Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Business Culture of Newly Capitalist China

Fascinating look at Chinese business culture in the boom years. The article is by James Palmer, who worked in China for years and did a lot of "business" in bars, clubs, and brothels:
Alcohol, food, and sex are fun. But in China, the culture of banquet and brothel has become largely joyless, a business tool chiefly directed at transactional relationships with other men. . .

In private conversation, many businessmen confirm that the process is often a chore. Especially outside of the metropolises, few of the establishments involved are particularly seductive. Instead, there’s a sweaty griminess of wipe-down sheets and 1970s floral wallpaper, as these photos from one small-time scandal show. In classier establishments, Western pin-ups hang in gold-tinted frames. And endless going out is physically wearing; my old boss would take the train, rather than the plane, because travelling “soft sleeper” gave him a rare chance to rest after two or three nights of “entertainment” for work.

But the purpose of these visits isn’t a good time. It’s to cement business and personal ties, binding men together through the power of taboo and mutual self-exposure, or at least the pretense of it. It lets them judge that the others involved in a potential deal are men of the same stripe. . . . Vice serves as a kind of screen, weeding out the rare few who might have moral qualms about future dealings. It tells both sides that they’re playing by the same rules.
Palmer says this behavior has faded of late because of tough anti-corruption campaigns, but still endures.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

So basically it's like the old-school Japanese "business" culture of salarymen, but generally more cheap and seedy?

A bunch of toxic male posturing, pretending to have a bigger and more vivacious appetite than you really do, acting tough and bragging about your business acumen, competitive drinking to see who can hold their liquor and not betray feeling miserable because of it best... all while wearing a hot and uncomfortable tailored suit, and constantly expecting the guy across the table to stab you in the back somehow...

I'm told the Russians use similarly crass and stupid "business" tactics, often refusing to work with people who won't hammer down vodka in dangerous amounts, brag about the prostitutes they've hired or the mistresses they keep, and play pinfinger.