Teaching Our Children Contempt

Author Gary Moreau, aka Avam Hale in fiction

When my wife first arrived in the US in 2016, having never before traveled outside the northeast regions of China, she made two rather prompt observations.

The first was to note, “There are no people.” I was perplexed, to be honest, given that we were leaving the Detroit airport at the peak of rush-hour traffic, crawling bumper to bumper among the suburbanites leaving the city center at the end of the work day. “Are you kidding? Look around. The traffic is terrible. Just as I remember it.”

“Those are cars,” she noted, “not people. It’s different.”

Her second observation came some days later, after having experienced American television and what we call the news. “The poor people in America appear very sad. Or angry. That seems strange to me.”

She, in fact, had lived in poverty virtually all of her life. At less than one hundred pounds in total body weight, her shoulders had long since given out from the work she began at the age of eighteen at the state-owned flourmill where both of her parents worked, and on which her family relied for virtually everything, including their apartment. She lifted 25 kg (55 lbs) bags of flour off of a conveyor belt, stitched the top shut, and then piled them on a platform for removal and shipment. And she did it for 8 hours per day, six days per week, and was paid $5 per month.

She is not pious, naïve, or deprecatingly arrogant about her personal history. I have met few in my life who are as candid and matter of fact about the reality of her circumstances. She does ‘get it,’ to use the common American phrase.

But it was Confucius who said, “Wherever you go, there you are.” And few people throughout history have embodied their culture or their heritage more completely than he did. Having lived in China for so long I easily imagine the 1.4 billion Chinese currently living there thinking the same thought with frequency throughout each day.

I offer here no ode to the poor and unfortunate. I don’t sing their praises as defined solely by their poverty. I do not mean to put them on an ethical pedestal. But I admit my bafflement that any of us, rich or poor, famous or ignored, imprisoned by bars or by circumstance, believe that our financial worth, or our social network, or even our Twitter following, is defined by things that should make us happy or sad, proud or bitter.

They are what they are, pure and simple. And while that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t change them, we should change them for the right reasons and in the right ways.

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While Chinese culture is built on a collectivist foundation that turns on personal obligation, American culture is built on an individualistic foundation that turns, so we think, on performance. We inevitably measure, as a result, success and failure of any kind, in personal terms. The successful are gifted, hard-working, and well organized. Those who fail are lazy, unmotivated, and, most likely, deserving of their failure.

The inevitable result is not a contest of ideas, but a contest of competing virtues. ‘Because my ideas are better, I am better.’ It’s just a short hop to contempt. And that, of course, is where sadness and bitterness come from.

On March 14 students across the country took to the street to protest the fact that very angry young men are allowed to buy military assault rifles and kill large numbers of their fellow students. They should be angry. The fact that we are even debating what to do is a sure sign of just how far we’ve fallen from our true American heritage. (When the Second Amendment was adopted in 1791 the only guns in existence had a capacity of only three shots per minute in the most capable hands and were accurate at little more than 20-30 yards.)

And who are the media heroes of this fight? Judging from the coverage it is the students with the loudest voices and the most contempt. And, of course, no politician gets time in front of a television camera today unless he or she is virtually seething with contempt for somebody.

Contempt, of course, seldom solves much of anything. It destroys lives, in fact. It feeds addiction, shortens lives, and leads, inevitably, to sadness and despair.

The reason our politics and our social intercourse is so vile and acerbic at the moment is not the result of Trump’s election or Pelosi’s fund raising skills. It is the result of our unwavering commitment to individualism; to the belief that the individual, either competitively or inclusively (which is really the only difference between Republicans and Democrats, respectively), stands at the center or our economy, our ecology, and our culture.

It worked, with some obvious exceptions (e.g., slavery, the lack of women’s rights), when our world was far less crowded, much more localized, less industrially advanced, and less technologically integrated. It worked, in other words, on a relatively small scale.

The message we should be teaching our children is not that they should feel contempt for the death that surrounds them, but that they are literally all in this together. And in light of that reality there is no room for contempt. There are only solutions that promote the common good. It’s the difference between shouting for the cameras in a gesture that Washington will soon forget, and, say, organizing school watch programs, or student aid programs that help the most alienated children find their social footing before they resort to violence.

In my latest book, We, Ourselves, and Us, I note that early in my career corporate executives felt a strong sense of personal obligation to the employees and the community. My first CEO wanted nothing more than to raise wages and would never have even entertained the idea of closing the factory on which the community relied and moving production to Mexico or China.

Corporate executives today often lament the change, but blame it on globalization or activist shareholders, both of which are beyond their control. It’s bunk. No law has been passed that in any way restricts corporate executives from exercising the kind of obligation they did just a few decades ago. It is merely their sense of individualism that precludes them from accepting their collective obligation.

Individualism without obligation is fatalism. Individualism with obligation is collectivism, what I call we-ism.

When I lived in China I witnessed poverty on a daily basis. It was no-running-water poverty. My friend referred to his own upbringing as a three-bath life (once when you are born, once when you get married, and once when you die). But that never once influenced how he felt about his life or the people around him.

In his latest book, Radical Inclusion, retired general Martin Dempsey notes that when he had to console troops who had lost a comrade, he always said, “Make it matter.” It’s great advice. But it won’t matter if we don’t accept we’re all in it together.

That, I believe, is the message we should share with our children and each other. Once we do, the violence will dissipate. And the newsmakers won’t be quite so full of contempt.


My newest book, We, Ourselves, and Us: Creating a More Just and Prosperous America, is now available on Amazon in paperback (click here) and Kindle (click here) versions.

If you read any of my books and like them  I would greatly appreciate it if you will take the time to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or whatever book site you enjoy. Thank you in advance.

To the People of China:

Author Gary Moreau, aka Avam Hale in fiction

On the occasion of the “two sessions” legislative conferences recently convened in Beijing, China, government officials reviewed the accomplishments of the past and the challenges and the opportunities that lay ahead for the people of China. As an American businessman who lived and worked in China for nine years (2007-2016), I would like to offer my humble advice for consideration by the people of China observing this discussion. Specifically, my thoughts relate to the American experience and what China can and should not learn from it. I will limit my comments to five critical areas.

Democracy versus Socialism

Americans refer to their political system as a democracy and insist that this is the only form of governance that leads to long-term economic development and the protection of human rights. History does not bear this out.

If, by democracy, we mean one person, one vote, America is a democracy. But voting is only a process. If, by democracy, we mean that the interests of all people are represented, America is not a democracy. It is an oligopoly controlled by, and operated for the benefit of, the commercial class of corporations and banks and the people who manage them and/or benefit from their wealth.

America has two political parties—the Republican and the Democratic parties—but both are built on an ideological foundation of individualism. The Republicans emphasize competition among individuals while the Democrats emphasize inclusion among individuals. Both, however, are defined by individualism and both, as a result, require a hierarchy that is ultimately controlled by individuals of wealth.

Socialism, by contrast, is a form of collectivism, built around the ideal of the common good. As a single party, the Communist Party of China (CPC) must assume responsibility for all Chinese; rich and poor, old and young, man and woman, Han or minority.

Capitalism versus Socialism

Americans believe we live and work in a free market economy. This, too, is a false conviction. The American economy is heavily regulated. The government sets the minimum wage and applies rules for overtime pay, child employment, and other labor issues. It also sets standards for worker health, safety, and environmental protection and strictly controls who can practice what profession.

The supreme economic regulator in the US, however, is Wall Street. It is the large private banks and the other owners of capital who ultimately regulate the US economy for their benefit. Washington, as a practical matter, provides little more than office space for the capital class to perpetuate the charade that the economy is regulated in the interests of all Americans.

