Is learning Mao's tongue our only hope?
Chinese or no Chinese? That is the question
'' Wo hen gaoxing renshi ni!'', or "Please to meet you" in Mandarin, is a phrase commonly said nowadays by Westerners in business with the Chinese. We bow to greet them, exchange gifts to 'show respect' and drink tea during meetings. All these methods are a way of showing that we not only want to do business with the second biggest economy on Earth, but that we treat them as 'friends' and close partners. Is it ridiculous? Should we be, as we seem to be, changing our ways to accommodate China's impressive rise to the top of the world stage? To answer these questions, a short trip into the past is in order.
Back in the good old days, when Europe ruled the rooster and was considered, from the eyes of the world, as the epicenter of power, wealth, culture and trade, states around the world learnt the English language. Considered to be the sole language of the world for practicing business and international affairs, learning it was a means to an end. Without it, doing business was almost impossible. Sure, you would find interpreters willing to translate from -whatever- to English and English to -whatever- but that wasn't a recipe for sound business-making. Indeed, trade is inherently different to, say, international diplomacy because here you are not only cooperating on something for the duration of a session, you're actually going into long-term business with people. That involves not only bargaining, but trust, friendliness and mutual understanding.
Just like in everything, the peoples of the world had to bow down to the biggest names - in this case for commercial purposes - if they wanted a slice of the cake. Today, the cake is baked in China and India and Brazil but not so much in Europe and the West. To get a slice of the richly-baked cake, it's not enough to bring your knife and fork and except to be dished a plate. One has to conform to the new players, play by their rules, and yield the benefits. Learning Chinese is the best way of accommodating this necessary change in mentality because by speaking the same lingo we're not only making communication easier, we are opening up a whole range of possibilities like, for example, ensuring a better outcome on business deals.
It is my strong advice to you to start dishing out your savings in intensive Chinese language courses; as well as learning what is a fantastically interesting language, you are actually giving yourself a shot at a better future. So come on folks, clear your bookshelf, throw out your old latin textbooks, slip on your chinese gown and get cracking on those chinese books. Before long, you'll be speaking it like a native. Hao bu hao??