Posts Tagged ‘business ethics’

Confucianism and Graft 孔教和贿赂

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Sigh! The ignorance and arrogance of Westerners for things Chinese! This is what I found posted on Jan. 26, 2009 on Chem-PM Chinese Business Magazine, written by “admin”:

唉!西方人对中华事物真是又无知又傲慢!我找到这篇文章,刊登在2009年一月26日的 Chem-PM Chinese Business Magazine 网页上,笔者是“管理”:

Whilst the fallout from the Mattel recall still reverberates it is worth reminding ourselves about the endemic culture of corruption that pervades Chinese business… in many senses this is cultural and one should not expect Western values to be so quickly absorbed into mainstream business. With Confucianism putting loyalty to friends first t is no surprise to see an element of “capture” taking place within firms. It is fascinating to read how businesses are being advised to hire geographically dispersed workers to prevent such behavior…

美泰儿玩具的收回仍然在耳边回响时,我们应该提醒自己,中国商界充满了贪污文化在很多方面来说这是文化性的;不能以为西方价值可以这么快就被主流商界吸收。孔教是把忠于朋友放在首位的,所以见到企业里发生一种“擒获”,不应该觉得出乎意料之外。 很有趣,阅读到人们对各企业建议,要防止这种行为,就得聘请来自散布于各地区的工人

…Ιt іs еven harder to dеal wіth lowеr-lеvel shadiness, ѕuch аs a secretary booking a flight for hеr boѕs аnd thеn getting a payment from thе travel аgent, or a receptionist getting pаid to rеfer nеw enquiries to a rіval fіrm.

处理底层的不轨行为,例如秘书为上司订了飞机票,旅行社就送钱给她,或接待员受赂,把询问者介绍去竞争对手公司等,就更加困难。

I wrote the following comment:

I strongly disagree with your assertion that Confucianism means loyalty to family and friends first, and obeying the law is optional. Of the five traditional Confucian Cardinal Relations (wu lun), that between the government and the citizen comes first, before any other. So treating compliance with the law as optional is not an example of how China operates according to Confucianism, but is instead an example of how far modern China has strayed from Confucianism. As for the secretary taking a kickback from the travel agency she books with, graft is graft and embezzlement is embezzlement, Chinese or not. Again, Confucianism is quite clear on this: honesty and trustworthiness ranks extremely high on Confucian tenets, and again the prevalence of graft is just another example of how far modern China has strayed from Confucianism.

我写下这个评语:

我强烈反对你的断言,说孔教就是首先忠于家庭和朋友,而遵守法律是可以任意选择的。传统孔教的五个基本关系(五伦)中的第一个,就是政府与公民(君臣)的关系,比其他关系都排先。把遵守法律看作是可以任意选择的,不是中国沿着孔教运行的例子,而是现代中国脱离了孔教多么遥远的例子。至于秘书从订飞机票的旅行社拿到回扣,贿赂就是贿赂,盗窃就是盗窃,中国与否都一样。孔教对此很清楚,诚实和守信在孔教信条中地位非常崇高,而贿赂的风行只不过证明了现代的中国是多么严重地脱离了孔教。

Go here for more exposition of the true Confucian position on honesty and trustworthiness.

请到这里观看孔教对诚实和守信的立场。

- Feng Xin-ming 冯欣明


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To Succeed in America One Must Be Honest
要在美国成功就要诚实

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Here’s some advice I gave to a young man who’s just moving to the USA from another country: “You can succeed in America if you are hard working, capable, and honest.” He said, “I can understand the hard working and capable, but why honest?” I said, “People here in the USA really hate dishonesty, at least people who are of a higher class. Some lower class people in America, like some lower class people everywhere, may not place much importance on honesty, but most higher-class people in America for sure place great importance on it. If they find out you’ve been dishonest to them, they just won’t deal with you any more. You know, people wonder why they get passed over for promotions, when they’ve been hard-working and capable, but that may be why – they may not have been 100% honest when dealing with other people…”

我对一位即将由另一个国家迁移到美国的青年人说:“如果你勤力、能干、诚实,则可以在美国成功。”他说,“我可以理解勤力和能干,但是为什么诚实呢?”我说,“美国这里,人们很憎恨不诚实,最少高上阶层的人们是这样。有些低下阶层的人们,好像其他地方的有些低下阶层一样,可能不很重视诚实,但美国多数高上阶层的人则非常重视。如果他们发现你曾对他们不诚实,他们会不再跟你交易。有些人不明白为什么勤力能干,仍然得不到升职,这就可能是原因:他们待人接物可能没有百分之百诚实。”

So, to succeed in America, be honest. Don’t exaggerate, don’t misrepresent, don’t bend things. If someone asks you something you don’t want to tell him, just say so, “Sorry, I can’t tell you that” or “Ah, that’s confidential.” People in America will respect you for being a “straight-shooting”, reliable person. Whatever you do, don’t make up something for an answer; don’t lie.

