Murphy's Law: Chinese Culture Clash In India


September 12, 2012: When the Chinese defense minister recently visited India he caused a bit of a stir when he gave each of the two pilots of the Indian Air Force business jet that brought them to the Indian capital an envelope containing 50,000 rupees (the local currency, worth $902). While this was meant as a token of appreciation for a safe and comfortable flight, the Indian military is currently making an effort to stamp out corruption in their ranks. That includes accepting cash from foreigners while performing your official duties. The two pilots turned the cash over to their superiors who consulted the foreign ministry and it was agreed that, to avoid insulting the Chinese, the money would simply be sent to the Indian treasury.

The Indian government allows small (and inexpensive) tokens of appreciation from foreign dignitaries. Things like cuff links, tie clips, and pins. The Indian foreign ministry may have screwed up here by not getting across to their Chinese counterparts what was acceptable in the gift giving department. Then again, the Chinese may have just ignored the warnings, not wanting to bother their defense minister with such trifles. Besides, as corrupt as the Indian Air Force is, or was, the Chinese Air Force is worse. In the Chinese military bribes and all manner of shady (but profitable) deals are seen as the traditional, and acceptable, way of doing business. The Chinese government does not, officially anyway, agree with this and several major attempts to curb corruption in the military over the last three decades have had limited success.

Thus the two cash filled envelopes handed to the Indian pilots were a tangible sign of how different the Indian and Chinese military are. It was more than a culture clash, it was a culture lesson.



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