A friend of mine forwarded me this article in The Washington Post (12/25/07), “Heirs of China’s New Elites Schooled in Ancient Values“:
“CIXI, China — In a borrowed classroom of the provincial Communist Party School, a newly busy philosophy professor addressed 15 well-groomed adult students. His message: Try to have a soul. “In China, if you are only rich, people will not respect you. You also need good manners, an outgoing personality and good morals,” said Zhang Yinghang of Zhejiang University, a professor increasingly in demand on the lecture circuit. “This is what rich children in China lack.” It was opening day of Jiaye Changqing, or “Family Enterprise Lasts Forever,” a week-long course for the sons and daughters of rich entrepreneurs — especially those sons and daughters who are about to inherit the family business. While the course included standard lessons on management strategy, it was also intended to instill traditional Chinese values in a younger generation schooled in Western, capitalist ways. In other words, there’s more to life than making money.”
In one of the most ironic quotes ever by a Communist leader, Deng Xiaoping declared once “To get rich is glorious.” It looks like the Chinese have taken that declaration with a vengeance.
When I was talking with two of my business school friends in China over the summer, (where they were born and raised but also lived and worked in the U.S. prior to business school, prior to returning to China to work), they both complained about how corrosive Chinese society had become with its ultra-capitalism and competitiveness, leading to more lying, cheating, unethical behavior, etc… anything to get ahead mentality to get rich. So it was with great interest to read about this Family Enterprise Lasts Forever” course – it sound like something like what Robert Frank of The Wall Street Journal has written about in his “The Wealth Report” column.
My (Asian American) friend also commented in his email, “I wonder if they have a Silicon Valley campus?” He often makes comments being frustrated with how soul-less Silicon Valley is, everyone’s quest for Internet & IPO riches, and focus on material wealth, especially amongst Asian-Americans.
I’d have to agree, there’s definitely more to life than making money. But I think as more of my peers, as well as the Googler’s, Facebooker’s, etc. (i.e. anyone under 30 living in Silicon Valley) get older, get married, have kids, their priorities will change (money, not for money’s sake, but to provide for their family).