所以,要在美国成功就要诚实。不要夸张,不要误导,不要歪曲。如果人家问你的东西是你不想告诉他的,就坦直地说,“对不起,不能告诉你”或说,“唉,那是秘密啊”。在美国,这样做人家会尊重你的,认为你是个正直可靠的好汉。千万不要伪造些东西回答他,千万不要撒谎。

Why is America like that? That’s because American society has the most free market type of ideology, and free market ideology despises dishonesty. For a free market to be successful, the exchange of goods and services has to be reliable. Fraud, along with stealing and robbery, destroys the reliability of exchange and therefore destroys free exchange and the free market itself. Thus Americans hate dishonesty.

为什么美国这样呢?因为美国社会的意识形态是最崇敬自由市场的,而自由市场思想最厌恶不诚实。自由市场要成功,物品和服务的交换则一定要可靠。欺骗,跟偷和抢劫一样,摧毁交换的可靠性,因而摧毁自由交换和自由市场本身。所以美国人憎恨不诚实。

Feng Xin-ming 冯欣明


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The Sixth Cardinal Relationship, That Between Buyer and Seller

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Back in my blog of March 31, 2007, I said that in today’s world, we need to recognize a sixth Cardinal Relationship ( 第六伦, or 第六倫 in complicated script), that between buyer and seller. In my blog of April 5, 2007, I listed the Cardinal Obligations the two parties owe each other in this Sixth Cardinal Relationship: the buyer is obliged to pay on time and in the amounts promised for the good or service bought, and to make clear what he wants and expects. The seller is obliged to deliver the good or service on time and in the amounts and quality promised. I also said that this Cardinal Relation includes the relationship between employer and employee; the employer is the buyer and the employee is the seller. When it comes to the teacher and the student (or parent), the student (or parent) is the buyer and the teacher the seller.

Some people have commented that they don’t see why lowly buying and selling is so important that it should be elevated to a Cardinal Relationship. Doesn’t buying and selling inherently involve cheating? As for saying that the relationship between the teacher and the student is part of buying and selling, why, they say, that’s outright cheapening of a relationship held to be sacred in traditional Chinese Confucian thinking. Haven’t I heard of the old adage, “be my teacher for one day, be my father all my life” (“ 一日为师,终身为父” or “ 一日為師,終身為父” in complicated script)?

Just to refresh the reader’s memory, the other five Cardinal Relationships (五伦, or 五倫 in complicated script) are between: government and citizen (ruler and subject), parents and offspring, sibling and sibling, husband and wife, and friend and friend. Their mutual Cardinal Obligations I’ve talked about in my blogs from February 25 to April 2, 2007.

Well, I think that not only do we merely need, but also we need desperately, to recognize the relationship between buyer and seller as a Cardinal one.

For one thing, as I’ve discussed in my blog of April 5, 2007, buying and selling is truly mutual help on the grandest scale. Indeed, far from being a “cheap” act, buying and selling is the sacred act that has transformed humans from a stage when life was short, brutal and barbaric, to the stage now, when life is quite a bit more civil, enlightened and comfortable. And no, cheating is not an inherent part of buying and selling. Please see my blogs of Nov. 4 and 17, 2007 on how honesty and integrity is the only way to make money in a sustained way and on how shopping around will keep one safe from cheating. No, buying and selling is a sacred act of mutual help. Such a sacred and important act must be recognized as belonging to a Cardinal Relationship.

Second, where there is prevalent recognition of buying and selling as being honorable and respectable, where sellers and buyers are usually honest and usually don’t cheat, the society is relatively rich, and where the opposite is prevalent, the society is poor. It is not an accident; it is cause and effect. In the old days, when China has been one of the richest, if not the richest, country in the world, the attitude prevalent in society has been that one must be honest, must not be greedy, and must not cheat. In the past, Chinese businessmen have had a sterling reputation for honesty, fairness, and being true to their word. By enshrining buying and selling into a Cardinal Relationship we will contribute to the development of society and the progress of mankind.

