Be careful about getting into disputes while in China

There was an incident recently in which an American manager was held hostage by some of his employees at a factory in China. The drama outside of Beijing went on for a week and then a settlement was reached. The cause of the “crisis” was that the American company was shutting down its plant in China – at least part of it – and moving their operations to India. Some workers did not like the severance packages they had been given and so they took the American manager hostage. You can read about it here. hostage incident in China

I experienced something similar once. I was in China to inspect an order for the company I was working for at the time, a well known US home décor company. A few days after I arrived in China, I knew something was in the air when one morning all three of the Filipino inspectors who were with me came down with colds and abruptly left China that very evening. The next day I was informed there would be a cancellation of some units on the order. The order was late and sales would not be as strong because it was a seasonal item. When I went out to the factory later that same day about twenty workers surrounded me and started to vent their anger and threaten me. Fortunately I speak Chinese so I was able to listen to them and explain to them that the cancellation had not been my decision and that I really knew very little about it ( the truth). After awhile the factory manager came over, and although he was upset as well, he defused the situation. But it was unnerving, esp as I was far out in the countryside where the reach of the law sometimes does not apply. And I know my Chinese History. Many of the peasant rebellions in the 19th century were rural in nature and anti-foreign. And they were very violent.

And this is why the government in China fears social unrest. In China mobs assemble quickly and are hard to contain. In another incident in Shanghai many years ago, I was on my bike when I collided with a taxi cab at an intersection It was not a major accident by any means and I don’t even think I fell off my bike. The taxi driver got out and demanded I pay him for a dent he said I had put on his front hood. In seconds, there was a mob of about 25 people surrounding me many of them shouting at me, with fury in their expressions, to pay the driver. I will never forget the speed at which they assembled. It was terrifying.

China is a safe country. And I feel safer in China than I do in the US with its prevalent gun and drug culture and the random violence that plagues every American big city. But that does not mean that China does not have its violent tendencies as well. And you should never let your guard down when you are there.


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