The Chinese economy, of course, is also regulated. All hierarchies are. In China, however, the state is both the regulator of record and fact. Beyond the obvious benefit of transparency, the Chinese approach to economic regulation has two distinct advantages. The first is the fact that the government maintains a national industrial policy that guides economic development in a direction that maximizes the benefit for all Chinese. And the government provides specific regulatory representation for workers in an effort to protect their individual rights and adjudicate when any worker believes he or she has been mistreated or harmed.

The biggest difference is not in the amount of regulation, but its purpose. In China, companies are regulated for the benefit of the common good. In the US, while there are some minimal regulations to protect the environment and the workers, most regulations, including those that make it extremely difficult for workers to organize into collective unions for their personal protection, exist for the benefit of management and investors.

The First Amendment

Public information flows are famously unregulated in the US. In China, by contrast, they are openly regulated and censored by the government.

Information is power. Of that there is little doubt. But is all power good? And, if not, who gets to decide which is good and which is not? Is political disinformation good? Are fake news or alternative facts good? Is cyber-bullying good? Is revenge porn good? Does digital anonymity ultimately serve progress or destruction?

In China, at least, everyone knows who is censoring information and why (i.e. a perceived threat to political or social stability). In the US, by contrast, we have no idea what goes into the algorithms that Big Tech uses to determine what information actually enters the echo chamber and gets seen, and what information gets buried behind the mask of informational democracy.

Ultimately, information flows in the US follow personal fame, the human face of information. But fame is neither inherently good nor bad. It is, however, arbitrary. Are the famous gatekeepers of American social media any more responsible or informed than government officials? Both can obviously be compromised. But is fame or wealth a defensible source of political legitimacy? History would say not.

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The Rule of Law

This is a double-edged sword. The US boasts the largest population of incarcerated men and women in the world. And African-American and Latino men make up a disproportionate share of that population when, in fact, studies have shown that their involvement in the most common illegal activities, like drug use, are not fundamentally different than that of other ethnic groups.

The rule of law is more appropriately thought of as the rule of the courts and the judges that preside over them. There is little question that the judicial class in the US wields far greater power than its Chinese counter-part, which was only recently granted independence from the political hierarchy.

But the rule of law is only accessible to all classes of society in theory. In practice, it serves the interests of the commercial and political elite that largely control access to the courts. While the ‘jury of peers’ is often cited as a fundamental building block of the US judicial system, only 10% of all criminal cases and virtually no civil cases ever go before a jury.

The Fear of Authoritarianism

Americans have been trained to fear authoritarianism. The word itself immediately conjures up images of 20th Century Fascists and the Soviet gulags, images that the Western media is now using to criticize China’s decision to remove term limits for its top political office.

It is a false association. In its most important sense, authoritarianism is an adjective, not a noun. The length of a politician’s term is meaningless; only his or her impact really matters in the end.

The theoretical argument against extended terms of political rule, of course, are the temptations that such certainty creates for the abuse of power. It’s a legitimate point, but nowhere is it more impactful than in the US Congress, whose leaders inevitably rise out of the permanent political class, and the US judiciary, whose most powerful members serve for life.

As demonstrated by the 2016 Democratic primary process, moreover, it is the political establishment, whose power is not subject to the theoretical cleansing of democracy, that ultimately determines which candidates the citizens are given the option to choose between in elections.


My point is not to denigrate or glorify either China or the US. Both systems of governance and economy have their strong points and both have their weaknesses. The potential abuse of power is a universal weakness of all political and economic hierarchies that has plagued humankind since we walked out of the savannas of Africa. And that is unlikely to ever change. It is the nature of the hierarchies that all political and economic systems covering more than a handful of people must adopt.

Those hierarchies, of course, ultimately reside in the asymmetric assignment of power. That was, of course, the power behind the Third Reich and the Soviet gulags. It is, however, the same asymmetric power behind all racism, misogyny, and the oppression of the poor and powerless. And because the problem is not digital or binary, neither is the solution. Each resolves some of the problem some of the time.

But which is better? The simple answer is both and neither.

My advice, therefore, is really quite simple: Don’t listen to your detractors who have ulterior motives to sell newspapers, generate clicks, or sow fear. Pursue your own path.

What China has accomplished over the last three decades is nothing short of miraculous and is unmatched by any country or system of governance in the history of the world. You have every reason to be proud of yourself and your leadership.


My newest book, We, Ourselves, and Us: Creating a More Just and Prosperous America, is now available on Amazon in paperback (click here) and Kindle (click here) versions.

If you read any of my books and like them  I would greatly appreciate it if you will take the time to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or whatever book site you enjoy. Thank you in advance.

Good for Everyone

Author Gary Moreau, aka Avam Hale in fiction

This past week the Western media seized on the news out of China that the Communist Party of China has lifted the 10-year term limit placed on the office of the president following the death Mao Zedong. The Western coverage was, as would be expected, alarmist in tone, even though Xi Jinping has just begun his second five-year term and the amendment is largely meaningless for the time being.

That’s not entirely true, of course, as it will preclude Xi having to govern with ‘lame duck’ status as his second term winds down. And that is a good thing, to be sure. President Obama’s lame duck status in 2016 certainly didn’t serve Americans all that well. If nothing else, it changed the profile of the US Supreme Court rather profoundly, and, in the eyes of many, rather illegitimately.

Western journalists, of course, couldn’t resist the comparison to Mao, and whenever they speak of Mao they can’t resist talking about the Cultural Revolution. The word “authoritarian” was bandied about with great consistency. Virtually no Western account of the change, and I looked pretty hard, applauded the move. Virtually every report implied a doomsday scenario and, without exception, tough sledding for the US and our ‘interests,’ without ever specifying, of course, what those interests are, other than the ability to have our way in the world.

I was initially rather neutral on the announcement but with time I have concluded that this is a very good thing for China and the US both. Transitions of power seldom go smoothly and as we’ve seen over the last year a lot of mistakes are typically made when a rookie takes control of the big red button. There’s a lot to learn, experience does count for something, after all, and as much as we dislike political alliances when they stand in the way of what we want to accomplish, they are a necessity of political life in every nation on the planet, and they do take time to take shape.

Americans forget, perhaps, that the Founding Fathers didn’t stipulate term limits for the presidency. Hamilton and Madison, in fact, argued for a lifetime appointment, although, in fairness, most of the Founding Fathers didn’t want the president to be elected, either. They preferred a congressional appointment, although it would appear they ultimately concluded that would make congressional collusion too tempting to resist. (It appears Congress’ trust ratings were low even before there was a congress.)

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President Franklin Roosevelt, of course, was elected for four terms during the course of the Second World War. And while the 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951, limiting any subsequent president to two four-year terms, I’ve never seen any historical analysis of Roosevelt’s presidency depicting his reign with quite the same sense of authoritarian doom and gloom they are depicting President Xi’s.

I often fear that I speak too frequently of the inevitable dualities of life and the universe so I won’t go there now. I will note, however, that while most Western journalists now depict Xi’s battle against corruption as they would depict a Soviet purge, that is not an accurate depiction at all. Shortly after his election in 2012 Xi issued what came to be known as the ‘eight rules.’ These applied to all members of the government, not just his political foes, and had as much to do with efficiency, wasteful spending, and decorum, as corruption. One of the rules, for example, was, “All government meetings shall be short, clear in focus, and all empty and courteous comments should be eliminated.” A good rule for any government, in my book.

As I was living and working in China at the time, and one of my important markets were the upscale hotels and restaurants that catered to government officials and the citizens lobbying them, I can say from experience that Xi was serious. While Chinese culture still turns on a shared meal, the alcohol is gone and the menus are modest. And there are no exceptions, foe or ally.

The title of president, truth be known, is probably Xi Jinping’s least authoritative title. It has long been a nominal role in China and in fact has not always been filled. That’s not to say that Xi Jinping isn’t powerful. He is. But we shouldn’t apply our American norms to others without getting the facts first.

