China is a great country that I love. Due to its great size, you can travel far and still be in China. Chinese people can find everyone speaks their language and understand the world a lot like they do even out that far away. It seems like the whole world agrees even though you are still in China. Actually, it sounds like America and America could also use a lesson on teachability, but let me talk about teachability in China.
Teachability in China is Shockingly Low
About 1500 years ago, the Japanese traveled to China to learn to write from the Chinese. They learned a system of writing and great thoughts from China, so the Chinese feel rightly proud. I sometimes ask them what they learned from Japan at that time. I have never found they learned anything. High ranking ambassadors came from far off Japan, and China had no curiosity and learned nothing. In the 1840’s China was humiliated by the European powers and did not change or learn hardly anything from them. In 1854 US gunships forced Japan to open ports just as had happened in China more than a decade before. Japan immediately started to learn from the West and by 1868 in the Meiji Restoration had already dramatically changed.
By 1895, Japan had humiliated China and in 1905 they humiliated Russia. In the space of 50 years Japan had mastered what it needed to know and was a powerful country. China was still refusing to learn and refusing to change as things got more and more unhappy for the Chinese. In 1919, Germany was forced to give up their Chinese colony in Shandong, and China thought the Powers would give it back to China. To their dismay, the Treaty of Paris gave their Shangdong to Japan. Why did China prove to have so little teachability in the face of so much pressure and evidence of the need to change?
China is China
China is about its way. You can say China has changed a lot in the last 30 years. But they do it their way and think it is the way. Chinese people are prone to say: This is China. It is not easy to be the big advanced country that everyone learns from for millennia and then be teachable. China suffered great loss for its inability to be teachable. On a micro scale, people you meet and work with every day are still mighty fixed in their ways of thinking. For example, everyone knows that the Chinese school system is harming their children. Yet the vast majority of people are still working hard to get their child into this broken system. The Chinese character is a huge weight on the children of China. It is so hard for anyone to learn. It is overwhelmingly obvious that China needs to change, and yet it does not.
So Your Chinese managers, as part of this culture, all have gaps in their teachability. (for more see China and Teachability)
They come from an infinitely inflexible country who in crisis started to change in 1978, so here we are.
You Need Teachability in China in Your Managers
Your China hiring needs teachability because you are a Westerner, and you need Chinese managers who can understand and implement your thinking here in culture. You do not need people who always think the Chinese way is better. It is not easy to find the teachable, but you need to find them. We certainly are finding them for our customers every day.