The New York Times Says Bad Management Has Led To “Chaotic Descent” of Chinese Economy

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In an editorial published on January 8th, the New York Times claimed that mismanagement of the Chinese economy has “turned what should have been a benign, natural slowdown into a chaotic descent.”

It seems like foreign and Chinese news sources alike have been publishing daily updates on the Chinese economy for weeks now. Plummeting demands in the manufacturing sector, along with a shaky stock market, has led to a drop in economic growth in the world’s second-largest economy, creating some fear that the shockwaves could impact China’s trading partners as well.

The New York Times’ editorial board wrote that a Chinese recession could have “far-reaching implications because the country has become such a big part of the world economy.”

But the reason I posted this article is because the Times suggested China’s economic slowdown should primarily be blamed on bad management. Corruption and disorganization among the country’s (many) state-owned companies and enterprises, a government-backed stock market bubble, and an inefficient banking system are just some of the reasons China’s economy has begun to falter after its monstrous rise, the Times reports.

The editorial ends with the newspaper advising China’s leaders to “modernize their policies.” I really only find this interesting because every expat I know who has worked for a Chinese company has had similar complaints about their employers’ inefficient — that is almost always the word used — and disorganized styles of management. This includes myself. When I lived in Jinan, I worked for a locally owned language training center that changed its curriculum monthly and was late with salary payments on more than one occasion. It felt like no one knew what the rules were. No one knew what was going on.

But my experience is exactly that – only mine. It obviously cannot stand as an overarching example of management capabilities across the country.

There are plenty of web articles and forums comparing Chinese and western management styles. A 2011 article from The Diplomat, bluntly titled “Why Chinese Make Bad Managers,” claims that Chinese managers equate management with warfare, which is why they are “so singularly bad at it.” (The article was written by a Chinese person.)

“To ease their own violent paranoia, Chinese managers instill and augment violent paranoia in their staff. To maintain absolute control, they will practice divide-and-conquer by constantly changing favourites, spreading innuendoes and rumours and lies, and acting arbitrarily and violently to induce terror,” the writer alleges.

I don’t have enough first-hand experience to be able to comment fairly on that accusation. But if it is true, that kind of management strategy doesn’t exactly seem like it would create a happy and efficient workplace. It actually sounds extremely stressful, and stress in the workplace can severely dampen employee engagement and productivity.

I’m sure plenty of people can, from experience, attest to that.

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