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Trusting Authority

As I’ve written in the past, I have the privilege of teaching a business school class at USC.  I’ve got a significant portion of my students who have come to the school from China, which has added a fascinating dimension to the classroom as they bring their own unique perspective that enriches the experience for all.

As I was reading and grading homework this week, I noticed that there seemed to be a consistent trend among my Chinese students to trust government.  The assignment involved explaining the connection between macroeconomics and real estate, and analyzing that relationship as it exists today.  In many, if not most of the submissions from my Chinese students there was a consensus that the U.S. economy is surging.  They pointed to the Q3 GDP of 3.5%, the greatly reduced unemployment levels, and the Fed’s decision to curtail quantitative easing as affirmation that things are sunny for the U.S. economy.  In complete contrast, many, if not most of my non-Chinese students were less optimistic, and pointed to the large percentage of underemployed or those who had abandoned the job market, as well as the imbalanced impact of the past 6 years of monetary policy which seemed in their view to have enriched the already rich and have done little good for the great majority of Americans.

As I read these homework submissions and observed this trend it got me thinking about the cultural proclivities towards things like trusting authority, and what that meant for nations.  I initially concluded that given the central planning structure of Chinese government and its history of limited freedom it should not be surprising that the notion of accepting government proclamations at face value is the norm.  Yet, as I thought some more, I wondered if it was possible that the Chinese students are deeply skeptical of their own nation’s government but view the U.S. government as being highly trustworthy.  I will ask the students this week in class.  Either way, this seems to be a noteworthy and significant difference between the American culture and the Chinese and I would bet that it will likely have broad impact both in each nation’s future as well as how the two nations relate to one another.

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