China Clears the Air

Last night, I asked my students (Chinese business executives), “how’s business?”. And six out of six said “no good”. I asked them “why” and they said it was due to the global economy, and the G20 summit.

I don’t know the facts. But, my students do.

All chemical factories have been ordered to close for two weeks, to ‘clear the air’ before the G20. So, some execs are going on a government sponsored holidays. Hahaha Can you imagine your government paying you to go on holiday? Nah, nor me. Compensation to protect ‘appearances’.

They said, despite the government providing ‘cancellation insurance’ to small business, nothing much had changed and business continued to go downhill. What’s cancellation insurance? A guarrantee that orders from overseas will be paid by the government, in the case the client doesn’t pay. Unusual, I thought. Yeah, well, apparently overseas orders are not being paid. One of my students has a USD50K debt for an order of ceramics, which remains unpaid. The culprit - a New York based client. But, the ‘cancellation insurance’ has a limit of 1 million USD per year, so it doesn’t pertain to the big business, just the little guy getting started in the export sector.

Anyway, fearing a drop in exports the government has stepped in. It’s really a reaction to a drop in trust between Chinese businesses and their clients. One student told me they had stopped offering credit. The risk was too high. So, yes, orders are declining, trust is decreasing, despite the ‘cancellation insurance’ and it appears, cash flow is tightening across the board.

I suggested the downturn could be culmination of reasons to include the South China sea dispute, the US elections, Brexit, climate warming, global uncertainty, steel tarrifs, signs of a ‘trade war’, and they agreed. Geopolitics are in a bit of a messy state at the moment.

The conversation moved on to ‘speculation’ about the future.

I love Business English classes. I learn so much from the students. Especially about cultural differences in business and especially when the content is current, like the G20. It means the language, words, debate have more impact, so learning happens, coz, yeah, learners want to express their opinion. Get involved.

This doesn’t happen if the content is from a book. A book is boring, not relevant and engagement is much lower. Any teacher worth his or her salt knows this. But, books are how schools fleece students of a few bucks, and standardize how they think and learn. So they can be tested. It means they can then create certificates, and charge for education. But, it also means that content is not necessarily current or relevant, it means the classroom is less dynamic and fluid, it means engagement is low, and it means teacher-student creativity has a limit. And it means they can hire robots to teach, which is ultimately where language education is going. To the detriment of creativity, thought, discussion, debate, and the future.

So, after class I took off to the pub to say goodbye to Danny boy, an English teacher from the UK, to discuss our FreeSchool concept. It’s refreshing to meet another teacher who thinks similarly to me. He left England fed up with the system. I left New Zealand for the same reason, the system just pissed me right off. He sees through capitalism, as do I. And, philosophically we agree, education should be free. It should be fluid. It should be personalized, creative, dynamic and fun. And it should involve community.

We talked, we planned, we listened to Billy Idol, SteppenWolf, Ana Carolina, and chugged back beers. Next to us, Chinese people chewed on chicken feet and duck neck, spitting bones on the table, and yeah, chuggin back the beers. Giggling like 10 year olds. Having drinking contests like 15 year olds, such is the maturity level of Chinese people in a bar.

“You know, how Chinese business works, don’t ya?” said Dan.

Yeah, I know.

“In China it’s mandatory. You have to slam back beer after beer, until you’re totally shit faced, sing your tits off at the local kareoke bar, fuck a hooker your new business colleague has paid for, and yeah, sign the contract. Easy, right? Unethical, sexist, just fuckin nuts, yeah, that too. But, that’s how the game is played, and if you don’t play it, it means you can’t be trusted. Hahaha logic.”

“I walked out, and the dude didn’t contact me. He was insulted apparently. Huh, yeah, well, not the kinda people I wanna do business with” I said. “Yeah, fuckin nutters” Dan agreed.

Yeah, so, if you’ve got a few morals, maybe China isn’t the place for you. And that’s why we’re going to Vietnam. Soon, maybe a few months. We’re gonna try and set up a free school there. Besides, we like the food there. That’s really why we’re going. The food. The beach. The people. Freedom from China, New Zealand, England, freedom from the capitalists.