The Chinese boss mentality

Many people often ask me why is there so much difference between workers and boss’ salary. In short, I think this has to do with the cultural mentality towards work.

In China, class divides have been strong for thousands of years, based around emperors and their officials down to the peasants. There has been huge emphasis on respecting authority, and having decision making and industries stemming from the decision making of central power. This has been imbedded into Chinese ways of thinking for a long time, and it wasn’t until 1911 when the last dynasty under the Qing emperor fell that the notion of freedom of choice, whether it be political or economic wise, was really starting to get pushed, whereas in the West that had been the standard for a long time.

As China tried to develop its own new economic system and political power, ultimately it came back to a more centralized authority when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took over under Mao. Industries were government controlled, whether it was food or production of goods, the notion of a boss was still under government officials’ rule within the CCP and private enterprises were largely shunned as not being bourgeoisie. Employer to employee relationships was weak while collectivism and no separation of class between workers was emphasized.

Following that era, more economic freedom came and it has only been within the last 40 years or so that China has largely (not completely) started to develop industries that have fallen under the guise of the worker-boss relationship. Once China adopted more liberal economic policies, free enterprises and industries arose, creating goods for the rest of the world to use. Demand for jobs then rose quickly and China’s economy began to shift from accumulating collective benefit and limited power/profit to extreme wealth and power distribution.

While China did go undergo its period of collectivism when things such as wealth were supposed to be shared equally, it is important to realize that period was nowhere near the length of feudalism and class differentiation that occurred in China for thousands of years. Until today, Chinese are still very class minded, and believe that if they have gained power over someone else there is no responsibility for them to share it.

So, in terms of the employer/employee relationship, employees are expected to respect the fact that they have an employer who provides them a salary and stability, albeit greatly different from that of the employer’s. The idea that wealth in the company is distributed more equally, as it is almost an insult to the class structural side of things as well as to the achievements of the boss who has gone to great lengths to set up a company and make it successful under China’s tumultuous history.

Therefore, people can expect a Chinese boss tends to think something along these lines-“I am the one who created this company, who made it successful, and who brought along jobs for you. If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t have any money or the stability you so cherish.” Actually, I interviewed at many jobs in China and Taiwan to find that many employers were not willing to give more than the bare minimum salaries, and these were for big multi-million dollar places!

Of course, there is always the exception of a startup company, which may be limited in funds. However, even if you are an experienced individual with a lot to offer to a company, do not expect to see much beyond the bare minimum. While the above-mentioned may seem like an exaggeration to the situation in China, there is a lot of truth to it.

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