What of culture?

Recently I had the fortune to witness an exchange at a Chinese-American business event. One caucacian and three Chinese-Americans sat on the panel… Discussion circles around interaction between Chinese companies and American companies. (Most of the audience are Chinese American Business people)

Near the end, one audience stood up and asked a question:

“I’ve seen that when French companies invest in middle eastern countries, they will often ask their new employees to learn to speak French by providing mandatory French classes for all employees. I wonder what the panelist feel about the spread of Chinese culture and how that may influence the productivity of newly acquired companies?”

“What is there to teach? Just drink!!”

one of the Chinese American speaker bursted out on stage, and the room laughed politely.

The Engineer inside me reacted immediately. I said out loud: “Well, certainly not the engineering team. I wouldn’t ask the engineering team to drink as part of the culture.”

Not one other person reacted to this blatantly disrespectful remark… In a room full of people who claim to be Chinese or Chinese American, all laughed, politely, and some laughed in genuinely good humor!

The Mckinsey speaker finally reacted. She said, “when I spoke of corporate culture being different between American companies and Chinese companies, what I meant was corporate culture! I make sure every time that I speak of such things in public I speak of corporate culture. I’m not worried about national culture in the least. That’s the last thing I’d worry about.”

Other panelist chimed in, but saying little else, repeating the word national culture. The crowded hesitated. But it disbursed and the discussion came to a quick end… But there is something lingering…

After some thoughts, I suddenly realize. Waita minute! that was such a big insult!! And the only panelist who did react, she did not react by saying anything positive about the Chinese culture, nor did she say anything against the “just drink” comment. All she did was to cover her ass about her company. Witty and professional, sure, but certainly, disappointing that a room full of Chinese and Chinese Americans, not one person had the tiniest hint of intelligence nor wit to realize the insult being dished by a fellow Chinese or Chinese American, in public, in the face of every Chinese person in this Chinese organized Chinese business conference.

NOT a single response!

Even polite laughters.




and besides. I think the term more fitting is ethnic culture versus corporate culture. National culture seem to point to national politics (and in the case of PRC, communism.) The person asking question was asking about the Chinese ethnic culture.


Just drink???

That’s the only thing that any of the panelist can speak of when they think if Chinese culture?

And the whole roomful of self proclaimed Chinese- and self proclaimed business- people, not a single one has a slightest bit of pride? not a shred of comprehension? not the least ability in language or tactics to respond to such a blatant insult??

The meeting just ended there, with out really ending… just that people left… uncaring. The purportrator of such disgraceful remark, unscathed. The caucasian watching… smirking in his little beard… smirking!!!! laughing!!!!!

“You Chinese people are so fucking stupid!!!
You make light of such a serious question at such an important time.”



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