Postscript. So where are our China Hands?

Postscript(More on Mr AC’s desire to create a tangible US-Sino exchange)

Everyone back home moans and complains about how we don’t have anybody interested in China.   Rather, we have no one that speaks Chinese, and is at all acquainted with their culture.

We wring our hands, and papers write articles, and wealthy people consider the issue in their leisure time.  It’s a bit of a farce really.  It’s been over 20 years since Tiananmen, however, and in that time nearly every country has developed a cadre of its own that is just that; relatively well versed in both the culture and the language. 

The problem is there is no knowledge of who these people are.  There is no organized way of identifying them, and surely no interest in doing so.   I can only speak for my own country, America.    I know of a fellow who has spent over 20 years dealing with the country and at one time was actually recruited by the CIA clandestine services.  Turns out his time in country was used against him.  What do I mean?  They had no way of verifying his background check, and as such considered him a risk.   This approach right away precludes the best candidates from service.

In terms of government jobs, it is easier to walk through the eye of a needle than to hire a civilian.  Yet a fellow from another government branch whose main responsibility is China, who by nature of his job never has the opportunity to live in China, and deal with the Chinese on their terms on a regular basis, has a much easier path to the same position that would help the government learn more about our current and future rival.

His background is known, and quite frankly, he’s the safe and easy choice to make. 

I’m surrounded by Americans that live in China, that could solve the USA’s “knowledge gap” with China.  

Almost all of them are businessmen.   They speak the language, and have Chinese wives.    The youngest are in their mid 30’s.  Some of the true veterans are in their mid 40’s.  Many have graduate degrees. These are today’s China Hands. Which brings me to another point:  speaking the language just isn’t good enough.  Rather one must truly live in country, and “off the reservation”, so to speak, to actually gain those intangible skills so critical for the USA to have right now.   This is why it’s hard to respect the skills these government bureaucrats have, through no fault of their own.   Still I would never take a desk job that kept me out of China.    

So we complain about not having these people with the necessary skills available, and yet create a system where inversely they cannot be utilized.  Than we simply have the American way of doing things in the private sector:

Why hire an American, and possibly have to pay him more for his abilities, when we can just hire a Chinese graduate of an American university?   This actually stunts the development within our society of  a skillset we will for the next 100 years find critical to have.   Which leaves the best available avenue for development the government channel.   And we’ve already noticed the Catch 22 there. 


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