Culture and Civilization Matters

April 5, 2010

Political Tension: From Fudalism and Semi-Colonialism to One Party Communism


In the 2007 paperback edition of his book One Billion Customers, author James McGregor provides some clear insights into the political challenges that China faces today:

  • The conundrum for Chinese leaders is that they don’t really know what they want the country to be.
  • They just know they don’t want it to be what it used to be: a country that was so feudal that foreign powers could slice it up like a ripe melon as the Western powers and Japan did in the 1800s and first half of the 1900s.
  • They also don’t want the country to have a political system in which an untouchable dictator can manipulate the population into nearly destroying its social system and economy as Mao did from the Mid 1950s through the mid-1970s with the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution
  • They also don’t want to tear it apart with Western democratic politics which they view as an unsuitable and distorted system in which political leaders solicit votes by pushing emotional social issues that divide the population instead of focusing on what is good for national unity and economic development.
  • The Chinese leadership is basically trying to hold on to the Chinese population as tightly as it can for as long as it can before political factions emerge and bring inefficiencies that will almost certainly slow progress.


One of the ongoing debates with regards to China is centered around the question as to whether or not a free market economy requires a democratic system of government.

For the past 30 years, China has experienced significant and stable growth of 10% per year, all the while under the rule of a single party communist system. Is this situation sustainable or is there a need for a modernization of the political system to accommodate the modernization of the economy?

Here, David Dollar suggests that every country that has reached a high GDP level has eventually become democratic.

However, here Dollar suggests that the ultimate path to democracy can be long and convoluted and that China could continue with Single-Party rule for a decade or longer.

Finally, Dollar suggests that there are many differing democratic political systems that are consistent with being a wealthy country so it is difficult to predict what path of political change China will go through over the next 20 Years.


James Traub suggests that China’s goal is to achieve a peaceful rise by working out the tremendous contradictions the country faces. In doing so, he suggests is that China has developed a means of economic, social and political organization that can both drive dramatic economic growth while maintaining single party rule. He calls this model Autocratic Capitalism.


In their recent book China Megatrends, John and Doris Naisbitt suggest that China is in the midst of creating a new form of democratic governance they call Vertical Democracy where there is a balance of top down direction and bottom up initiatives where the leadership is tested by its results.

Here, the Naisbitts compare and contrast Western Democracy with this emerging social economic governance system in China.

In support of the Naisbitt’s perspective on Vertical Democracy, Mark Leonard suggests that while there is some voting at the village level, Chinese political reform will more likely involve different ways of brining the public into the political process in ways that do not involve party competition.


In this video Tom Friedman suggests that the Western Democratic style of governance is producing sub-optimial solutions for the major issues of our times while the Chinese governance is more purposeful and pragmatic in its approach.


  • Can China continue to prosper economically without reforming its Single-Party political system?
  • Do the Chinese believe that there needs to be political reform? How satisfied are they with their current system of government?
  • How do the Chinese feel about Autocratic Capitalism and/or Vertical Democracy? Would they prefer a Western Democratic system?
  • Do the Chinese feel they have a voice in driving bottom up initiatives as described in Vertical Democracy?
  • Do the Chinese feel that their government system is delivering the desired results? Do they feel that they have recourse if it is not?
  • Do the Chinese believe that their system of Government yields more optimized solutions than a Western Democracy?

Click here to return to the China Main Page


Societal Tension: From Rural Confucianism to Urban Individualism

Filed under: Term 4 Shanghai — Tags: , , , , — wadatripp @ 9:12 pm


In the 2007 paperback edition of his book One Billion Customers, author James McGregor provides some clear insights into the societal challenges that China faces today:

  • The Chinese leadership is very aware that the country is becoming increasingly divided into a have and have-not society.
  • For the moment, the piggish wealth and the deep poverty are living somewhat peacefully side-by-side, the tensions eased by an average 10 percent annual growth that gives almost anybody with ambition a chance to better his live.
  • But the leaders must lie awake at night worrying about the social unrest that will inevitably erupt when the boiling economic kettle settles down to a slow simmer.
  • Some 150 million migrant workers who have fled the countryside live in factory dorms or shantytowns and subsist on very basic wages and very limited access to healthcare.
  • Since the Chinese lack a social safety net, they feel they must sock their money away for retirement, college fees and unforeseen health disasters. They typically save some 40% of their income.
  • Poor children who get cancer or other illnesses are evicted from their hospital beds and sent home to die if their parents can’t pay their high-priced treatment bills in cash in advance.


