Tao China

Understand Chinese Mindset


tao china

It is hard to define tao (dao). The word literally means 'the way'. To put it simply, it is the underlying order of the universe. It is present in everything we see, everything we touch, everything we do.  Even in things that we don't see, don't touch, or don't do, we can find its trace.

With the communism, open-door and modernization, is there a 'tao China' today?  We'd say that there still is, and knowing what tao is will help you to understand the people and culture better.

Wuwei - Doing 'Nothing'

Dao helps to understand the underlying order of the universe. With the understanding, we'd be able to optimize things we do.  

In a way, peak performers of every field -- be it athletics, the arts or business -- are exponents of what tao teaches, whether they know it or not. 

The central concept of Tao is Wuwei, which literally means doing nothing.  On the surface, it sounds indolent and insipid. In actual fact, it can be spirited and eager.

What it means is that in everything you do, you will have to find out what exactly need to be done in order to achieve -- based on the under-lying laws of universe. Having find that out, do the necessary, and stop worrying. Wait for the results to unfold.

As a result, doing nothing can be doing everything! You get to achieve more by doing less.

This explains why in the mind of Lao Tzu, the best of leaders are those whose followers do not even know that they exist. 

According to Lao Tzu, those leaders that his people extol belong only to the second best, followed by those who are feared.  The worst leaders are those who are despised by his people.

Similarly, Sun Tzu has pointed out that the best victory in war is one where the opponent surrenders on his own accord before any actual hostilities takes place.  The best win is one that is secured without fighting.

The influence of Dao is strong in the Chinese culture, which can be traced back to an oldest surviving books of the world, I Ching, written more than 5000 years ago.

Yinyang balance

Another important concept of Tao is yinyang balance.

To understand the order of the universe, one has to understand the interaction of the yinyang vital energies.  in the process, balance the yin and yang whenever you can, so as to obtain optimum outcome. 

For example, when there is a heated argument, the whole atmosphere is yang.  Adding more heat to the argument would only tilt the yingyang forces to extreme yang, leading to undesirable outcomes.  Under such circumstances, a better thing to do is to introduce the yin energy, such as staying quiet. Once the balance is regained, the situation would be under better control.   

This is how a tai chi master counters an attack from an opponent bigger tahn his own size.   He does not fight them head on.  He feels the yin and yang energies, and either direct the force of attack back to his opponent, or neutralize it -- both to his advantage.

As a matter of fact, problems often resolved themselves when yinyang balance is achieved. 


Sun Tzu is a master in this.   He advocates that the best victory is one that the opponent surrenders of his own accord before any actual hostilities. 

To achieve victory, one has to know both himself and one's enemy – and familiarizing one with the yin-yang energy field.   Tilt the yin-yang balance to your advantage whenever possible. 

This explains why military operation often involves deception.  Even when you are competent, appears to be incompetent.  Though effective, appear to be ineffective.  

When the time for act is right, rapidity is the essence of war.  Take advantage when the enemy is unready, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded positions.


Tao China

If you understand Tao, you are in a better position to understand how the relationships are managed in China.    These are some of them:

  1. Chinese places a lot of emphasis on relationship -- or guan xi -- management, so that the yin-yang balance can be better achieved
  2. The relationships are built not only through formal channel, but also informal interactions.  You're often entertained either in a banquet, or even establishments like karaoke, in addition to attending meetings.  These are additional avenues for your Chinese counterparts to get to know you and your company.
  3. Many a time issues that cannot be settled at the negotiation table, Chinese would try to find a better solution at the dining table.
  4. While there are occasions that Chinese would use all tactics they can to impress you on the strengths, there are others when they try to appear weak to gain a better position.


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