Third, a lot of Chinese and Asians in Asia in general operate in business according to the thinking that you need to become friends first, and then you can do business. That’s why you have to go to all those drinking parties and boys’ nights out (including brothels) to do business in Asia. They often can’t just sign the contract, and on the basis of promises made and monies paid, do business with people who are not emotionally bonded except on a working, formal basis. If you are not emotionally bonded with them they just might, or actually they think that you’ll think they just might, cheat you, and they think you just might cheat them. I think that’s bad for work hours, for the health of the businessmen involved, and the whole setup discriminates against females, who can’t go on boys’ nights out the same way as males. Recognizing buying and selling as a Cardinal Relationship will correct that situation, make life much better for businessmen, and enable females to participate in Asian business in a more equal footing.

As for “be my teacher for one day, be my father all my life”, I know where that comes from: it comes from the same cultish places in traditional China where the cultish aberrations of xiao (being good to parents) come from. It’s that intellectual trend that started around 1000 C.E. to change Confucianism from a set of practical and reasonable tenets into a metaphysical cult of absolutes and excesses. Hey, listen, if it’s true that being one’s teacher for one day makes that person into one’s father for life, then what about the even older adage, from Confucius’ Analects no less (Chapter Shu Er, or 《论语:述而》/《論語:述而》), that “when I am in a group of three, there has to be someone who’s my teacher” (“ 三人行,必有我师焉” or “ 三人行,必有我師焉” in complicated script)? Then one acquires fathers every day? Maybe even several times a day? Hey, I think that making one’s teacher into one’s father is an act of luan lun ( 乱伦 / 亂倫) or mixing up of the Cardinal Relations. Yes, yes, I know they use the term luan lun to mean incest nowadays, but I am using the term in its original meaning in The Analects and other traditional Chinese writings.* So no, I don’t think I cheapen or besmirch the sacred role of teachers at all when I include teaching in the just as sacred buyer-seller, Sixth Cardinal Relationship.

Yes, time to recognize the actually sacred act of buying and selling as part of the just as sacred Cardinal Relations, with sacred Cardinal Obligations.

Feng Xin-ming, May 11, 2008, minor edits June 21, 2008
——————–
* See Ci Hai 词海 / 辭海,Shanghai, 1989, p. 2107, under the entry 乱伦 / 亂倫.


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More Re: Honesty

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

(“Whenever one speaks, trustworthiness comes first; lying and pretending to know, how can one do such things? 凡出言,信為先;詐與妄,奚可焉。” Di Zi Gui, p.20.)

Today I read in this article that Asian countries, while enamored with China’s economic power and peaceable overtures, are nonetheless repelled by China’s “opaque domestic politics and LACK OF BUSINESS ETHICS (capitals mine).” According to the article, today’s prevalent Asian view of China and Chinese conduct is this:

…it is everything goes—precisely because, yes, everything goes—no good credit checking system, no well-placed fear of violating good norms, one can get away with cheating, et cetera.

Good grief! For a country that has for millennia prided itself on being “the Land of Courtesy and Integrity,” is this not utterly shameful? What happened to the legendary Chinese businessman’s reputation for honesty? What happened to the traditional Chinese practice of trustworthiness, of xin 信?!

Well, it is the sad, sad story of a proud, upstanding culture, having sunk into degeneracy during the twentieth century. It is the sad, sad story of a brilliant thousands-year old code of ethics wrongly blamed for the backwardness of its adherents, the Chinese under the imperial dynasties, who would actually have been far more backward had it not been for exactly this code of ethics. In probably the greatest erroneous verdict in human history, this marvelous code has been rejected and wrongly condemned by its very beneficiaries, the Chinese themselves. It is time that this code of ethics, much of it expressed in succinct form by Di Zi Gui, be re-embraced by the very descendants of those who have created it in millennia past.

Yes, today’s Chinese must return to these ethics if China is to regain its stature and the high respect rightfully accorded China by other countries during centuries past.