Throughout most of its history China has been a strong agricultural society defined by Confucianism, a political and moral philosophy focused on maintaining social stability through a complex hierarchy of obedience build around five key relationships:

  • Ruler to Ruled
  • Father to Son
  • Husband to Wife
  • Elder Brother to Younger Brother
  • Friend to Friend

In all these relationships the patriarchal father was center of authority and filial piety was the most important virtue for Confucianists. This piety extended beyond the local family unit where the Emperor and his officials assumed the father role for the entire country.

Confucius also incorporated the notion of four divisions of society, or classes:

  • The Scholarly Gentry
  • The Pesant Farmers
  • The Artisan Craftsmen
  • The Lowly Merchant

The combination of patriarchal hierarchy and defined social classes created a system of social stability that was well suited to the region’s agrarian economy. As long as everyone fulfilled their duties and kept their place then society remained stable and harmonious.


In the following video, Jack Perkowski, Chairman and CEO of Asimco, suggests that the Chinese who lived through Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution are very keen to take advantage of the economic opportunities that Deng Xiaoping’s reforms have yielded in the past 30 years.

As the number of migrant workers leaving the family farm to work in the eastern coastal cities increases at breakneck speed the Confucian system of relationships and social order is slowly being dismantled.

But at what price? Contrary to popular opinion, as Mark Leonard outlines below, although China is a communist country it does not provide a social safety net for its citizens.


Adi Ignatius, former Wall Street Journal Bureau Chief and Editor in Chief of the Harvard Business Review suggests that despite the strong economic growth there is clearly the potential for social unrest to erupt in China if the rising expectations that have been built into society are suddenly dashed.

Ignatius further suggests that the Government’s focus on clamping down to provide stability in service of the economy creates a “Time Bomb” of social instability that will ultimately erupt.


In this video Ken Roth, Director of Human Rights Watch, summarizes the contrast within China where Personal Freedom is clearly on the rise while the expansion of civil society through Political Freedom remains at a standstill. Roth also outlines how these internal policies spill over into China’s foreign policy where a “No Strings Attached” approach to foreign trade is a cause for concern.


  • Following the recent financial collapse, is the current economic situation in China sufficient to quell the social unrest bubbling below the surface?
  • Do the milllions of migrant workers still feel that their life in the cities where they work is better than it was when they lived at home on the farm?
  • Are those who are left at home on the farm (mostly women) feeling increasingly removed from the economic opportunities in urban areas?
  • Is Personal Freedom sufficient for most Chinese citizens or is the need for Political Freedom increasingly on the rise?

Click here to return to the China Main Page

Exploring China’s Transitions and Tensions

Filed under: Term 4 Shanghai — Tags: , , , , — wadatripp @ 8:52 pm


Just as we examined the impact of culture and civilization on England, the Middle East and India through the prism of transitions and tensions, the CCL course in Shanghai will be grounded in the key transitions that China is experiencing and the tensions that have emerged as a result.

In this brief video, Mark Leonard, Executive Director of the European Council on Foreign, relations outlines the three key debates going on in China:

  1. What Model of Capitalism Should China Embrace?
  2. What Model of Political Reform Should China Adopt?
  3. What kind of World Power Should China Become?


During our time in China, we will explore how the following transitions:

  • Societal: From Rural Confucianism to Urban Individualism
  • Political:From Fudalism and Semi-Colonialism to One-Party Communism
  • Economic:From Economic Backwater to the World’s Fastest Growing Economy

Additionally, we will explore the resulting tensions that have emerged as a result of these transitions:

  • Societal: From Reliance on the Extended Family “Safety Net” to Walking the “Tight Rope” alone while supporting the family back home
  • Political: From Single-Party Rule to Eventual Political Reform.
  • Economic: Dealing with the triple threat of Poverty, Inequality and Environmental Degradation


The chart below summarizes the Societal, Political and Economic lenses through which we will explore the region:


The following video interview with Rob Gifford, NPR China correspondant from 1999-2005 and author of China Road, provides much more nuanced context around the Transitions and Tensions outlined above.