In my own book, We, Ourselves, and Us: Creating a More Just and Prosperous America, I actually argue that we in the US should extend our own presidential term limits, although I do likewise argue for limiting any one president to one ten-year term.

There are three reasons for my recommendation. The first is that we have to take the money out of our politics or special interests are going to drive us over the cliff. Human nature being what it is, however, neither the politicians nor the wealthy interests that support them are ever going to do that voluntarily. The only way to get the money out of politics is to take the politics away from the money. One 10-year term for the US presidency would essentially provide less than half the chances for money to buy an election. And, if nothing else, I think the parties—and the voters—would think twice about which candidate they nominate if they knew going in it was a 10-year choice. (It might also lead to younger candidates, which isn’t all bad.)

The second reason is the accelerating pace of change in the world today. If the world is changing faster, of course, that would seem, intuitively, to argue for shorter terms of office. I think this is one of those cases, however, where counter-intuitive is the sounder choice. It’s like standing on the gunnels of a canoe. When you first step up the canoe is going to rock like heck. Once you get it stabilized you’ll want to just hold it there for a while. Do we really want to go through the lame duck/first year transition every four years? I don’t think so. The world is moving too fast to waste that much time and effort today.

And thirdly, I argue for a 10-year presidential term limit because nobody else in our government has a term limit, and given that we are a three-branched republic the net result is that nothing gets done when the president’s term in office is so limited. Senators Hatch and McConnell, and House Speaker Ryan, have served in the US Congress for 41, 33, and 19 years, respectively. Their Democratic counter-parts, Senator Schumer and Representative Pelosi have served for 37 and 31 years, respectively. And the members of the Supreme Court, of course, serve for life. Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Ginsburg have served for 30, 27, and 25 years, respectively, a period during which they have very much interpreted and made law.

Critics, of course, will point out that the members of Congress are re-elected every two (House) and six years (Senate), but that’s not true in any practical sense. Between gerrymandering and the powers of the purse that an incumbent enjoys, Americans, as a practical matter, exercise their right to kick their politicians out with an infrequency that borders on nil.

But getting back to China, the country has just completed a period of extended development and global ascension unlike the world has ever seen. Xi Jinping himself, however, would be the first to admit that a lot of work remains. And much of that work, such as the building out of the One Belt, One Road initiative, domestic legal reform, and the establishment of stability in the region are all going to take time. Having a steady hand at the helm is going to be in everyone’s best interests, including those of the average Chinese and American.

I admit that I might not feel that way if the president in question was not Xi Jinping specifically, but it is, and I think he is the right person to lead the country forward. As Henry Kissinger once observed, the Chinese have a knack of picking the right leader at the right time, and I think that Xi Jinping is no exception.

I’ll let you decide for yourself if we Americans share the same skill.


My newest book, We, Ourselves, and Us: Creating a More Just and Prosperous America, is now available on Amazon in paperback (click here) and Kindle (click here) versions.

If you read any of my books and like them  I would greatly appreciate it if you will take the time to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or whatever book site you enjoy. Thank you in advance.

Wrong Question

This past week, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the US Senate Intelligence Committee during its annual open hearing on the security threats facing the US. And during his testimony Director Wray was asked by US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida whether or not Chinese students in the US could be gathering intelligence for the Chinese government. ‘Yes,’ was essentially the answer, with Wray noting that the problem requires “a whole-of-society response by us.”

For those white male Americans who have felt bewildered by all of the angst currently being expressed by African-Americans, women, and numerous other victimized groups in the US, this is exactly what they’re talking about. While this specific question related to the Chinese, the issue and the problem are the same.

And that problem is that there is no conceivable way for Director Wray to be able to answer that question with any degree of accuracy. If there was a known linkage it would have already been in the news and Senator Rubio would already be well aware of it. Otherwise, Director Wray is limited to conjecture. And while the FBI Director might be considered to be a subject matter expert, and thus a sound choice to ask to conjecture, it is still conjecture.

Why, therefore, ask the question, particularly knowing that the session is open to the public? There can, of course, be only one answer. Senator Rubio was not asking a question. He was making a statement. He was being provocative. He was grandstanding.

While there can be no upside to posing such a question, there can be a lot of downside. And that was evidenced by the fact that many public figures immediately came to the rescue of the reputation of the Chinese students being impugned.

As Ijeoma Oluo, the author of the very good book, So you want to talk about race (Hachette Book Group, January 16 2018), would likely note, it doesn’t really matter what Senator Rubio or Director Wray individually think about the Chinese. It’s not about the Senator or the Director. The issue is one of structural injustice against the Chinese, African-Americans, women, etc.

Could it be true?

I have no idea. I can say with confidence, however, that it is no more likely to be true than it is likely to be true that the American government solicits American students studying in China and American businessmen working in China to provide it with information that the Chinese government would prefer to keep confidential.

The more relevant questions are why does it matter, and, even if true, what can be done about it?

The answer to the first question, as I noted in my own recent book, We, Ourselves, and Us: Creating a More Just and Prosperous America, is that it doesn’t really matter. The reality of modern technology and our shrinking world is that we should assume there are no secrets anymore. There is no digital security that can stop determined hackers with time on their hands. We can slow them down, but, by definition, there can be no digital technology that can’t be compromised. Only human creativity cannot be reprised or definitively explained and replicated. Digital technology, including AI, is built on mathematics. Some problems can be difficult to solve, but there is no structural reason they won’t be.

The only effective way to prevent the harm of information theft is voluntary self-restraint. And since what is “secret”, and what is “fake”, or intended to harm, we now know, can be very difficult to police ahead of time, the only self-restraint that ultimately matters is not the self-restraint of willful ignorance, but the self-restraint to use the knowledge responsibly (i.e., Not to exploit or harm others with it.).

In another worthy new book, The Common Good (Knopf, February 20, 2018), former Secretary of Labor, Robert B. Reich, notes, “Not only does the common good exist, but it is essential for a society to function. Without voluntary adherence [emphasis added] to a set of common notions about right and wrong, daily life would be insufferable. We would be living in a jungle where only the strongest, cleverest, and most wary could hope to survive. This would not be a society. It wouldn’t even be a civilization, because there would be no civility at its core.”

He is absolutely right. And as I further argue in We, Ourselves, and Us, the “rugged individualism” that has been popularly idealized as both uniquely American and the key to American leadership is not a viable cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the 21st Century. That is not to say we should give up on the individual or do any less to protect individual rights and freedoms. It is to say, however, that technology has both complicated and integrated our world to an extent that we can no longer avoid measuring progress and success in terms of the collective good.

If science has revealed anything about the universe it is that we are all in this together in the most literal sense. We can no longer afford to think of the global ecosystem, for example, in local terms of a prairie here and a rain forest over there. Each is an integrated part of a global climate, the health of which is defined by the balance achieved among all local environments.

And so it is with global social justice and our shared global security. We need to stop thinking in terms of ‘who is doing what to me’ and start thinking in terms of how we can together promote our common good.

One place to start is for politicians to stop asking provocative questions that ultimately serve no useful purpose except to reinforce structural injustice. We should stop worrying so much about what the Chinese government is doing and put more effort into giving it every reason to want to see our collective global success.

photo credit: iStock.com/pkujiahe


My newest book, We, Ourselves, and Us: Creating a More Just and Prosperous America, is now available on Amazon in paperback (click here) and Kindle (click here) versions.

If you read any of my books and like them  I would greatly appreciate it if you will take the time to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or whatever book site you enjoy. Thank you in advance.

Year of the Dog

illustration credit: iStock.com/difinbeker

The Chinese New Year, often called the Lunar New Year, begins on Friday, February 16, 2018. Last year it began on Saturday, January 28, 2017.

