Still Sending Boys to do Men’s Work

Eye On Taiwan
Op Ed
Date: May 17, 2016
By: David Wang

Occasionally news topics in Taiwan still broach the stale issue of certain members of the local government, likely ones who still believe the Mandarin suit to be the coolest 20160515_201926outfit since the bell bottoms of the Swinging 60s, advocating to petition the UN to list Taiwan as a member, with such patriotic souls still embracing the title Republic of China as the exclusive representative of the only China, apparently neglecting, self-delusionally, the unfortunate finale around 1949 when the Communists in China drove out the KMT government, which has been the administrator mostly over the past few decades on the island.

Reams have been written to discuss the reasons why the KMT government lost its homeland to the Communists. But could it be that the nagging, underlying illness remains untreated till this day? That it’s still about sending boys to do men’s job? That it’s still taken for granted acceptable practice to keep a stiff upper lip while kowtowing the supposedly “seasoned pro” (aka the one who has somehow succeeded in playing the corporate upward-mobility game regardless of possession of genuine skills, street-smart, acumen etc.) as he or she is sent to the frontlines. As long as this “senior manager” with years of experience in chair-warming, brown-nosing, grand-standing, hypocrisy-spewing, palm-greasing is dressed in spiffy business attire, then all is well.

A couple of real-world examples in Taiwan come to mind.

The most recent was aired on TV in Taipei on May 15, 2016 (as shown), with a frequently seen TVBS news show hostess valiantly trying to stage an interview with the founder of the iconic Dyson line of vacuum cleaners and home appliances.

She, like a few of her peers in Taiwan, also hosts a program to feature so-called headline personalities as executives, entrepreneurs.

While this news veteran deserves a pat on the back for trying to work outside her comfort zone, to interview a British inventor in the Anglo-Saxon tongue that would stumble 99 percent of Taiwanese journalists, she flubbed miserably.

Not only could she not stay apace with Dyson as he talked at moderate speed and without overwhelming British accent, she failed to do enough homework to show a modicum of journalistic professionalism. When she presumptuously and erroneously complimented the interviewee on his ingenious invention of the vacuum cleaner without a dust bag, Dyson had to correct her to point out that the key feature of the vacuum being its ability not to lose suction strength over time, a weakness of typical counterparts, and that it was an incidental development to forgo the dust bag.

She also showed juvenile level of technical knowledge, again showing lack of preparation and depth of thought for an experienced journalist, to have only mentioned that Dyson vacuums being lightweight, a fact also obvious to 6-year-olds, without even asking the entrepreneur the extent to which the firm goes in using special materials, production technologies and mechanical design to achieve such featherweight.

In short and mostly hidden to casual viewers of the interview, she actually could not truly comprehend Dyson as he spoke English. She stuck to her prepared script and plowed ahead like a real trouper to finish the interview, without really engaging Dyson or being able to branch out on other related issues or just to talk off-the-cuff.

Dyson had to patronize and humor this Taiwanese journalist as she likely felt honored just to have been granted an interview with a high-profile British entrepreneur.

Another unforgettable example is the interview between Maggie Lake and Shih, CEO of ASUS (the Taiwanese maker of smartphones and notebooks), that was aired on CNN a few months ago.

Shih obviously and bravely memorized, as taught in the Taiwanese educational system, the script to promote the new smartphone model on CNN opposite Lake, who patiently listened and then asked Shih a simple question about his view towards the market, which only drew a quizzical knitting of his brows to end in awkward silence.

The CEO simply spouted a monologue in English on CNN to delude many of his Taiwanese peers into believing his English fluency. Fact is the Taiwanese CEO, as the Taiwanese news veteran above-mentioned, simply cannot engage in meaningful, adult-level English conversation.

But both the Taiwanese, besides proving again the disastrous outcome of sending boys to do men’s work, also showed the traditional corporate mantra in Taiwan remains steadfast: it’s all about show, not go.

Meanwhile dozens of English-as-second-language schools in Taiwan continue to dress up so-called teachers to delude unwitting parents and kids into believing a few hours of lessons weekly will enable dear Jimmy and Jane to one day talk with Dyson about the merits of applying carbon-integrated polycarbonate in home appliances and with Lake the potential fallout of Yellen’s signing off on more Fed rate hikes.

By the way it’s also highly debatable whether the dozens of Taiwanese CEOs, senior-ranking government officials with high-brow degrees from the West could have fared better than the said female journalist. One suspects that most, if approached with the job to interview Dyson on TV, would have to decline due to being too busy keeping their fancy wardrobes dry-cleaned and pressed.

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