We will explore the Societal, Political, and Economic transitions and associated tensions in more depth in subsequent pages of this blog.

Click here to return to the China Main Page


Filed under: Term 4 Shanghai — Tags: , , , — wadatripp @ 8:44 pm


Chronicling China’s long history is a near impossible task.

With records showing the establishment of the Xia Dynasty in the 21st century BC, China has a written history of over 4000 years. During much of this time, China was a leading nation from both a societal and economic perspective.

In this video, David Dollar provides some specific insights on how China’s past informs its present.


For our purposes the CCL course we will focus more directly on the period where China, the economic powerhouse that invented papermaking, weaving, printing, gunpowder and the compass, lost its leadership status due to war, semi-colonialism and Japanese occupation before regaining independence and moving through communist rule to becoming the economic superpower it is today.

Key transition points during this turbulent period in Chinese history include:

  • China effectively lost its sovereignty in 1842 following the Opium War with the establishment of the Treaty of Nanking
  • Two thousand years of imperial rule ends with the Wuchang Uprising culminating in Sun-Yat Sen’s KMT party assuming power, ending the Qing Dynasty and establishing the Republic of China
  • Japanese forces invade Manchuria in 1931 followed by a full scale invasion in 1937. During Japanese occupation, KMT party under Chiang Kai-sheck looses influence while Mao Zedong’s Communist Party gains favor. With the Japanese World War II surrender in 1945, Mao’s Communist Party expands its control.
  • In 1949 Chiang Kai-shek flees to the island of Formosa (Taiwan) taking with him the entire gold reserves of China and promising one day to liberate the mainland from the “communist bandits”
  • The People’s Republic of China is formed by Mao Zedong in 1949. The ensuing Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution leave the People’s Republic of China on the verge of economic collapse.
  • The Communist Party’s Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Congress convenes in 1978 where Deng Xiaoping put in place a set of economic reforms that formed the basis for China’s renewed path to Economic Prominence with a synthesis of theories that became known as “socialist market economy.”
  • In 1989 the student protests at Tianamen Square violently put to an end by the Chinese military after 15 days of martial law. During the same year, stock markets open in Shanghai and Beijing
  • In 2001 China joins the World Trade Organization
  • In 2008 Beijing hosts the Olympics and the government announces a $586 billion stimulus package to avoid economic slowdown.


In this video, Hans Rosling provides an interesting, engaging and humorous description of this unfolding of events from 1858 onwards for China, India, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States

Click here to return to the China Main Page

Preparing for China: Some Facts and Figures

Filed under: Term 4 Shanghai — Tags: , , , , — wadatripp @ 8:36 pm

For those of you who value digging deeper into the numbers you can always check out the CIA World Factbook page for China.

Click here to access the CIA page

Another option is to scan this McKinsey presentation. While it is somewhat dated (2006), I like the way they break down the analysis of the region. It will be interesting to see how our regional briefing maps to this 2006 analysis given the recent Financial downturn.

Hint:To view the presentation in fullscreen mode click the menu button on the far left and select “View Fullscreen”.

A quick review of the CIA site and McKinsey presentation brings into stark relief the challenges we will all face as we endeavor to embed ourselves into this vast region to understand the Societal, Political and Economic Transitions it is currently experiencing.

Are you up for it? Lets GO!

Click here to return to the China Main Page


Filed under: Term 4 Shanghai — Tags: , , , , — wadatripp @ 8:35 pm


Congratulations on completing Term 3 and welcome to Term 4!

As we move into Term 4 you cross the mid-point threshold of your CCMBA experience. It might be hard to believe, but when you arrive in Shanghai and meet with your new teams you will already be more than half-way there!


Our global journey takes us next to Shanghai, one of the most vibrant cities on the planet and a hub of the fastest growing economy in the world: The People’s Republic of China.