The Chinese refer to it as the Spring Festival and it is, above all else, a time for celebrating the family. That, in turn, leads to the biggest human migration on the planet. Over the official 40-day travel period, according to the National Development and Reform Commission, the Chinese will take 3 billion distinct trips utilizing every form of transportation known to humanity. More than 390 million Chinese will travel by train alone, the equivalent of putting every man, woman, and child in America—and then some—on a train in a period of six weeks.

The US and most countries in the West follow the Gregorian calendar, created in 1582 by a slight modification to the Julian calendar in order to bring the date of Christian Easter in line with the date chosen by the First Council of Nicaea in 325. China adopted the Gregorian calendar as its official calendar in 1912, but Chinese culture and its holidays continue to be based on the Chinese calendar, sometimes called the Han calendar.

The Chinese calendar is neither a lunar calendar nor a solar calendar. It is a lunisolar calendar, defined by both the lunar phases and the solar seasons. The Chinese New Year falls on the second new moon following the winter solstice. Which means, if you do the math, the New Year can fall no later than February 19 and no sooner than January 21.

Most Westerners recognize that the Chinese years are each associated with one of the twelve animals of the zodiac. We’re leaving the Year of the Rooster and entering the Year of the Dog.

But it’s actually a little more complicated than that. The Chinese calendar, in fact, works on a 60-year sexagenary cycle. Each year is assigned two component designations. The first is the Celestial or Heavenly Stem, which are consecutive yin and yang versions of the 5 elements – wood, fire, earth, metal, water – and the second is the Terrestial or Earthly Branch corresponding to the 12 animals of the zodiac. Taken together these provide 10-year and 12-year cycles that run concurrently, resulting in a net 60-year cycle. (Sixty is the first number to be evenly divisible by both 10 and 12.)

Technically, therefore, this will be the Year of the Yang Earth Dog, which last occurred in 1958. Anyone born in that year will celebrate living for one life cycle, making the 60th birthday one of the most important in Chinese culture.

So, what can we expect in the year of the dog? Due to its yang component, the dog will have masculine energy this year, but feminine and masculine, as they relate to yin and yang, are not sexual. Masculine energy is more like what you’d expect from your typical house dog—barking at the window one second and sound asleep on the couch the next.
Given the inherent erraticism of the dog, it’s best not to chase the extremes but to connect to the center by studying hard, spending time with family, taking care on the job, and connecting to your inner self.

Good advice, but not likely to be followed by our friends in Washington. We can probably expect them to bounce from one crisis to the next for most of the year. The only saving grace is that the dog is not known for emotional stamina. Emotions will flare, die quickly away, and flare again. It may seem like a siege in the end, but rest assured that better days are coming.

This year, in fact, is really a setup for next year, the Year of the Yin Earth Pig. If we steady ourselves this year, it should be a year of light festivity and relaxation. While pigs are not considered intelligent by the Chinese, they are considered lucky. And it will all begin on February 5, 2019.

And what about all the red? Well, the legend has it that the Nian, the mythical monster that lived in the mountains, would come down into the village every New Year’s Eve to feast on the children. One year, however, one little boy was wearing red and the Nian left him alone. Voila, red it is!


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It’s a Stumper – Or Not

photo credit: iStock.com/vandervelden

If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats onboard, how old is the ship’s captain?

This question made the rounds on the Internet recently. It went viral in the US, where netizens, one after another, marveled at the fact that such a difficult question had been given to 5th grade students in China. Is this some kind of new Chinese math?

It took me a minute, but having spent nine years living and working in China I got the answer fairly quickly. My Chinese wife got it immediately. (As I knew she would.)

The answer? There isn’t one. Or, more accurately, there are many. There is no single answer.

And, no, this isn’t a joke. My wife didn’t even smile. She just answered the question and left the room, after reading the original Chinese and verifying for me that the translation was accurate.

This question is the perfect explanation for why the future of technology is likely to belong to the Chinese and not Silicon Valley. Or maybe not.

The reason this school gave this question to fifth-graders is that there is concern among Chinese educators that Chinese culture fails to instill students with enough curiosity. And curiosity, they believe, is critical to achievement in a technologically advanced world. When I ran a glass factory in China I had the same concern. They’re right, but they’re wrong.

Chinese culture is built on a very inductive worldview. Inductive logic moves from right to left, from observation to speculation. That is why Confucius said, “Wherever you go, there you are,” and that makes all the sense in the world to the average Chinese fifth grader. (Ask your American fifth grader what Confucius meant.)

American culture, in contrast, is built on a deductive worldview. Deductive logic is the logic behind the scientific method and moves from left to right. For every cause there is an effect, and according to the laws of science it is the same every time. (In truth, it is not. Science is really about probabilities, not absolute truths.)

To put it in terms of the modern world, the machines in the glass plant I managed in China cost millions of dollars to build and were immensely complex. And when they broke down the Chinese mechanics at this plant could fix them in a fraction of the time that it took the mechanics at other plants around the world, including those in the US, to fix the exact same machine.

If you were to ask the Chinese mechanics what happened, however, they would surely respond: “The machine broke down.” And that drove our Western mechanics crazy. “Don’t they understand how important it is to understand why the machine broke down so that we can prevent it from happening again?” they would demand of me. The implication, of course, was, “What are you teaching them?” (BTW, this is where prejudice comes from, but that’s another topic.)

But the Chinese mechanics were, in fact, teaching me. “They don’t care why it broke down because while they were working to get it running again a different machine broke down and they felt it was a better use of their time to go fix the second machine than to waste a lot of time trying to answer a question that may have no answer or which more than likely has an answer the knowledge of which will do nothing to prevent it from happening in the future.”

American companies are infatuated with process because of their deductive worldview. And process can be a very good thing. It can also lead to excessive bureaucracy, a lot of extra costs, and terrible customer service. Process isn’t bad per so, but it can be.

So, too, can a lack of curiosity. Which is exactly what the Chinese educators were getting at with their question. They just wanted their fifth-graders to think about it. Instead of immediately assuming there is no answer, as older Chinese like my wife would be inclined to do, they wanted the students to wonder if there, in fact, might be a knowable answer.

So which way is better? Neither, of course. As in all things in life and the universe the truth is not binary. Real knowledge lies in the balance between the two extremes. In Silicon Valley they refer to these digital options as 0 and 1 (on and off). In China they refer to the same duality as yin and yang.

If you saw this question on the Internet you probably saw it referred to as a math problem. But it’s not. In fact, the Chinese character for math appears nowhere on the original document provided to the fifth graders. It is only we Americans who feel obligated to define it as a certain type of problem. And suggesting it is a math problem, of course, further reinforces the false assumption that there must be a solution.

To date, Silicon Valley has won the technology race, in large part, because a bunch of college dropouts were incredibly curious. And they quickly figured out that the 0’s and 1’s at the heart of the new technology is all about patterns. That’s what computer coding is, and Americans (and more than a few Chinese) proved very good at working with such binary patterns.

No one, however, will ever be better at working with patterns than the machines built from them. They are, after all, bigger and faster when it comes to patterns. It’s not in their DNA; it is their DNA. And, of course, as a result it is virtually inevitable that smart machines will soon program themselves. (They already are.) Being a computer coder will be about as valuable as being an expert blacksmith.

The economic race will then become not a coding challenge, but a race to tell them what to do, and, very importantly, to make sure they don’t do evil things; because, of course, neither a 0 nor a 1 knows what good and evil are.

Of course, curiosity will be a very valuable thing indeed in this digital world. What can I do with this technology? What is that machine basing its answers on? Does this make sense? Or is this machine acquiring a racist perspective?

Curiosity, however, will only have value until it doesn’t. And the inevitable truth is that sometimes it will and sometimes it won’t. To even understand the problem and the opportunity, in other words, people will have to think holistically. They can’t think in the simple terms of left to right or right to left.

