Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Chinese way

I was having dinner the other night with a young American engineer visiting from one of the southern provinces where he's spent the last few weeks supervising the installation of one of his company's machines in a microprocessor factory.

The site is so big that they use a golf-cart to get around. They only have one of these, though, so it's mainly for the senior managers and engineers, and the rare foreign visitors. And it's pretty old, not in very good condition.

The right front tyre has - for some months - had a slow puncture. It wouldn't be that difficult to patch it (or, heaven forbid, replace the tyre?), but instead they've procured a bicycle pump to be kept with the cart at all times, and its driver has to re-inflate the tyre two or three times a day. Obviously this is a non-ideal solution, since the tyre is almost permanently below full pressure and this makes the steering decidedly wonky.

At least, that was the case until last week - when someone stole the bicycle pump.

This prompted the driver to take the cart - finally - to the forklift maintenance shop, where a mechanic put a patch on the tyre.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is an old and useful proverb. In China, however, we all too often encounter the attitude: "Even if it's broke, don't fix it."

Indeed, my curmudgeonly erstwhile teaching colleague 'Big Frank', in his sourer moods, would occasionally suggest that the dominating philosophy of Chinese public life was: "If it ain't broke, break it."


gary said...

Ha! That's too funny! It took a petty theft to make them switch from their dumb fix to a smart fix? TIC.

Froog said...

Yes. I wish there were an inspiring metaphor in this somewhere.

If only someone would steal Zhongnanhai....