Interesting Stuff: China Edition

Gamifying Obedience in China: “Although Liu hadn’t signed up for Zhima Credit, the blacklist caught up with him in other ways. He became, effectively, a second-class citizen. He was banned from most forms of travel; he could only book the lowest classes of seat on the slowest trains. He could not buy certain consumer goods or stay at luxury hotels, and he was ineligible for large bank loans. Worse still, the blacklist was public. Liu had already spent a year in jail once before on charges of “fabricating and spreading rumors” after reporting on the shady dealings of a vice-mayor of Chong­qing. The memory of imprisonment left him stoic about this new, more invisible punishment. At least he was still with his wife and daughter.”


From SSC, Chinese Immigrants in Early California: “Regarded primarily as laborers and servants by the dominant Anglo culture, the immigrant Chinese bypassed orthodox means of communication and transportation whenever possible. Couriers connected far-flung communities throughout the West. They transported the earnings that their countrymen had saved to San Francisco and Seattle to send back to the old country and they returned with essential supplies: dried squid, joss sticks, dried vegetables, tea, icons and opium.

A descendant of one of these couriers, Dave Cheng of San Francisco, told me his forbear ‘never wore good clothing or let on in any way that he was carrying thousands of dollars concealed among his rags.’ Whenever possible, he traveled with Chinese companions, since a lone Oriental in a remote part of the gold country was in danger of harassment, if not torture and death. Instead of buying food, or paying for boat or stagecoach passage, he would hire himself out as a stable sweep or dishwasher, deck hand or woodcutter, in exchange for food and passage.

He followed a more or less definite series of stops, delivering little items precious to the immigrants and giving them both letters and the latest rumors and news. The Chinese shopkeepers, miners and laborers paid him either in money or with food, lodging and portions of their imports and entrusted him with savings they wanted their relatives in the Old World to receive.

Many couriers later developed solid mercantile businesses in cities like Portland and San Francisco, which had extensive Chinatowns. One of them may have been the old patriarch that a miner named Amos Ott rescued in the late 1860s. Ott’s story was related by Silas Diller, a geologist who included the account in a turn-of-the-century private journal.”


From Shijiazhuang to Cambridge: “When I was an intern, in one of the training presentations, a senior banker told us to distinguish between the process and the results. He said that we should focus on the process, which we can control, rather than the result, which is subject to luck. And here at Goldman, he said, we don’t punish people for losing money for the right reason. I have always loved asking questions, so I asked him, was anyone ever punished for making money for the wrong reason? After giving it some thought, he said that he had not heard of any such thing. And he was right. In fact, no one seemed to remember the reason I did the inflation trade at all. They only remembered that I did this trade and that it worked well.

When I met with my manager for a performance review after this, I was expecting to be berated for my poor judgment. Instead, I got promoted! I told my manager that it was a mistake, but he merely said, “Puzhong, tell no one.” He too was promoted on the basis of managing my “brilliant” trade. In fact, my manager was so proud of my work he recommended me to Stanford’s prestigious Graduate School of Business (GSB), and I soon set off for America.

One thing that I learned at Goldman was that, to rise through the ranks, it was not enough to just be a good trader. It was also essential to be able to manage one’s boss, other colleagues, and those who report to them. I never paid any attention to those things. I hoped to learn about them in business school.


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