Right now the Chinese have the edge in training their students for that day. Chinese educators fully recognize that the student of the future needs to be both inductive and deductive. They must think bi-directionally.

Some American educators, I have to believe, understand the same thing. Their challenge is the same one, although it comes at the problem from the opposite direction.

The problem is that most American business, and virtually all American politicians, don’t recognize that a problem even exists. To them it’s all about their very simple and one-dimensional perspective on truth.

Think about it.

And while you’re thinking about it, consider reading my latest book: We, Ourselves, and Us: Creating a More Just and Prosperous America. It’s now available on Amazon.

It’s a book about the age of the captain on a ship holding 26 sheep and 10 goats. Or is it 26 goats and 10 sheep? Or two captains, perhaps, one of whom happen to be ______.

I guarantee my book will be worth your time. And if you agree, I would greatly appreciate it if you take the time to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or whatever book site you enjoy. (It’s a binary world, after all. Authors, like everyone else, live by their clicks—whether they’re sheep or goats.)

click here to go to Amazon now

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

photo credit: iStock.com/skodonnell

Author Gary Moreau, aka Avam Hale in fiction

Exactly one year ago, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech to the United Nations office in Geneva, entitled, Work Together to Build a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind. It was collective in its vision: “China is ready to work with all the other UN member states as well as international organizations and agencies to advance the great cause of building a community with a shared future for mankind.” And it was long term in its perspective: “Building a community with a shared future is an exciting goal, and it requires efforts from generation after generation.” The sentiment would later be enshrined in a formal resolution at the 55th UN Commission for Social Development, as “a human community with shared destiny”

Jump ahead one year to January 26, 2018, and United States President Donald Trump spoke to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, at its annual conference of the heaviest of the heavy hitters in global politics and business. The man elected on the simple platform of “Make America Great Again” (MAGA), like Xi Jinping before him, delivered his vision for the future of the world.

Trump opened with the warning that “I’m here to represent the interests of the American people…” And, as expected, most of the speech was devoted to his personal contribution to “helping every American find their path to the American dream.” Specifically he spoke to the surging stock market, job creation, small business confidence, deregulation, and, of course, “…the most significant tax cuts and reform in American history.” (Which, on a side note, is not true.) As you would expect from the MAGA president, it was all about America, and, not surprisingly, him. After all, MAGA has everything to do with individuals, he being the biggest and most powerful “I” among them, and almost nothing to do with “human community,” as President Xi described it.

Trump’s would have been the perfect speech had it been delivered by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a fellow Republican, in the 1950s. It would have been even more appropriate, in fact, given Eisenhower’s military fame, and the fact that the only references Trump made to the US’ role in the world had to do with our self-appointed role as the world’s policeman, and “making historic investments in the American military”, already the world’s largest, costing $1,900 per year for every man, woman, and child in America, at a time when 80 million Americans have little or no health insurance.

Other accomplishments noted by Trump were “eliminating 22 burdensome regulations for every new one,” “…no longer turning a blind eye to unfair economic practices overseas,” and “lifting self-imposed restrictions on energy production,” even though all restrictions are self-imposed and according to the laws of the universe energy is not produced, but merely transformed (and thus fixed in quantity). And, of course, insuring that all nations “contribute their fair share” to the cost of the American agenda.

All told, Trump’s individualist agenda was summed up by this simple claim: “When the United States grows, so does the world.” Perhaps unconsciously, it was the exact same sentiment that Charles Wilson (1890-1961), the CEO of General Motors, made during his confirmation hearings as Secretary of Defense under Eisenhower. When asked about a potential conflict of interest between the interests of the US and GM, he is rumored to have said, “What is good for GM is good for the country.”

The world of today, however, is not the world of the 1950s. The world’s population has expanded three fold, from 2.5 billion people at the end of World War II to 7.5 billion people today, even thought the world’s land mass and its inherent ability to sustain life have not changed at all. As a result, the earth’s climate is changing, in less than desirable ways, and clean air and clean water are among the world’s most precious resources, and disappearing fast.

Technology has made the world smaller and virtually eliminated the concept of local communication and debate. Information flows to a far wider audience but is transmitted by global super-monopolies like Facebook and Google, who rule the world by algorithms that are developed with their own inevitable bias but remain virtually unregulated.

In short, this is not the 1950s. And any desire to turn back the world clock in search of that era is sure to fail. People and technology cannot simply be put back in the bottle. That would require the type of totalitarian dystopia that Orwell wrote about and the Great Generation had just sacrificed countless lives to vanquish.

The author’s new book will be released on February 15, 2018. Reserve your copy now.

The U.S. Constitution, one of the most famous documents in global political history, begins with the words, “We the people.” Yet it is “Me the individual,” that Donald Trump embodies and best represents the America of 2018. My identity, my rights, my tax cut, my income, my freedom—whether it’s my freedom to own assault weapons or my freedom to marry who I like—are at the heart of both the conservative and liberal political agendas.

The conservatives want to pull the rest of us along through individual exceptionalism. The progressives want to push us along through the acceptance and inclusion of all micro-group identity. Neither, however, will work, because both are built on the notion of an individualized world that simply doesn’t exist any more. Both would have been legitimate competing worldviews in the 1950s. Both are obsolete today.

Whether we want it or not, we will face the “shared future” that President Xi Jinping referenced more than one year ago. We will not have the option to choose who will be a part of that community. We all will. Whether you are a Dreamer, a Tea Party supporter, a member of the Rainbow Coalition, a misogynist or a feminist, a white supremacist or a believer that Black Lives Matter, will not matter in the end. We will be forced to live as a single, global community, consuming resources that are fixed by the laws of the universe.

We really only have two choices: 1. We can kill each other. (Or die trying.) 2. We can turn “Me” into “We.”

We have, of course, been here before. Eisenhower and the Great Generation faced the very same dilemma. And, unfortunately, following the great tragedy of World War I and the even greater human tragedy that followed, as the victors sought revenge on the losers, the “we” side of the option ultimately morphed into brutal forms of fascism and communism. They, in turn, gave us the Nazis, the Holocaust, the gulags of the Soviet Union, and the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge.

As a result, many of today’s most ardent individualists believe that any form of collectivism is, as the 20th Century seemed to show, inherently flawed and will only lead to brutal totalitarianism. That, however, is simply not true.

More importantly, however, it doesn’t matter if it is or not. Whatever form of individualism we pursue, the elite, however that is defined, will be forced to squash the many in the fight for limited resources. One percent of the world’s population already controls more than half of the world’s wealth. What will happen when it controls 90%? (And it will, if nothing changes.)

What will happen, in contrast, if the coalition of oppressed micro-identities overthrows the oppressors? All will be well, of course, if the former oppressors all accept a new micro-identity. But what if they don’t? And what about human psychology suggests that they will?

We may not agree with Presdient Xi Jinping’s politics. We can’t, however, plausibly deny his vision of a shared future. An economically and militarily elite America will not and can not pull the world along. A progressively elite America, even if elected, and even if it is truly inclusive, cannot push the world along.

We’re not in Kansas anymore. And the sooner we realize that the less pain we will be forced to endure.

Note: Author Gary Moreau was recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Global Leader for Tomorrow in its inaugural class of 1993.