Feng Xin-ming


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Why Honesty Leads to Success and Happiness in Life – 5

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

(“Whenever one speaks, trustworthiness(xin )comes first; lying and pretending to know, how can one do such things? 凡出言,信為先;詐與妄,奚可焉。” Di Zi Gui, p.20 )

Of course, in traditional China, back in the old days, it was of utmost importance to educated people that they were honest and trustworthy. “Without trustworthiness a person has no standing (人無信不立).” Promises were considered things a Good Man must keep: “A promise from a Good Man is worth a thousand ounces of gold (君子一諾千金).” There were many moving stories of people in traditional China who made big sacrifices to carry out their promises.

Of course, honesty and keeping promises was legendary among traditional Chinese merchants and businessmen back in the old days. One mutual salute (they didn’t shake hands back then) and the deal was as good as gold. That trustworthiness and integrity had been one big factor why Chinese businessmen had been so successful in Southeast Asia.

Yes, when a country is rich and powerful, as China has been back in the old days, its people tend to be honest and trustworthy. Of course, that’s because the people being honest is a major factor, perhaps even the decisive factor, in enabling the country to be rich in the first place.

Feng Xin-ming


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Why Honesty Leads to Success and Happiness in Life – 4

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

(”Whenever one speaks, trustworthiness(xin )comes first; lying and pretending to know, how can one do such things? 凡出言,信為先;詐與妄,奚可焉。” Di Zi Gui, p.20 )

One thing that has struck me living in the US versus living in Canada is that in the US people generally place more value on honesty in their everyday dealings and in their outlook. For example, during the impeachment of President Clinton, most Americans I talked to, even strong Democrats, were quite incensed that President Clinton had been dishonest during the investigation of his sex scandal. It was very instructive: people were not angry at his sex scandal but at his attempts to mislead. In contrast, during the Quebec Liberal government corruption scandal in Canada, in response to the outcry from the opposition parties, Prime Minister Chretien came right out in public and said to the media, “So we tried to cover up some bribes, so what?!” And Canadians thought that it was fine to have a little dishonesty as long as it helped fight Quebec separatism. Another example is the way people view professional hockey: there’s a lot of fighting, illegal checking from the back, and other such non-rule-abiding behavior that have been very important to winning in professional hockey. Professional hockey is immensely popular in Canada, and most Canadian hockey fans I’ve talked to say that fighting and illegal checking is part of the sport. On the other hand, professional hockey is not very popular in the US because Americans can’t stand all that fighting and rule breaking. In fact, to get hockey to become more popular in the US, back in the 1990’s professional hockey have made a lot of rule changes such that fights and illegal checking are now much rarer. Thanks to the US market, the once commonplace “bench-clearing” fights, where everyone on both teams come onto the ice to fight, have now disappeared. Moreover, in day-to-day dealings with people, with businesses, with institutions, I’ve found that people in the US are stricter about honesty, especially people who are more educated and have higher social status.

Why is that? It got me thinking. I think it’s because the US is the country with the most free-market leaning ideology in the world. Now in free markets people make a living by providing service or merchandise to their customers, not by fawning upon some politically powerful figure, getting into his good graces, and then having him give you some kind of lordship over economic resources, as happens in command economies and socialistic countries. Therefore in market economies one must be trustworthy, sell honest merchandise and charge honest prices, not taking advantage of even the very aged or the very young. Only then can there be exchange of equal values, exchange of mutual benefit, and prosperity and wealth in the society as a whole. If one uses trickery and deception to cheat others of the fruits of their sweat and toil, instead of using one’s own sweat and toil to create concrete benefits with which to exchange with others for the fruits of their sweat and toil, then how can the market continue? The market order will be destroyed, as will prosperity and the whole social order. That’s why free markets value honesty and despise dishonesty.

That’s why honesty is especially important for success and happiness for people who live in market economies.

Feng Xin-ming


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Why Honesty Leads to Success and Happiness in Life – 3

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

edited Nov. 22, 2007

(”Whenever one speaks, trustworthiness(xin )comes first; lying and pretending to know, how can one do such things? 凡出言,信為先;詐與妄,奚可焉。” Di Zi Gui, p.20 )

Some people ask, you keep talking about honesty leading to success and happiness, but don’t you get fleeced and stabbed in the back if you are too honest? Ah yes! Isn’t the honest person the one who is poor? Doesn’t it take some deviousness, if not outright deceit, to become rich and successful?

