There’s lots of myths about China. So everything you think you ‘know’ about China could indeed be factually inaccurate or grossly exaggerated. Especially when it was told to you by some drunk guy at a conference who has travelled to Shanghai once. Here’s 5 myths about China:
1. There’s a workforce of 1.3 billion people waiting to be tapped!
Just because there are 1.3 billion people in China (give or take – who really knows?) it doesn’t mean they are all kitted out in their office wear and all ready for work. Let’s remember that babies, the elderly, schoolchildren (some enterprising ones maybe?) are not part of the workforce. Let’s dig even deeper than that…
As discussed in an earlier post on this blog, the workforce seems to be about 800m. This itself could be a myth on its own because in 2012 it was reported that 700m people (that’s people, not workforce) lived in urbanized cities. Forget even thinking about the rest of the population who live in villages and work on farms across the land – they’re not sending you their resume anytime soon. Shame on you cio.com for reporting it at 800m, and even bigger shame on KnowledgeOfAsia.com for blindly taking the details and copying them verbatim.
2. The Chinese are hardworking. Therefore there’s 1.3 Billion hardworking people to be tapped.
This is an overhang from point 1 on this list. Yes, the Chinese immigrants from down the street in your Western city or suburb are very hardworking and have captured your imagination about them being some sort of superhuman workers. This is more of a trait of an immigrants who want to make a better life for themselves, rather than some generalisation on Chinese people. Lesson number one about dealing with another nationality – never ever generalize.
3. “If only I sold a $1 item to everyone in China”
Thankfully this myth is well and truly dead, but now and again I get someone who says it and makes me cringe. The rural poverty limit in China is $1 a day. That means that you’d be wanting to sell something at a day’s wages to some folk who are living on the poverty line. By wanting to sell that same item at $1 to all the different income brackets in China would mean that you have some really really strange item pricing. Ok, also, who is going to take care of your logistics? This myth isn’t worth discussing further.
4. Everyone in China learned English for the Olympics. So language isn’t a barrier now.
Beginning with a clarification that the Olympics were in Beijing (and some events in other cities), which is only one city out of hundreds of cities in China. Yes there were massive efforts to get people in the service industry to learn English, and yes a lot of enterprising Chinese learned the language for business opportunities during the games, the country as a whole does not have English as their second language. This might change amongst educated youth over recent years but it is still a far cry from ‘everyone speaks English’ levels of English use.
5. The Chinese are all.. umm.. Chinese.
In fact there are 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the Chinese government. Fair enough that 91% of Chinese come under the ‘Han’ ethnic group (although this can be debated as a separate topic altogether), there are also groups such as the Zhang, the Hui, the Manchu (Manchurians), and let’s not forget the Islamic Uyghurs and the Chinese Tatars.
The following is a photograph of some Chinese Kazakhs in their traditional dress.
You can see the family portraits of the entire 56 ethnic groups in their tradition dress over at this blog: http://www.chinahush.com/2009/12/06/family-portraits-of-all-56-ethnic-groups-in-china/
Look how big China is:
Now think of how diverse Europe is, or even America. While it’s easy to believe myths about China, it’s always worth digging deeper to understand more about this vast Asian country.