This brief video should whet our appetite for the experience we are about to embark upon next month.

As was the case in London, Dubai, and Delhi, we have developed this set of blog pages with rich-media content that we believe you will find relevant to the topics we will be discussing during our time in Shanghai.

Here is the outline:

  • Preparing for China: Some Facts and Figures. Click to here view.
  • Background on China: A Brief Overview of a Long History. Click here to view.
  • Exploring China’s Transitions and Tensions. Click here to view.
  • Societal Tension: Rural Confucianism to Urban Individualism. Click here to view.
  • Political Tension: One-Party Communist System facing into the Headwinds of Change. Click here to view.
  • Economic Tension: Addressing the Triple Threat of Poverty, Inequality and the Environment. Click here to view.
  • China’s Relational Model and Cultural Dimensions: Please take the Polls! Click here to view.

We encourage you to review the contents of this blog and to post any comments, questions, or issues that come to mind as a result of having done so. Also, if you have good resources to add to the discussion, pleas be sure to include them in the Comment Section.

It is our sincere hope that we begin a robust virtual dialogue via this blog that we can synthesize during our time together at the residency.

See you in Shanghai!

Click here to return to CCL main page.

January 20, 2010

Exploring India’s Transitions and Tensions

Filed under: Term 3 Delhi — Tags: , , , , — wadatripp @ 8:34 pm

Just as we examined the impact of cultural and civilization on Dubai through the prism of a tension where the region seeks to remain true to its Arabic and Islamic Heritage as it simultaneously embraces the modern-day economy, the CCL course in Delhi will be grounded in the key transitions that India has experienced and the resulting tensions that have emerged as a result.

More specifically we will explore how the following transitions:

  • Societal: From Caste System to Civil Society
  • Political:From Imperial Rule to Pluralistic Democracy
  • Economic:From Third World to First World

Additionally, we will explore the resulting tensions that have emerged as a result of these transitions:

  • Societal: Religious Reform and Pluralism verus Hindu Nationalism and Islamic Fundamentalism
  • Political: Corruption and Gridlock versus Democratic Reform
  • Economic: Affluenza versus the Bottom of the Pyramid

The chart below summarizes the Societal, Political and Economic lenses through which we will explore the region:

We will explore the Societal, Political, and Economic transitions and associated tensions in more depth in subsequent pages of this blog.

Click here to return to CCL Delhi Main Page

Societal Tension: Religion, Caste and Indian Identity

Filed under: Term 3 Delhi — Tags: , , , — wadatripp @ 8:32 pm

India’s caste system has long imposed a hierarchical structure on society within the region. Despite the fact that India’s constitution has made caste based discrimination illegal there is still strong evidence to suggest that it still plays a major role in Indian society.

Given that the Hindu faith promotes religious tolerance, India has long been recognized as a country that is open to all faiths. Many faiths such as Buddishm and Jainism originated in India and India’s Jewish population remains the only diaspora in Jewish history which has never encountered a single incident of anti-sematism. India is also home to the second largest population Muslims in the world.

So while India has had a long history of religious tolerance it has simultaneously maintained a strong adherence to the rigid hierarchical structure of the caste system.

This section of the blog will explore the interplay between religious openness and adherence to the caste system and how it impacts Indian Identity today.

In the following brief video, Sashi Tharoor outlines India’s long history as an open society where people of all faiths have been allowed to freely and openly practice their faiths.

To view the Sashi Tharoor’s complete TED talk click here.

For a more detailed chronological view on the large variety or faith that have called India home over the centuries, we revisit BBC Civilizations web tool


You can access the tool by clicking HERE.

We encourage you to analyze the how faiths such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism have been a part of India’s history.

For a thorough overview of the of the faiths that call India home, please review the PBS site based on Michael Wood’s documentary The Story of India.

You can see the full overview of religion in India by clicking here.

One of the most widely commented upon features of Indian society is the caste system. The origin of the usage of the term “caste” is traced to the 16th century when the Portuguese came to India and found the Indian community divided into many separate groups which they called “castas” meaning tribes, clans or families.

