Filipinos have more in common with China than with America

You might say it explains why the Philippines is the way it is, and why Filipinos as a society—are the way they are:  a perplexing and paradoxical, if screwed up, bunch.

The Social Weather Stations poll conducted in September on Filipinos’ trust in the US and China clearly illustrated this.  That poll of 1,200 people revealed  76% had “much trust” in the United States, with only 22% feeling the same way about China.  It went on to say 55% had “little trust” in China, with only 11% in the US.

What’s shocking is a Pew Research Center report in 2014 showed Filipinos have a more “favorable” view of Americans and US presidents than Americans themselves.  That’s insane!  Talk about suckers who believe virtually everything Hollywood throws at them.  Of course, family ties in the US do help that perception.

But if you ask me, Filipinos should feel more comfortable dealing with the Chinese than Americans from a cultural and historical perspective. Why?  For starters, Filipinos levitate far more towards a patronage (“palakasan”) system than one based on merit.  And that’s consistent with Chinese culture.  With investments from China expected to pour in the Philippines with greater intensity than ever, it will be even clearer to Filipinos that their culture is far more in tune with Chinese culture.

The Chinese business philosophy is built on the foundation of cultural Confucianism traditions and clan-based networking. Chinese firms are mainly made up of small to medium-sized, family-owned businesses. As these companies grow they tend to rely on what brought them success, namely their collectivist culture that is built on family and/or a close network of friends and colleagues gathered over many years.

In many cases this involves the promotion or hiring of an under-qualified candidate rather than promotion based on merit. There is not much weight given to individualism, but instead personal loyalty and group or organizational success are the overarching goals. The Chinese traditionally believe that inequalities among people are acceptable, and therefore work relationships tend to be hierarchical. Employees should not have aspirations beyond their rank, and respect for authority is paramount.

This culture is especially evident in the halls of power in the Philippine government, regardless of who’s president.  I mean, this early we’ve already seen this culture in action, where loyalty is far more important than merit or astuteness, where political patronage trumps excellence—that no matter how some people have become the butt of all jokes for their cringe-worthy statements and a public embarrassment, they’re retained.

Make no mistake:  part of the reason why, despite centuries of dealing with the Chinese and the presence of millions of Chinese-Filipinos among us, Filipinos continue to be skeptical about China and covertly discriminate against Chinese-Filipinos is rooted in Chinese-Filipinos themselves.  Perhaps it's because as well-integrated as some Chinese are into the Philippines, there is a part that is also insular. There are schools that specifically cater to Chinese-Filipinos, there is a lot of pressure to marry a fellow Chinese-Filipino, and personal and professional networks tend to coalesce around the ethnic identity, whether intentional or not.

But the same is true with most Filipinos who have made countries like the US and Canada their home.  Just look at Daly City and parts of Los Angeles in California and Mississauga in Ontario.  They don’t, for the most part, blend or truly assimilate either.

You might say I’m lucky in China working for a news media conglomerate whose boss values the best of Western and Eastern values and practices.

Loyalty is a valuable trait, but only if doesn’t get in the way of merit.

In the end, Filipinos must learn to blend the best of both worlds as well--and not their worst.

David Nye as posted on Facebook.


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