You may contact the author at gary@gmoreau.com
Visit my personal blog at www.gmoreau.com

Follow on Twitter @gmoreaubooks

Summary for We, Ourselves, and Us:

In this new guide to American politics and economics, Gary Moreau wants to turn the “I” into “We.” As he argues in We, Ourselves, and Us, Americans’ cultural sense of individualism is hindering rather than helping the country. Moreau instead argues for a change to political, economic, and social systems to refocus them on the collective good. As he proposes this important change, Moreau argues that

  • both major political parties are offering ineffective solutions to the problem,
  • the model America was based on is no longer realistic for a modern society,
  • both communism and socialism fail because they are still based on the idea of individuality,
  • the unequal flow of power is responsible for a prejudiced and unbalanced society,
  • the concepts of obligation and self-interest are intrinsically connected,
  • individual advancement means nothing without collective advancement, and
  • all of society is interconnected in nuanced and important ways.

Moreau does not equate collectivism with communism or other political movements. He isn’t arguing for the elimination of private property or other drastic changes. Instead, he simply gives you a new way of viewing systems of power and important suggestions that could lead to satisfactory results for the entire nation.


CES Update: Google Expands in China

photo credit: iStock.com/tomch

Author Gary Moreau, aka Avam Hale in fiction

On January 11, 2018, I posted “Consumer Electronics Show”, in which I gave some dimension to China’s importance to American tech and offered my assessment that China, for the reasons stated in the post, would be a major player in the future global tech industry. And, yes, this prognosis was very different from the one I provided in 2015, when I wrote Understanding China: There is Reason for the Difference. And, of course, I provided the reason for the change of heart.

Five days after I released that post, Google announced it was opening an office in Shenzhen, China, the center of the hardware manufacturing universe, just across the river from Hong Kong. And a few days after that Google announced a broad patent sharing agreement with Chinese tech giant Tencent, the $500 billion parent of China’s top social media and payment app, WeChat.

This, of course, all comes on the heels of Google’s previous announcement of a new AI research center in Beijing, where the software side of China’s tech business is growing rapidly, in part due to the presence of many of China’s top universities there. And, of course, the symbolism of Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai speaking at a conference in China, back in December, hosted by the Cyberspace Administration of China, which overseas Internet censorship in China, where Google’s search engine, as I write this, remains blocked.

In addition to providing some support for my prognosis, these announcements have triggered some additional thoughts that only reinforce my conviction in that previous prediction.

It is difficult for Westerners, and Americans in particular, to appreciate the role of the Chinese government in the economy. If your company does not maintain good relations with the government, you simply won’t succeed there. And it’s not enough to simply do what they ask you to do. If you want to succeed, you must be pro-active, and you must convince the government that you are a good partner. That means you have empathy for the job it faces and you share its goals for model corporate citizenship.

As my faithful readers know by now, I believe the universe is ultimately defined by dualities. For every pro there is a con, for every cloud there is a silver lining, for every yin there is a yang. Reality, as a result, is not so much defined by the dimensions of the two sides of that duality as it is by the degree to which equilibrium is established between them.

American business people look at the role of the government in the Chinese economy and immediately think oppressive regulation, bureaucracy, long delays, and, of course, bribery. And, of course, all of these things can exist. That is not to say, however, that they must exist, and, in fact, my nine-year experience there convinced me that while these concerns are realistic, they do not define the current reality. I found the government facilitated my business more than it hindered it and not once did my company pay a bribe, nor was one ever solicited.

And, yes, I am experienced enough to know that a government official looking for a little grease is not going to ask me, a foreigner, directly. If an official is corrupt it doesn’t mean he or she is stupid. Which is why every quarter I personally reviewed each and every cash disbursement made by my company, from the payment of invoices to the reimbursement of travel expenses, to the replenishment of the petty cash fund. If you are looking for fraud, that’s where you will find it. And I found none.

In the case of Google and the tech industry you have to look at the positive side of the government duality issue. In the fast moving tech industry, a government alliance is not a strategy for risk avoidance; it’s a strategy for gaining competitive advantage in the global tech industry.

That is because, unlike the US, China, like many developed countries, including Germany, has a very well defined national industrial strategy. The policy defines those industries where it sees the most positive growth potential, in fitting with the country’s social and political agendas, of course, which serves as a blueprint for both corporate leaders and government regulators. It’s totally transparent and insures that everyone is singing from the same song sheet.

The US, by contrast, leaves its national industrial policy up to the “free markets.” The US, in other words, lets the corporations decide, based on the theory that they will be guided by Adam Smith’s invisible hand of profits to do what, in the end, is in the best interest of the country and its citizens.

Like a lot of our political and economic theory today, unfortunately, that’s not the way things really work. The US has an industrial policy; it’s just not transparent. It is defined by politicans, corporate lobbyists, and special interests behind closed doors. This is one of the main reasons that the rich continue to get richer in the US. They are the only ones with access to real political power because they are the ones with the money that politicians need to remain in power. We don’t call it bribery, so that we can claim the moral high ground, but it is bribery of the worst kind—both distortive and clandestine. (I was a CEO and board member in the US as well as China, so this is not conjecture.)

Google has apparently seen the light. (Microsoft saw the light years ago but it learned some very hard lessons before it did.) They recognize that China is the world’s second largest economy, with 1.4 billion citizens who are the earliest of early-adopters, and which, if you have good government relations, is going to be the fastest moving playing field on the planet. As I noted last time this is because, if you make the national priority list, which tech sits atop of, your regulatory and legal problems will largely disappear. The government will clear the runway in the way that only a government can. In the meantime, the young bucks of Silicon Valley will be trudging through the quagmire of preventing “fake news” and fighting it out in court over who owns what intellectual property rights.

When it comes to China, Americans have been trained to see the glass, particularly when the government is involved, as half full. In reality, the opposite is true. A partnership with the Chinese government will not only set up your company to succeed in China, it will set you up to dominate the global market for tech or any other favored industry.

The world has changed. It is smaller and more crowded. But more importantly, technology has been a game-changer. And one of the things it has changed most dramatically is the integration and complexity of the political, economic, and social systems we use to govern the country. We can no longer think of them in discrete, independent terms.

Environmental scientists used to think of our environment as a collection of discrete ecosystems. We had a prairie here, a polar ice cap there, and a rain forest a long way away. They now recognize, however, that these are not discrete. They are all part of a single global ecosystem that is intricately interconnected. Yes, climate change can lead to huge snowstorms and record-breaking cold temperatures along the US eastern coastline. That doesn’t mean the climate isn’t changing. It just means that the global environment is more inter-connected than we ever imagined.

Other areas of science have discovered the same thing. The various branches of hard and soft science (e.g., biology and economics) were once studied and researched as discrete subjects. Today, however, the real science is being done in areas like evolutionary biology and behavioral economics. The knowledge of how the world works is found not within the functionally discrete pockets of science, but in the overlaps that pull them all together into one inter-connected reality.

I’ve actually written a book about it. It’s called We, Ourselves, and Us: Creating a More Just and Prosperous American and it will soon be available on Amazon in print and Kindle versions. It is not a book about China. It is a book about how to leverage our individual liberties and opportunities into a new model of political economy that emphasizes our collective advancement as a country and a just, inclusive society.

Here’s the text from the back cover:

The phrase “We the people” is the start of one of the most famous documents in American history, yet few have paused to consider what it truly means. In his new political guide, Gary Moreau ponders this expression and the change it could represent for our society. America has long perpetuated an idea of rugged individuality and exceptionalism. The “we” in society has been replaced with “me.”

Moreau explains why this notion is simply untenable for America. America has gone through some growing pains in the past two hundred years, and Moreau believes that society’s refusal to cast off some of its original, ineffective methods is a pressing issue. Instead, they should be replaced with a model focused on providing for the collective good.

The world is changing, and for America to continue to be the land of happiness and prosperity, it needs to change with it.

The release date is February 15, 2018, but that is subject to change as the design process wraps up. In the meantime I am offering 25 free copies of the book in either paperback or Kindle formats. Just send your name and address to gary@gmoreau.com with the subject line “Free Book” and I’ll send it out as soon as it is available. First come, first served. For print versions, US addresses only, please, and for the Kindle version you must have a US e-mail address and access to Amazon US. (I don’t need your physical address if you are requesting a free Kindle copy, and I promise not to sell any of your contact info or use it for any other purpose.)


