I know this cliché. China is the world. Even if unspoken, and delivered in a wink, a seasoned expat can sense it 10 meters away, and I am born here to know it well. There is no way to argue over it. The Chinese word for ‘World’, TianXia, literally means ‘Everything under the sky’ and it’s a synonym for ‘China’. That is, we not only think China is the world, we don’t even know the difference. This arrogance was briefly suppressed by western invasion in 18th century, at which time the Chinese coined a new term, Shi Jie, meaning ‘the Limit of the World’, especially for the world that includes Europe and America, and with stress on its limits, of course. Chairman Mao restored that arrogance and now we are just as arrogant as before.
I can’t argue with that, because it is correct: China is the world. The world is a subset of China. Look at the facts in the Internet industry. None of the building blocks of the Internet in western eyes
are popular in China: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Dropbox, gmail, the Google search engine, eBay, PayPal, Amazon, Skype, ICQ, Amazon cloud, WhatsApp, Craigslist, Pinterest – the list goes on and on. Half of these are blocked and the rest are unknown in China. You may think there’s nothing left on the Internet without them, but actually we have our own versions of every one of these, and they’re even bigger than the originals. A few facts: China is the world’s largest e-commerce country by revenue. It has world’s largest micro-blogging site, the largest instant
messenger, and the largest BBS/forum. Some Chinese investors and most Chinese CEOs are proud that they don’t have to give a shit about western competition. To them, China is the world. One investor once said to me: ‘if you conqueror the world, you can’t enter China; but if you conqueror China, you are already the biggest in the world without having to reach out to the world.’
Admittedly, the Chinese went a long way and their footsteps left a trail in every land, but we seem to believe that the moment we set our foot somewhere, the inches of soil that bear our weight magically become an extension of China – just those few inches, not any more. So, yes, the world has never grown beyond the boundary of China. China is still the world. Amidst this arrogance I
sometimes feel sad, deeply sad: I cannot leave that boundary. If I do, the moment I feel free and overwhelmed by a exotic land, not remembering that China is defined by my footsteps, I cease to be Chinese, and my fellow countrymen will stare at me with the emptiness reserved for foreign strangers.
China is sick of westerners ‘spreading rumours’
Even Bitcoin’s global events seem to support this vast ego. China was the reason for the last bitcoin peak, and it’s the reason for its fall. Western news still maintains that 83% of bitcoins are traded in USD. ‘It must be fake’ say the Chinese bitcoin players. ‘The West faked their trade volume. The truth is that 83% of bitcoins are traded in CNY and USD traders are just following our lead, over-reacting to our market movements from time to time.’ Facing the Bitcoin Foundation’s failure, the Chinese started Bit Foundation, and although the imitation version is rarely mentioned in the west, the original was rarely heard of in China. And when the west is sick of China crying wolf about the ‘ban’, the Chinese are sick of westerners ‘spreading rumours’. ‘Trust no more English sources please’, one person said at a Bitcoin event.
I know from the West it look as if we Chinese have locked ourselves up. But we see the opposite, that we managed to lock you up in a small uninhabitable place outside of China’s border. The earth is round and limited, so how can you say that your view is more correct than our Chinese one? If we have a bigger economy, bigger businesses, bigger factories, more pollution, a larger ego – if everything is bigger than what you have, then it’s clear that we are locking you out of the world, not that we are locking ourselves into our own little world.
I promise to give him an answer if we can work together within a week. He shows me to my hotel room and I watch the door close behind him. I actually feel sorry, because my western readers will expectedly fail to see all the good qualities he represented for all Chinese entrepreneurs: fight to the end, hard working, willing to invest. Valor and labour, not so much fisco policy – this are the main reason why Chinese products are everywhere in the world, so much so that Chinese tourists find it difficult to buy indigenous products for souvenirs. Yet the West will only talk of Chinese’s love of imitation and aversion to innovation. The same way the golden Western morals are ignored in China, too. Alibaba is such an example: its size is ebay and amazon, the two competitors, combined, and Americans talk of alibaba as yet another Chinese imitation. Yet Alibaba win a PR favor in China by never touching morality topic, never shy away from a fierce fight – with such an image a western company is doomed to fail, in the West.
I’d almost endeavour to experiment working as a Chinese exchange. What I have to do first is to make a decision about a joint venture with another potential business partner, who comes from the U.S. He said he has money from investors, but I am not sure if I can trust him. But I accept his invitation to meet in Saigon, and that’ s why I am waiting for a plane – that is, like every plane in China, late.
The author is a Chinese entrepreneur. He has been doing IT business with German customers in China for 10 years. He believes bitcoin is the greatest invention in this decade, and is actively looking for opportunities and partners to establish new types of business with bitcoin. He can be reached via linkedin
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