuge and subtext. And would this not make you a bit cynical or untrusting, yourself untrustworthy? Well, maybe not in a context where all the players are playing the same game. Are all the players in China playing the same game? Not in China, in modern China of international business. But even more sadly I make a shiny penny of a crushed coin if I suggest that, even in a purely Chinese context, guanxi is defensible from a Chinese point of view. Guanxi, in so much as it has always been seen as a negative aspect of government involvment, has always been looked down upon here in China, talked about in hushed tones and over polite formulaic cultural markers, not usually spoken of so vocally. And so I would not want to discredit the value of any medium, such as “Crossing OVer”, which allowed discusion on like matters but I think one unfortunate result is that the issue become one of comparison – ‘this is Chinese and that is not’, very typical, but this comparison hides the real fact of what guanxi has been or what it has meant in a Chinese context. Most Chinese people do not have any guanxi, or if so their guanxi is often more perception than fact: they think they do have guanxi, in some small context, and perhaps weild it or not; but most Chinese, I think, as a greater result of guanxi look too much at the successes/failures of their neighbors and begin negotiations with strong reservations about others in business and government.

    Hong Huang and her guest repeatedly compared the Chinese situation to America. I think this is not a fair comparison because such comparisons are unnecessary and only help to cloud matters. I believe if one wants to discover the value and acceptability of guanxi in China one should speak to the Chinese. I suspect that the rich, or let’s say ‘successful’, who have guanxi, and the wanna be’s who wanna have, might very well appreiciate the use of guanxi. But I feel quite confident saying that the vast majority of Chinese are privately and secretly tired of finding themselves and their families at a disadvantage to those who possess guanxi. I would not want to venture a guess at how many Chinese have been unable to get their children into their school of choice, find suitable employment or living quarters, to name but a few areas where guanxi is used. I suspect these people, the vast majority of Chinese, if they give the matter any thought, and if anyone listened to their opinion, would declare they wish to have an open/transparent systems that frowns on the use of guanxi. I suspect these people, perhaps even a few who had to stand in line a bit longer because Hong Huang’s guest paid someone to help with his home purchase, would not be so willing to declare the benifits of guanxi or to compare that to the use of influence in the West. Although, being Chinese in current China, these people might, as did Hong Huang and her guest, feel the need to do a bit of face saving and try to down play the negative effects of guanxi, while in their secret hearts despising. Remember please, China still ranks #12 on some lists of the world’s most corrupt nations. Remember please that one of the reasons Zhou Enlai opened China’s doors to the west was because he predicted that only influence from outside China would cause a reform in the middle and lower levels of government where corruption was incredibly widespread.

    I think if one wishes to consider the rightfulness and responsibe-ness of the comments made by Hong Huang and her guest, one need only consider Hong Huang’s closing comments. At the end of this episode on guanxi, Hong Huang, now seemingly assured that she has rightfully compared guanxi in China to the use of influence in America, stated: (I paraphrase) “If you want to succeed in China, until such time as China has transparent systems you had better collect as much guanxi as possible.” No doubt. Yet, to me this is an incredibly irresponsible comment. Her meaning is, in essence, transparent systems are good but until we have them if you want to succeed it is best to use guanxi because they also do this in the West.” That’s like saying “I want to do the right thing but I will not do it until everyone else does.” Need I point out the illogicality of such a comment. “I want my cake but I want to eat it too”. But the sad thing is that the “cake” was never delicious. And to state again, the crimminal use of influence in America is nothing like the culturally accepted (thought technically illegal) use of guanxi in China. Yes, Americans have lobbiest who work for business and, both professionally and personally, there are certainly cases where personal/financial influence is used. But in China you have a different situation. You have a government which has adopted laws very similiar to those in the West so as to curb the use of influence or guanxi but those laws have not taken hold in China the way they have in America. Perhaps, inpart, because America was founded on a philosophy which addressed such use; whereas, Chinese culture has accepted guanxi for many, many hundreds, perhaps thousands of years and that culture has remained stronger than any form of government. The government (I say in an effort to keep the focus where it should be) as would be the case anywhere, would employ gaunxi to whatever degree such tactics were acceptable in the culture, broadly. Which would bring us to a political discussion, unnecessary here: something along the lines of bottom up as apposed to top down government.