You may contact the author at gary@gmoreau.com
Visit my personal blog at www.gmoreau.com

Follow on Twitter @gmoreaubooks

Consumer Electronics Show

Author Gary Moreau, aka Avam Hale in fiction

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicked off this past Tuesday in Las Vegas. Media coverage is dominating the business, tech, and lifestyle news cycle in virtually every format.

The Chinese have a big presence there, as they have for the last decade or more. There are about 1,500 Chinese tech companies in Vegas, collectively accounting for about one-third of all of the booths at the show.

Industry giants like Baidu and Alibaba, the parent of e-tailing giant, Taobao, which did $25 billion in retail volume during one 24-hour period this past November 11, are there, of course, along with numerous Chinese startups that you’ve never heard of. One Chinese company, Iflytek, which specializes in AI translation, introduced a real-time translator that works as well as the most proficient human translators.

Driverless car technology, as expected, is everywhere. Royole, a Shenzhen-based company with engineering teams in 16 countries, and a leader in human-machine interface technologies that introduced the world’s first curved car dashboard in 2016, unveiled the completion of a $1.7 billion production campus for its flexible display technology in China.

The big Chinese star this year, however, is Byton, an electric car unveiled at CES that is expected to sell for $45,000 and be the Chinese equivalent of Tesla. Suning, a Chinese electronics retail giant, also opened the first fully automated retail store in the US. The new store, in Las Vegas, is a further rollout of the five it already operates in China.

Tech, of course, continues to further dominate the way we live, work, and learn in ways that none of us could have imagined even a short time ago. While I have historically been a late-adopter of all things technical I actually ended up with an Echo device over the holidays because I bought one for each of my daughters and Amazon, marketing geniuses that they are, was running a promotion on a pack of three. So far I’ve only used it about ten times more than I thought I would, and I have yet to spend any time learning how to apply it. It even responds to my wife, who speaks with a heavy Chinese accent but can use Alexa for audible translation into English.

And where does China fit in? Of course, China makes virtually all of the hardware, but that’s not where the real money is. Or the influence. Silicon Valley is still the center of that universe, for now.

A Kirkus Reviews Book of the Year for 2017.

When I wrote Understanding China: There is Reason for the Difference, I honestly had my doubts as to China’s ability to lead the tech charge. And since the machines will ultimate build themselves, being the tech factory to the world didn’t seem all that alluring.

That reservation was built on the observation that as a result of their inductive worldview and the rote nature of their education system, the Chinese I encountered did not exhibit the same level of raw curiosity that I had witnessed in the best-run American companies, and I thought that might hold them back.

But I’ve changed my mind. Completely, in fact. And my reasoning has more to do with a better understanding of what drives tech than anything else. I now believe that the Chinese are ideally situated to dominate the tech universe of the 21st Century. It will take time for the Chinese to develop the brand confidence that is so essential at the early-adopter stage, which we’re still in, but they will get there, just as the Japanese got there in automobiles following a pretty weak start in the 1960s, when their car brands were synonymous with poor quality.

One obvious advantage the Chinese have is that the education system, which is changing, but still largely rote-oriented, puts a big emphasis on the STEM subjects. Chinese culture puts a big emphasis on education, moreover, and the Chinese university system is putting out roughly 8 million graduates per year, each of whom has gained nothing quite so much as they have learned discipline and hard work. Chinese students in general, and university students in particular, must survive a daunting school schedule that leaves little time for much else, but prepares them well for the grind of the modern workplace.

And, of course, there are roughly 300,000 Chinese students currently attending American universities, and an equal number, or more, attending universities in Canada, the UK, and Australia, as well as virtually every country in Europe. Some of those will stay overseas when they graduate but many will return to China and join their classmates who stayed home to go to school to form a truly internationally-trained workforce.

Anyone who has ever worked or lived in China also knows that there is such a thing as “China time”, a greatly accelerated time line that is impossible to comprehend until you witness it. They accomplish in days what other countries struggle years to achieve. Part of that is a function of the work ethic, but Americans work hard, too. American companies, however, reflecting the deductive worldview of Western culture, are consumed with process, which helps to insure consistency and sustainability, but at the expense of bureaucracy and rigidity. The inductive Chinese, by contrast, are laser-focused on results, and far less infatuated with the process employed to get there.

Tech, of course, works to an accelerated clock that is only going to accelerate faster and faster as machines get better and better at learning and one breakthrough is quickly leveraged into a dozen more in the blink of an eye. The Chinese will be very comfortable working at warp speed and juggling many balls in the air at one time. American business will continue to excel once they get their processes developed and in place, but when the landscape is changing that rapidly, speed will be the ultimate competitive weapon.

Chinese companies will also benefit from a much more business-friendly regulatory environment in China. Unlike the US, China has a very clear national industrial policy and tech is at the head of their list of priorities. That alone will remove a lot of regulatory hurdles and delays. When Chinese tech companies are ready to test new technologies in real-world environments, they will face far fewer regulatory delays and will be able to be in live tests in a matter of days.

China, as well, is far less legalistic, of course, and while that may hinder development in some arenas, it will be a big advantage as new technologies totally redefine the legal boundaries of ownership and property rights. American companies, by comparison, are sure to get bogged down in the courts as obligations and rights are resorted through the new paradigm of technology, where ideas dominate, and where one begins and another ends is often a matter of perspective.

I actually believe, however, that China’s big advantage in tech will be one that will surely surprise you and that I, frankly, hadn’t even considered until recently. That advantage—hold your hat—is the Communist Party of China, or, more specifically, the collectivist environment in which the Chinese tech pioneers of today have been raised.

America is the home of rugged individualism, and that perspective has served it well. To date, the US has clearly been the center of the tech universe, largely on the back of young, independent entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Rishi Shah, and the once younger Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin.

By definition, tech is built on collaboration and a collective perspective to personal rights and ownership. There is a duality to everything—or a yin and a yang, as the Chinese would put it. American business has benefited from a strong legal system and its protection of intellectual property in the past. The idea economy, however, is sure to blur the historically clean lines of IP ownership and protection and the courts are sure to become a quagmire of commercial suits and counter-suits as the tech giants and bankers battle it out. The Chinese will face no such burden.

I recently saw an interview with 26 year-old Dai Wei, the founder of bike sharing company Ofo Inc. The company has already raised $1.3 billion in startup capital and was expected to have 20 million of its yellow bikes on the streets by the end of 2017. Dai Wei is typical of the Chinese young tech entrepreneurs, and in many ways could not be more different than his Silicon Valley counter-parts.

Dai Wei attended Peking University, the Harvard of China, where he surely got a world-class education and probably paid virtually nothing thanks to government largesse. After graduating, however, he joined a government teaching program sponsored by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China and went to Dongxia township in rural Qinghai Province to teach math to poor middle school and high school students. He cycled 17 kilometers from his dormitory to work each day along dirt mountain paths, the only way in and out of the village. He would later return to Beijing to earn his masters degree and start his ride sharing company.

When the interviewer asked Dai Wei who actually owned the bicycles that the company leases for 1 yuan (about $.15) per ride, he seemed perplexed by the question. “No one owns them,” he finally answered. “They don’t belong to anyone, but all of us may use them.” It’s hard to imagine many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, in the their mad scramble to become the next youngest tech billionaire, or the venture capitalists lining up to cash in on them, would share such a perspective, either in terms of career path or the ownership of bicycles.

There are some in the tech world who do share a collectivist utopian vision of the tech future. But that does not appear to be the direction the country is heading. Progressives, conservatives, and libertarians alike all see the world through a decidedly individual prism. They come at the issues from different directions, but they all end up at ME. Whether it’s the individual’s right to be free of the government, or the individual’s right to the government’s protection and support, their worldviews are not collective.

