Read China from Outside China

Xiaowei (Daniel) Feng

RBS IMBA '14, Yale SOM MAM '17


I have never thought that I can know more about my country and culture, even though I was not there. This greatly changed my narrowed view of how China is growing and developing in such an impressive speed and how China is impacting the whole world.

“China”, One of the Hottest Topics Cannot be Avoided

Through the whole academic year, China has been definitely one of the hottest topics in Yale. In business world, enterprises like Alibaba, Huawei, and Tencent are the examples that both professors and lecturers mention and study every day. From social perceptive, the socialism political system and Chinese people’s daily life are extremely attractive for foreign people. At this point, China has definitely gone far beyond the “Made-in-China” manufactory big country into a rising super power that cannot be ignored with high technology and strong economy. I still remember a conversation among a couple of my classmates. It was about the powerful functions of WeChat that doesn’t exist in other instant chat apps, such as Whatsapp, Lines and Snap Chats.

During the first semester, I chose a course called “The Next China” in Jackson Institute for Global Affairs by Stephan Roach, who was formerly Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and the firm’s chief economist for 30-years. I was so curious about how American people see China and know next China by so I chose this course. Frankly speaking, I didn’t expect I can learn too much from this course because I have spent my whole life so far in China and I knew that I know my country so well. I was shocked not only by his deep insight of China with the most updated information in the slides for each class, but also by the big number of foreign students who are interested in China and know China much more than I expected.

Another example is when I attended Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) at Graduate Business School (GBS) of University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa. The major topic is about the business in Africa. There was a whole afternoon’s session with the sub-topic of “How China impact Africa”. Meanwhile, almost every day, Chinese enterprises, Chinese government and Chinese people were in the dialogues from those lectures. I remembered the comments to Chinese people from African professors, business people and government officials were so consistent: they have the attributes of diligent, smart, honest, helpful, friendly, and are easy to cooperate with.

China’s Voice, Strong and Weak

I found a very interest phenomena in US that those people who have been to China have a totally different attitude to Chinese people and Chinese culture by comparing with those who have not. I was so curious about that for quite a long time and finally I summarized the conclusion that the interior personality make us bad in expressing our country, culture, emotions and etc. But I don’t mean that interior is bad here.

During this year at Yale, Master of Advanced Management (MAM) program has given me the greatest chance to cooperate with such diversified classmates from 28 countries. Different from teamwork with Chinese people, my cooperation with other countries’ people that represented different cultures was like mirroring myself in behaviors. During team discussions, besides the factor of language, people from East Asia are more like to hold back and think. However, people from America (North and Latin), Europe, South Asia and Africa are very talkative and good at expressing their point of view. Some of them are even talking before thinking. Obviously, Chinese people with all other Eastern Asian people don’t have too many advantages in expressing their point of views, but more thoughtful ideas and active implementations.

A very useful and impressive class for me is called Interpersonal Dynamics. During this class, students are encouraged to have discussion with each other and express their emotions and feelings. It was surprising to find that a large group of foreign students showed that they were so curious about Chinese students since normally there has been few voices from Chinese students in public. They expressed their patience to hear Chinese students who showed limited confidence to express themselves in public. Their big change of the attitude to Chinese students made me realize that the weak voice of Chinese people in public has indeed passed some negative message to the world – reactive, lack of confidence and passion, don’t have strong opinion, etc. At the same time, however, they are eager to learn more from this special group of people who have made tremendous achievement in their economy development.

A More Powerful and Respectful China

For sure, China has a stronger voice in global stage. The growing economy and strong leaders in government makes us more proud to talk about China and show our identities. However, what I learned during this year is that we can do more. It is very important to speak up in front of other countries’ people with strong confidence and passion and let them hear our voices and know our opinions.