Discover more from Laowai -- Tyler Johnson
Sleeping In The Same Bed, Having Different Dreams...(APEC US-China comments)
8 Recommendations for the US-China Relations -- A Laowai's Perspective
In light of the recent events around the APEC summit in California, I thought it would be relevant to comment on the situation…..
My first thought…..misdirected energy. The ghost of China past. The pomp, the show, the commentary, the mindshare.
The definition of insanity… “doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.” For those people who have spent decades interacting with China, the words are not new, the symbolism is not new, the “win-win” is not new, the shiny object is not new and most importantly the play on the egos are not new. I couldn’t tell if all of this was naiveté on the part of the government officials or a calculated psychological operation meant to distract from the abundance of opportunities in other parts of the world.
With 30+ years of high economic growth and government relations, it’s very likely someone in the chain of government and business have been compromised through the western definition of corruption. Some are useful idiots, some are complacent, and some are blinded by the greed. Whatever the story, the time to move on is upon us. The opportunity lies in the other regions of the world. Accept the shift and move on. Relationships are needed elsewhere.
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In 2019 I published a book called, “The Way of The Laowai: The Importance of International Self-Awareness for Business.” The book outlined 8 lessons I learned living abroad for an extended period of time. These lessons can provide guidance to U.S. elected officials, Think Tanks and private organizations navigating the waves of misunderstandings and obtuse knowledge which are influencing foreign policy.
Many people have no idea about China or any other country outside their zone. It’s human nature to get stuck in your own bubble. Sometimes you need to pop the bubble for a different view. Living in different parts of the world and country can provide enormous benefits in shifting perceptions. Sometimes it’s good to “go native” in order to fully appreciate the world, the people and the why.
There still remains a very limited global knowledge across government entities, think tanks, non-profits, chambers, councils, committees and companies. Awareness and knowledge are the number one issue for today’s leaders.
Leveraging the 8 lessons in the book, I have applied them to the current US-China relationship with ideas and suggestions for ways forward.
Lesson 1 — The world is bigger than you
It’s hard for anyone to look beyond their bubble. Those that do, they find peace knowing they are only a small piece of the global puzzle. The sooner we realize this, the better off we are. For those who have experienced cities with 30M+ people, you quickly realize the complexity of civilization, control, process and opportunity! There is an abundance of opportunity in every corner of the world, perception of that opportunity is in the eyes of the beholder. Leaders should swap places for a year and see what happens!
Lesson 2 — History shapes culture, culture shapes leadership
Every country has a history. Some are hidden, some are open, some are unconsciously projected, some are mysterious, some are ugly and some are catalysts. Regardless of the current interpretation of history, leadership styles represent the cultures in which we live. The mind is shaped by education, work ethic, governance (or lack of), religion, wars, economic activities, trade, dictators, peace mongers, ideologists, gods, love (yes, sex). The human mind can think of some pretty crazy shit! Money makes people do some very crazy shit! Leaders should have history lessons (with passing grades) on their subject matter before they can make decisions and change other peoples lives! Time to open the books!
Lesson 3 — Planning for Creativity
Planning to be creative is like a parent planning for their child to be Einstein. It rarely works to plan…..and always comes with surprises. Creating an environment which promotes common goals, activity and economic upscaling is the best you can do. Control of the outcome is up to the big guy :) Appreciating creative solutions takes bold moves and open mindsets. Resting on our laurels gets us in trouble, stale and stupid! The best things start small and grow with energy and love. Leaders should engage with the community, get dirt on your hands and show up!
Lesson 4 — Grit, Not Fear
Fear is a great motivator. Fear of the unknown. Fear of UFOs. Fear of no food. Fear of dying. Fear of living. Fear of new ways of doing things. Etc., Etc., Etc… Being uncomfortable can be good for the soul. Everyone has different starting points and opportunities. Sometimes it takes grit to make it happen. Grit for the long term, grit for the next generation. Leaders should understand how things work at the transactional level! If you do not have the knowledge, ask someone who does!
Lesson 5 — Be Humble, or Be Humbled
China, “the early bird gets their head cut off!” This is what I was told about leading in a new country. Knowing your environment and having situational awareness is critical for getting things done, building consensus , making decisions, hiring the right talent, and growing relationships. Many of us will never know what it’s like to live, work and play in developing and developed countries. Leaders need to leverage the enormous resources of human knowledge at their disposal! Build a team of experts who have practical knowledge, the solutions will be new!
Lesson 6 — Acceptance
Acceptance may just be the key to the entire story. There is a reason the world has different languages, food, thoughts, borders and business models. People, governments, leaders, and animals do different things in different places. Understanding the why makes us better. Leaders need to accept the fact that business, and the world, works in different ways. Accept and move on! Adapt to the new people, processes and things!
Lesson 7 — Patience
Like most things in life, it is better with age (maybe). In order to do business and operate around the world you have to have patience. Patience for the unexpected. Sometimes the wheels are not always going in the same direction. If one solution doesn’t work, try another. Patience breeds opportunity. Stop playing whack-a-mole!
Lesson 8 — Respect and Empathy
Regardless of where you come from and what you think, respect should be the guiding principle. Actions should match words. In order for the actions to match the words you need to understand the person, place or thing. For some, process and symbolism are the center of the communications. Like telling a story on a stage. Leaders need to communicate, communicate, and communicate again. Regular talks with knowledgeable, practical people would be a wise way to get first hand knowledge of problems and solutions! Learn the art of communication…..verbal…non-verbal!