Members of Salisbury Rotary Club gave a warm welcome to past member, Paul Santacreu, who gave a fascinating presentation on ‘China – Inside and Out’.
Paul had lived in China, primarily in Shanghai, from 2004 to 2020, where he was involved in developing a private school
s network throughout the country.
The focus of his talk, which was wonderfully illustrated by slides, was the differences in Western and Chinese culture, and how this was reflected in both the private and business world.
Paul started by giving a brief modern history of China from when the Communist Party was formed in 1921, through the Concessions to the western powers, the rise of Mao ZeDong, the Japanese invasion, to the current lifelong Presidency of Xi JingPing.
Comparing the modern-day Shanghai to the Shanghai when Paul arrived in 2004 is almost unimaginable. Shanghai now has the largest metro network in the world and, for example, China built 23,500 miles of high speed rail alone between 2008 and 2022.
It is a very different culture from that which we are used to in the West, and this is manifested in both the private and business world where the Chinese public are brought up to reflect a collective, harmonious approach based on Confucianism as opposed to an individual outlook on life.
This can mean that in western eyes, there is a desire not to be seen as different, or ask questions, or admit doing wrong. There can be a reluctance to give opinions, or to problem solve or to show anger.
But there are benefits too – there is less corruption nowadays; education is of huge importance to every family; and family itself (even after the ending of the one child policy) is paramount; the variety of food is wonderful and mostly cheap.
And China is changing, as shown by the spread of fast food outlets, tourism and more capitalist and western ideas.
Paul enjoyed his time in China, and was able to express the pros and cons of both styles of society with a very enjoyable talk.