025_G17_InSight_BrandChina

Global_17

Global Insight Brand China China”. Similarly, in the 1950s, industrial growth strategies and urbanisation policies were taken wholesale from the Soviet Union. And more recently, in the opening-up period of the 1990s, economic models have been developed from the Western template, albeit tempered with Chinese characteristics. As a result of this blasé historical practice of taking from others, an attitude has developed to private intellectual capital that often treats it as public property. As such, there is not the same respect for the ‘ownership of representation’ that is expected in the West. China is reasonably unique in its historic development. A society that, in just 100 years, has suffered the various vicissitudes of imperial rule, revolution, internecine violence, another revolution, cultural revolution, societal regimentation and capitalist expansion has consequently become a strangely individuated society. Its communitarian pretensions are still very much in evidence on the surface but, actually, individual survivalism is regularly a pragmatic response to these ideological mood swings. Just as the Chinese state has had to develop rigid social structures to cope with autarkic tendencies, so the people themselves have developed philosophies to deal with autarky. After all, the name of the Chinese Communist Party, in Chinese, translates as ‘the public-property party’ and the surge of private property ownership rights and associated legislation that has occurred in the last decade has resulted in a rather pragmatic response by ordinary people – a clamour for the immediate benefits of a windfall sale of one’s house, for example, rather than a meaningful celebration of economic autonomy. In reality, China’s situation is very different to the windfall privatisations of the 1980s in the UK. Actually China is peopled by individuals within protective family units – honed through generations of survival – that point to the obverse of the oft-quoted phrase from Margaret Thatcher – “there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families” – because in China, even though the state (and its considerable largesse) permeates every aspect of life, people are predominantly sceptical and Portrait of Qian Long at the Eastern Royal Tombs of the Qing dynasty have had to look to each other to get on. The better the network, the more likely one is to succeed and the easier it is to progress. China’s existence is premised on these calculated approaches to life. To succeed in public life in the past, the state originated a civil society exam-based system conducted at every level of the Chinese administrative hierarchy – after all, the highest civil status below the emperor was often the ‘grand tutor’ – and if these rigid examinations were passed at a series of levels, then the student was global f i rst quar ter 2014 www.global -br ief ing.org l 25 


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