The four fold classification: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras – in descending order of social status is believed to have originated as a feature of Hindu society, but the influence of caste has made its way into most non-Hindu religions in India also.

A.L. Basham defines caste as a system of groups within the class which are normally:

  • Endogamous – Marriage being legitimate only within the group.
  • Commensual – Food to be received from and eaten only in the presence of members of the same or higher group
  • Craft Exclusive – Each man to live by the trade or profession of his own group and not take up that of another.

In the video below, Dr. Mridu Rai, Associate Professor of History at Yale, delves more deeply into the history of the caste system in India from 1200 BC to the legal elimination of caste based discrimination in the constitution of modern-day independent India.

Please review the first 10 minutes of this interview to gain a deeper understanding of the nuances of the caste system in India.

Finally, please view the following short excerpt from an interview with Cyril Shroff, or a non-academic perspective on the caste system and its impact on business today, despite the fact that it is considered illegal.

To view complete interview with Cyril Sharoff click here.

In this brief video excerpt, Sashi Tharoor, clearly describes the role that Religion, Caste and Region play in defining Indian identity today.


  • How is it that Indian society can at simultaneously be so open to multiple faiths while continuing to adhere to a very rigid hierarchical structure such as the caste system?
  • How has India managed to maintain religious pluralism despite the fact that the region has lived through several Empires – most notably the Islamic Moghul Empire and Christian British Empire?
  • Consider the tension of maintaining religious freedom in a country where over 80% of the population is Hindu while at the same time being home to the second largest population of 150 million Muslims.
  • Consider how the prevalence of the caste system might influence the dynamics of religious pluralism and societal unrest in India.

Click here to return to CCL Delhi Main Page

Economic Tension: Addressing Poverty – India’s Biggest Opportunity and Most Difficult Challenge

Filed under: Term 3 Delhi — Tags: , , , , , , , — wadatripp @ 8:31 pm

Despite India’s significant rise in overall economic status in the world, more than a quarter of Indians (300 Milllion people) still live below the absolute poverty line of $1/day.

The contrasts between rich and poor are perhaps more striking today as they have ever been. In thriving urban areas such as Delhi, are experiencing what Edward Luce calls “Affluenza.” Today, one in five children in Delhi is obese while in the country as a whole 42% of the child population is malnourished.

This inequality is a rising problem for India. With annual GDP growth rates upwards of 8% and with the poverty only falling by 1% there remains a significant challenge in bringing prosperity to the bottom of the pyramid, that if not addressed in an appropriate timeframe could yield social unrest.

In this excerpt, Shashi Tharoor outlines the future economic progress for India and the opportunity it represents for pulling people out of poverty.

To see complete interview with Shashi Tharoor click here.

Similarly, Gurcharan Das, former CEO of Procter and Gamble India and noted consultant and author, presents a bullish overview of India’s economic future and compares it to China.

Hint: To better view ^ the presentation click the full option on Slideshare.

Both Tharoor and Das discuss the significant potential that this economic gain will have on bringing the bottom 300 million out of poverty.

Noted academic C.K. Prahalad also suggests that focusing on the bottom of the pyramid can be a win-win solution for both customers and the enterprise.

This book was created based on a paper that Prahalad and Hart published in Strategy + Business in 2002. You can read the paper by clicking here.

In the following video excerpt, Dr. Prahalad outlines three false assumptions we make that impede us from seeing the opportunity that lies at the bottom of the pyramid.

In video excerpt, Cyril Shroff outlines the history of India’s Economy from being a Basket Case at the outset of Independence to becoming the a key player in today’s World Economy.

To view the complete interview with Shroff click here.

In a similar vein, Nandan Nilekani outlines here why India was initially reluctant to embrace globalization but not that the reforms of the 80s and 90s have taken hold globalization is widely accepted in India.

To view complete interview with Nilekani click here.

In both cases, Saroff and Nilekani highlight that the India initially turned its back on globalization in favor of more socialist reform. With the arrival of Economic reform in the 1980’s/1990’s India has grown significantly, but this growth does not come without significant challenges.

In this video excerpt, Edward Luce, emphasizes the fact that that the disparity between rich and poor presents to India is a significant challenge and can be attributed to the inefficiency of the Indian state.

