I recently retired as UK senior partner of BDO after 23 years as a partner with the firm. Last year, I took up a position as visiting professor at Xiamen University, China. My wife is Chinese and I decided to spend three months exploring business opportunities in the region and trying to learn some Mandarin.
I’m blogging about my experiences in China for Real Business – catch up on my journey so far (see “related articles” on the right-hand side).
One of the many challenges of China’s demographics is the imbalance of the male:female ratio. In very few provinces is it in equilibrium (and in Hainan, for example, it is 1.14:1).
The future implications of this imbalance – in areas as diverse as healthcare, education, town-planning, consumer markets, leisure, migration, future birthrates and “society’s health” – may be profound.
Chinese women have a key traditional role in community and family life. One could imagine a sci-fi scenario of a frustrated, alienated, testosterone-fuelled society, with a lack of female influence to balance it.
Culture and language structure can increase the risk of misunderstanding: a Chinese person who is asked “Is it raining today?”, looks out of the window, sees snow falling, may well answer the question literally: “It is not raining today”.
When a western ear hears that answer, it will be processed as something like “It is not raining in China – and there is nothing exceptional about the weather there at the moment, which I need to know”.
Even when one does not mean to be economical with the truth, it can happen. (My thanks to Professor Paul Gillis for this anecdote).
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