    But we are not talking about politics here, except perhaps in that word’s broadest meaning, where all interactions are political. No, we are talking about culture, because Hong Huang’s show is an attempt to cross over, be it to my flavour on one given day, or not. And the essential point I would like to make is about tone and how the tone of Hong Huang’s hosted commentary seemed to, in my mind, mask certain truths about culture.

    Now, I am not defending America – in fact I am not American, and I believe that the Chinese way of ‘doing things’ is valid and correct in as many cases as may not but, I cannot imagine how the comparisons and comments offered on “Crossing Over” are useful, positive, or even correct. I think we would find very few Westernes who have a pocket full of guanxi and so I wonder what you would tell those folks in terms of how it is that they should succeed in business, in China. Well, we all know one sure route, get yourself a Chinese partner who has a lot of guanxi. So, you see, I am not naive and I recognize reality, that no matter my ideals I must put my pants on one leg at a time, each day, and go off to do my ‘thing’ in a world filled with guanxi and other negatives. My complaint is based on my perception that most Chinese people have no guanxi and don’t like the idea of guanxi and comparing across cultures hides this fact. My complaint is also based on my perception that Chinese people, who wish to be proud of their nation but sometimes find themsleve unable to do so faced with contradictions between the vocalized goals of ‘modern China’ and the continued use of archaic, inhumane, and illegal traditional social/business practices. The tone I picked up on from Hong Huang and her guest was a desire to be proud of China and so they saught to brush of the negativity off guanxi.

    All people wish to be proud of their culture/nation and often find ways to create comparisons that place them in a favorable light. In this regard, Chinese people sometimes do, as I suspect Hong Huang did, resort to fallacious comparisons of China/America (the West) such that they (perhaps hope to bring China’s real attitudes out into the open but in doing so) attempt to mitigate the negativity of such matters via flawed comparisons. So, on one hand, I thank Hong Huang and her guest for vocalizing the fact that guanxi is still a very significant aspect of life in China. On the other hand, I find grave fault with the comparisons used to downplay the negativity of guanxi.

    The long and the short of my comment is to suggest that commentaries such as the one I point to, this recent episode on “Crossing Over”, come across as either incredibly naive or as attempts to save face. My perception is that the latter is more the case here. Hong Huang’s is an unfortunate stance because any mature person knows that America, the West, has its problems and so for people with this mindset Chinese do themselves no favours by comparing China to America, and especially no favours in any case where the comments/comparisons are irresponsible and plainly inaccurate. And most sadly Hong Huang’s stance shows a disregard for the ‘common folks’ in China who I am sure despise guanxi, and shows a seeming naivety about the differences in access to guanxi for people from the various areas and demographies in China, as compared to others living on the ‘developed’ Eastern seaboard of China.

    I would suggest that cultural comments should be grounded in the context within which they make most sense: perhaps ‘Crossing Over’ could air an interview with the unfortunates who waited as Hong Huang’s guest received VIP status. Indeed, I recognize the flippancy of that last suggestion; however, any commentary about guanxi in China should consider the affects of guanxi on China, both domestically and internationally, and not seek to save face via an attempt to mitigate negativity with flawed comparisons. There may indeed be similiarities between influence peddling/purchasing in the West and Guanxi in China. None-the-less, the physicist in me wants to highlight that, though all things change only by degree, there are differences in degree which, being particular differences of degree such that, we recognize those as differences in kind: genius, for one quick example and, as another, most any ajudicated matter of law – the case of legality on the matter of guanxi was settled when China entered the WTO.

    Guanxi is simply different than what ever similiar aspect might exist in the West. And the effects of either Chinese Guanxi/American ‘whatever’ are best examined domestically prior to any international comparison. I suspect, both objectivily and anecdotally, one would discover the very negative domestic effects, on trust in China, resulting from guanxi long before one would discover trust issues, in America, related to American ‘guanxi’. And to do that bit of discovery we need not enter an arena where no one wins; so let’s keep that discovery of inherent cultural value, or aspect there-of, in the context it deserves. Guanxi, east or West, needs be examined in the first case, within domestic perceptions and outside overarching political theories where mistrust is the rule, in internationalized discussions, truthful or not, about matters such as America’s “real imperialist intentions” or similiar polorizations and rhetoric about China. The context for discussion of guanxi need not employ arbitrary comparisons between nations and cultures. If that is strongly put, I remind myself and others that I am making a point generally about the value of any comparison between China and America. For that general purpose I speak specifically about the discussion on “Crossing Over” and I am not in any way defaming Hong Huang.

    In any case, best of luck.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *