Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's all about capitalism

Discussing with my good friend, Doctor Ding, I have identified from Shanghai, where I live, that there are 3 main capitalisms:

- an anglo-saxon capitalism which is fundamentally about making profit, whatever it takes under any legal circumstances. It is a capitalism of banks, of lawyers, of shareholders, of financial analysts, who will always torture the figures to extract a profit. It is a capitalism of numbers. Whatever the legal mean, whatever the job, where-ever the thing to sell is coming from, there is nothing stupid to do as long as it extracts the right profit. The symbols of this capitalism are Wall Street and the City.

- a Rhineland capitalism which is fundamentally about making the right product, preferably the most beautiful and perfect product, whatever it takes. It is a capitalism of creators and inventors. It is a capitalism of engineers, of technicians, of craftsmen and companions. It is a capitalism of loving the beauty of technology and the art of making quality products. The value of the product is intrinsic to the intelligence, the knowledge, the energy, the materials which make the product itself. The quality of the product justifies its value. The symbols of this capitalism are Porsche and LVMH.

- an Asian capitalism which is fundamentally a capitalism of merchants. It is all about selling again and again and again the same product to a multitude of layers, of go-between and middle-men where every body makes a small profit. It is the "capitalism of the tee-shirt" where the product has almost neither any intrinsic value nor any quality but gains value only when it is sold. It is the sum of the millions of units sold, where the margin is minimal, which generates value. The symbols of this capitalism are the silk road and "made in China".

Of course, these 3 capitalisms are not working in isolated silos. Each one need the 2 others to co-exist. But behind these 3 capitalisms are schools of thoughts and philosophies of lives which, while not in contradictions, support different behaviors.
When an anglo-saxon, a german and a chinese are discussing business, each one comes to the table with his own view of what should be achieved, based on centuries of a certain approach to capitalism and how to achieve succesfull business.
If anyone is not aware of where the 2 others are coming from, the discussion becomes... interesting.


  1. Patrick, very valuable contribution. I start to realize which part of me is anglo-saxon, (worked for an american company for 10 years, adapted leadership practice from US), which part is Rhineland (lived in Germany for 26 years, praktisch, quadratisch, gut), and which part is Asian (born in Shanghai, sell what ever you can sell or die). Thanks for the insights :-)

  2. Very interesting post and very funny comment Wenyue!

  3. Hi there,

    This is a great blog of yours, Your site is very informative and I can relate to your posts. My husband and I are also EXPATs in China. I have just started my own blog: TheShanghaiExpat. Please feel free to visit and let me know what you think for a link exchange.


  4. Mos and Nikou, thanks for your comments. Yes. I have added your blog into my "blog I follow list". Feel free to do the same.