Eventually, I believe, the US will have to adopt more of a we-centric socio-economic-political system if we want to maintain the American Dream and make it available to all Americans regardless of race, country of birth, gender, or sexual identity. I am, in fact, writing a new book about it.

In the meantime, enjoy the coverage of CES and the fancy new gadgets being unveiled there. This will be the Year of the Dog in China, an auspicious sign not far below the dragon or the horse in the cosmic pecking order.

The year is already off to an interesting start.

You may contact the author at gary@gmoreau.com
Visit my personal blog at www.gmoreau.com

header photo credit: iStock.com/beer5020

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Cold Temperatures and Spunky Daughters

Author Gary Moreau, aka Avam Hale in fiction

My two daughters, now 14 and 16 years old, live with their mother in Charlotte, North Carolina. They came to visit over the holidays, however, and, as always it was delightful to see them both, despite the frigid temperatures that have engulfed much of the northern US over the last week or so.

Because of the cold temperatures, we decided that shopping would be more appropriate than skiing or ice-skating on their first day here in Michigan. They both had a couple of gift cards that they received as gifts and were eager to spend them, so the plan came together splendidly.

Before leaving home, however, my oldest daughter and I had the following exchange:

“Dad, can I have some money for shopping?”

“I just gave you a gift card. And I know you have others. Why can’t you use them?”

“That’s true, but I have to buy some warmer clothes. And it was your choice to move to Michigan when you moved back from China so it seems only fair that you buy me some warmer clothes given that I’ve only come to Michigan to visit you. Doesn’t quite seem fair that I’d have to spend my gift money on clothes that I don’t really need in North Carolina.”

It was not an atypical conversation. My daughter is brilliant, clever, articulate, and very, very quick on her feet. She would make a first class litigator some day.

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I was, therefore, in no way offended by the conversation. And while I’d like to think I don’t always give in, I thought it was a worthy performance, as it were, and I gave her a modest amount of money to buy some warmer clothes. Frankly, while I try to teach my daughters to be thoughtful, considerate, and respectful of others, particularly their elders, I was rather proud of her spunk.

My Chinese wife, however, while she showed no reaction at the time, was, I would find out later, aghast. She wasn’t angered by the conversation. The parent/child relationship is very special in Chinese culture and my wife wouldn’t presume to insert herself. She was, however, at a total loss to understand my daughter’s logic. She could not fathom a Chinese child ever saying such a thing to his or her own father. It wasn’t so much disrespectful in the Chinese worldview as it was simply beyond comprehension.

Filial piety is at the heart of Confucian obligation and Chinese culture. Aging parents, it is assumed in China, will live with their adult child. While the concept of Chinese obligation does not extend to holding a door open for a stranger or acknowledging a queue, it would be unthinkable for most Chinese to even consider putting a parent in a senior or assisted living home.

Having expressed her bewilderment that evening as we got ready for bed, my wife did not expect an explanation, and I long ago stopped feeling obligated to provide one in such circumstances. In the Chinese worldview many things just are and don’t warrant an explanation. And, in fact, they are often baffled that Americans spend so much time and effort in a futile attempt to explain the inexplicable and largely unimportant.

This, frankly, is one of the ways in which I think Americans and the Chinese can learn from each other. They’re right that we spend far too much time and effort on things that really aren’t all that important. And, as a result, we sometimes fall short on the stuff that really does matter.

On the other hand, it is our scrappy American curiosity and mental agility that has made the US the center of the technology universe. And while it is that same quality that has spawned the legal quagmire that we often find ourselves drowning in as a nation, the ability to articulate and defend your position is one of the most important life skills to have in the shrinking, integrated, and complex world of the 21st Century.

The ability to both project and defend your position is, in fact, increasingly important in the world of commerce and technology, particularly now that functional distinctions are disappearing and collaboration is the hallmark of most successful ventures of every stripe. We all have to sell in a world of ideas and apps. The ability to execute in isolation is rarely enough.

Collaboration, in fact, is essential to just about every profession today, including diplomacy. And, I believe, is the larger lesson that we can take from this little side story of filial piety—or not—into 2018.

When it comes to political leadership, power is really of secondary importance. How a government comes to power is subordinate to how it uses that power. And how it uses that power is typically defined by perceived obligation. As the men or women in power, on whose behalf do the political leaders of a country exercise their power?

Obligation, however, is itself a duality. On the other side of obligation is mutual obligation, or what might be more accurately described as deference. And, of course, deference is likewise a duality. I can defer to you because you have a gun to my head or because I, for whatever reason, choose to.

When the three components of politics and diplomacy—power, obligation, and deference—are in balance, there is peace and the world at least has the opportunity to progress, although there may be other influences (such as the ability to present/defend your ideas) as to how far the world progresses how quickly. When there is imbalance, however, progress stalls, and can, in fact, turn into destruction. (Think North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan—plenty of options.)

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If we define a society in terms of its common governance, we all want to belong to a society in which the three elements of power, obligation, and deference are in relative balance. We might say that it is the most balanced state that best allows the energy of the society to be applied toward collective advancement.

When there is an imbalance, on the other hand, society does not progress because, as is true of all ecosystems in the universe, its energy is consumed with correcting the imbalance. As in the larger universe, balance is the ideal state which all energy seeks.

Of all forms of governance that have existed over the course of history, it can be legitimately argued that American democracy has achieved a relatively high level of balance, which, in turn, allowed its social energy, shaped and directed by strong values of opportunity and achievement, to forge the American Century, from which the US emerged as the lone superpower, the world’s largest economy, and the primary architect of digital commerce and social media.

That is not to say that imbalance did not occur over the last two and one-half centuries. Those periods of imbalance, however, were largely, but by no means completely, corrected. While the Civil War, for example, helped to correct the imbalance resulting from the slave trade, it clearly didn’t abolish slavery per se. It was an important inflection point, to be sure, but it was a nudge in the end. Racism was not eradicated and continues to absorb much of our collective energy in non-productive and destructive ways.

Technology, which has impacted the world in so many ways, has, more than anything else, empowered a heightened awareness of imbalances between power, obligation, and deference around the world. Women, the LGBTQ community, the physically and mentally challenged, the uneducated, and the poor, have always been enslaved, to varying degrees, by the Western white male oligopoly of the modern era. And technology, more than anything else, has made that reality more transparent.

Technology has, however, also raised the stakes of the imbalance. The gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged has grown much wider, and the impact of that gap far more significant.

Consider, for example, in a strictly material way, what it meant to be enslaved in ancient Egypt or the early 19th Century South. There were huge differences in the quality and dignity of life, of course, but nobody had access to modern medicine, indoor plumbing, electricity, or efficient transportation. While the powerful lived in beautiful palaces and manor homes, the fundamental differences were not as great as the difference between the world’s poorest and most oppressed people today and the uber-billionaires who, quite literally, live in a parallel dimension of privacy and privilege.

This fundamental shift, largely caused by technology, has profound implications for governance in today’s inter-connected world. The more advanced an ecosystem is, the more it relies on balance, and the easier it is for that balance to be lost.

All of which leads me to wonder what 2018 will bring. Will we work collaboratively to instill a sense of global balance that just may save the planet and allow the collective “we” to enjoy peace and prosperity? Or will we fall back on traditional norms of power, obligation, and deference, that have historically divided and selectively oppressed us?

If we can learn from each other, as I hope both my wife and daughter can, I am personally optimistic. I am still out forty bucks, but that’s a small price to pay for so much food for thought.

You may contact the author at gary@gmoreau.com
Visit my personal blog at www.gmoreau.com

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The latest in the Understanding Series is now available.
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