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A Management Theory for Success in Chinese Business? Read Mencius

Mencius -- China FIrst Capital blog


Courage. Determination. Tenacity. These are all qualities I find in abundance among the SME bosses I work with.

Their resolve and hard work, in building private companies of significant size and importance, seem super-human. Most of these companies were started a decade or more ago, when China was much less hospitable to private business, and the market economy was still in its infancy. The risks, at every stage, were large and close-to-hand. Still, they persevered, and eventually prospered. 

How did they do it?  I have no clear answer or insight, beyond the fact that all these men have uncommon intelligence and confidence. While firmly part of “the new China”, they are also, in one important respect, representative of the most classic of Chinese virtues.

These entrepreneurs personify an ideal beautifully described over 2,200 years ago, by the philosopher Mencius. 

 So it is whenever Heaven invests a person with great responsibilities, it first tries his resolve, exhausts his muscles and bones, starves his body, leaves him destitute and confounds his every endeavor. In this way, his patience and endurance are developed and his weaknesses are overcome.” *(see Chinese below)

Success in business has a moral dimension that is timeless. 

*”天降大任于斯人也必先苦其心志劳其筋骨饿其体肤空乏其身行指乱其所为所以动心忍性曾益其所不能.” Thanks to my friend Cao Zhen for providing this. 

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