Friday, December 19, 2008

Honest + Simple = Loyalty?

Damien's comments in Damien's Den triggered these thoughts:

Cousin Sheow Sun once told me about a Chinese book that described 'the Ugly Chinese'. It had one story that described two types of employees. One was a straightforward simple person who, if given instructions to buy 10 oranges, would go out to the nearest shop and get the items and come back without question, with the goods and the change. Another given the same instructions, would go out and shop around for the best and cheapest oranges he could find and come back with the goods and the change.

The typical Chinese employer would rather hire the 1st guy than the 2nd guy. Why? He can trust the 1st guy. To him, the 2nd guy seems to have a more devious mind. In other words, the employer prefers an honest and simple employee to a street-smart and intelligent one because in the presence of the latter, he has to keep watching his back. Thus, honest + simple = loyalty.  

Well, that story was told me about 30 years ago. I don't know if Chinese world-view has changed or not over these years or will it ever. Perhaps not, because that old saying, "Rivers and mountains can be altered but but human character will remain unchanged".  Perhaps that explains why some family fortunes never last more than 3 generations.


  1. That's scary. I hope its not the fear of creativity that will condemn a whole people to a future of copying for a living than actually creating new value. But wait, aren't we're seeing that already. China manufactures things that other people dreamed up and designed. They seem to gravitate towards loyal doing, not devious thinking.

    But then again, the other side of me tells me never send a PRC to buy oranges because they've proved to be one of the more devious types to do business with. But then again, I've never dealt with a PRC villager...

  2. The Japanese (and later the Taiwanese) did that too and they haven't done badly after they added improvements and employed more efficient and cheaper methods of manufacturing them. That's nothing to do with loyal doing nor devious thinking.

    For survival, the environment produces the type of inhabitants. There are the meek and mild and there are the devious and aggressive species. Somehow they all survive simply because each have their own means of survival. Some think it is a God's will while others see it as nature's way of keeping things in circulation. When one sees things this way, it doesn't matter if you're an idiot or a genius. You'll get yours. Somehow.