In this excerpt, Cyril Shroff explores the widening poverty gap and the challenge that the government faces in closing it.


  • How has the caste system contributed to the ongoing (and perhaps widening) disparity between rich and poor?
  • What is it about Indian society that enables it to be so tolerant of religious equality and economic disparity?
  • Why have the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s not been successful in reaching the bottom 300 million?
  • Consider the tension of a country with 8% GDP growth with poverty only falling by 1%. How can a parliamentary system with a 24 party coalition government implement rapid reform to address this gap?

Click here to return to CCL Delhi Main Page

Political Tension: Independence, Nationalism, Fundamentalism and the Multi-Party Coalition

Filed under: Term 3 Delhi — Tags: , , , , , , , — wadatripp @ 8:31 pm

Today, some 63 years following India’s Independence, India is the world’s largest democracy.

Mahatma Gandhi is credited with leading the Civil-Disobedience campaign that ultimately led to the demise of the British Raj and the ushering in of an Independent India led by Jawaharlal Nehru.

In 1947, many westerners were quick to dismiss India’s ability to maintain stable democratic rule. While there have been a number of challenges in Independent democratic rule over the past 60 years, last year, since India’s voting population is growing by more than 20 million people per year, India celebrated the biggest exercise in democratic franchise in human history

Furthermore, five years ago during the elections India witnessed the extraordinary phenomenon of an election being won by a woman Italian Origin and Roman Catholic Faith, Sonia Gandhi, wo then made way for a Sikh, Manmohan Singh, to be sworn in as Prime Minister by a Muslim President, Abdul Kalam, in a country that is 81 percent Hindu.

However, as tensions between Pakistan and India have ebbed and flowed with more violent amplitude in recent decades the rise of Hindu Nationalism and Islamic Fundamentalism within India creates significant challenges for this pluralistic democratic system.

As we learned from Tom Standage in London, the East India Company came came to rule large swaths of India for100 years following the Battle of Plassey.

In 1857, following the Indian Rebellion, the British Crown assumed direct administration of India under the British Raj. Noted historian, Michael Wood, in his BBC documentary entitled The Story of India, delves into the history of the British Raj by visiting its Archives.

To view the Michael Wood’s interview about the British Raj click here.

The following excerpt from the BBC documentary “Gandhi the Road to Freedom” chronicles the role that Gandhi played in bringing Independence to the India in 1947 and highlights some of the issues that emerged following the dissolution of British Rule.

Please view the first 6 minutes of this video.

In this short video excerpt below , Edward Luce, author of “In Spite of the Gods,chronicles the emergence of the current multiparty coalition system of the worlds largest democracy from its tenuous embryonic roots.

In this excerpt, Luce also explores the impact that this democratically elected government is having on the gradual dissolution of the caste system.

You can view the the Edward Luce’s Talk here.

The world’s largest democracy is also one that is quite complex in its governance. In this brief excerpt, Shashi Tharoor helps us navigate the complexities of India’s modern-day coalition government system.

To view the complete interview with Sashi Tahoor click here.

In this video excerpt, Edward Luce explores Hindu Nationalism. Luce describes fundamentalism as “tradition made aware and self defensive,” and explores the interplay and impact of fundamentalism and the caste system on the current government system in india

In the next excerpt, Luce further explores the challenges in reforming the multi-party coalition government in India. He also outlines some of the opportunities that digitization of government operations can help with this reform. This presents a clear tie to the work that Nandan Nilekani is doing with India’s Universal ID program.


  • What is it about Indian society and culture that allowed one figure, (Mahatma Gandhi), through a campaign of non-violent civil-disobedience, was able to rally a nation to bring down the British Raj?
  • How has India managed to maintain a functioning pluralistic democracy despite its significant religious differences and caste-based hierarchical structure?
  • How will Hindu Nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism test the multi-party coalition system? Can it be sustained?
  • What issues do you foresee emerging with a parliamentary system with a 24 party coalition government needing significant reform to maintain India’s continued stable growth?

Click here to return to CCL Delhi Main Page

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