No, no, being honest doesn’t mean that one will get fleeced. Being honest doesn’t mean one doesn’t perform due diligence and checking things out before one buys something. And how does one check things out? It’s easy in countries with a free market: you just go out and do some shopping around! Get some bids! There’s an old Chinese saying: not to fear that you do not know the merchandise, just compare merchandise with merchandise (不怕不識貨,只要貨比貨). Once you do some comparison shopping, you will know whether something is worth it or not.

And being honest doesn’t mean you tell everyone in the world your trade secrets and your weaknesses. Being honest means you don’t lie to people, but doesn’t mean you can’t keep secrets. How can a person be trustworthy if he can’t even safeguard some secrets? So, what do you do when someone asks you about something you don’t want to tell them and still be honest with them? Simple, be honest, and tell them, “Sorry, but that’s confidential.” Or, “Sorry, but I can’t tell you.” Just be honest and tell them the truth; don’t be afraid that will offend them, but be sure to be polite and apologize; people will respect you for your honesty even if they are miffed at your refusal. At least you have been polite and you have apologized! They surely should understand, and if they are so mean-minded that they take offense, they are probably not upright people anyways and therefore not worthwhile dealing with. There’s no need to be “devious,” nor is there need to be deceitful and lie. In a country where people rely on the free market, such honesty is valued as a sign of reliability, as a sign that the person is “good to deal with.”

Feng Xin-ming


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Why Honesty Leads to Success and Happiness in Life – 2

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

edited Nov. 22, 2007

(”Whenever one speaks, trustworthiness(xin )comes first; lying and pretending to know, how can one do such things? 凡出言,信為先;詐與妄,奚可焉。” Di Zi Gui, p.20 )

Now let us look at why honesty leads to success and happiness in life.

It’s all because the fundamental feature of human society is mutual help. Thus, to be as successful as one’s ability warrants, one must maximize both the help one gives to others and the help others give to one. Of course, a lot of this occurs as buying and selling, including the buying and selling of labor, i.e. going to work for an employer, and a lot of this occurs as non-monetary mutual help among family and friends.

No matter, for the mutual help to be maximized, one must give an open and complete picture of what one can offer. Only thus can one maximize one’s “customers,” whether monetary or non-monetary, whether stranger, acquaintance, friend, relative or family.

Only thus then can one maximize one’s return, again whether monetary or not. When one helps others, others will help one. With monetary mutual help things are priced beforehand with each exchange, with non-monetary mutual help among friends and family things are fixed beforehand as part of the Cardinal Obligations (see my blogs Mar. 2 – April 5, 2007). Either way, for others to help us maximally, they must be able to see clearly what our needs are. Only by being open and honest with them can they best help us.

It’s a mutual help world out there, and to be as successful and happy as one’s ability warrants, one must be honest.

Feng Xin-ming


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Why Honesty Leads to Success and Happiness in Life - 1

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

edited Nov. 22, 2007

(”Whenever one speaks, trustworthiness(xin )comes first; lying and pretending to know, how can one do such things? 凡出言,信為先;詐與妄,奚可焉。” Di Zi Gui, p.20 )

Why should one be honest? Well, it’s because honesty leads to success and happiness. Huh? Someone asks. Isn’t it by being “tricky” (古惑) that one gets what one wants? Aiya! No, no, of course not!

Yes, the worldview that the world is all about tricking others, a variant of the dog-eat-dog worldview, leads to nothing but failure and unhappiness in life.

Being tricky and using deceit is OK for temporary gain only, and in the long haul the more you trick and take advantage of people, the fewer friends you make, and therefore eventually you will end up being unsuccessful, friendless and miserable.

True, among people who believe in this worldview of deceit, those who actually go out and lie and cheat are only a minority. Even for the majority, however, even for who refrain from trickery and cheating, this worldview is no less harmful.

Such people, who often, sadly, consider themselves more honest than most, are frequently bitter and complain that the reason they are not successful in life despite their ability (technical ability, that is, not moral ability) is that they are too honest and not tricky enough. Sigh! They do not realize that the very reason they are not as successful as their ability warrants is precisely because they have not been honest enough. For one thing, with such a worldview these people are never completely up front with others. Thus when others are able to help say, advance a career to a level more commensurate with the ability, they are never given the chance because people with such a worldview are ever so coy about their situation. Also, people with such a worldview are forever suspicious of others when they try to help, and so when others try to help they are eventually forced to give up in frustration. Yes, repeat that time and time again, throughout life, and one naturally ends up being unsuccessful, or at least not as successful as one’s ability warrants.

Feng Xin-ming


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