Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hongbao (Red Envelope) in China and America

The Hongbao (red envelope) is the name for bribing someone in China. It isn't just companies that need to bribe officials in the middle kingdom. I've worked with Chinese professors who had to pay off the reviewers in order to get a grant to do research in the United States. China, a country I really like a lot, is about as corrupt as possible.
By saying this I'm not demeaning the incredible work ethic of the Chinese people, or the fact that I've come to know Chinese with incredible integrity. These people have made my life richer and more fulfilled because of the opportunity I've had to work with them and know them as friends.
I always find it funny that we've passed international bribery laws, when the only way to get a foothold in China is to pay someone off. It's a universal truth.
I also don't want to sound holier than thou about my country. Many of my friends, who are well read and knowledgeable, believe that America, although not at the Chinese level, is becoming more corrupt. I grew up in a time when the average CEO made 40 times the amount  a man on the factory floor received. Now the average CEO makes 430 times what the factory worker does.
It seems more and more clear that our Congress is bought and paid for. Bankers own the Republican Party and Democratic senators like Chuck Schumer. Under Clinton they got rid of the Glass-Steagle act which separated investment banks from commercial, deposit accepting banks.
Under George Bush banks were allowed to be irresponsible and take incredible risks, which in turn ruined many of the retirement funds held by individuals.
The war between those who want this situation fixed, so we will never have to bail out banks again, and the bankers who think they'll make less of a profit with regulation, is an intense one with the bankers' lobbyists going all out. The fact that we save these banks from bankruptcy with taxpayer dollars seems never to be a bone of contention as they pay these lobbyists.
Because our history of anti-communism means the envelope will never be red, I wonder what color we will eventually use.


  1. Nice blog, Rich. When you write about something as momentous as this with such down-to-earth and unjaded clarity and without a political ax to grind, it really registers

  2. Thanks a lot for your comments. A person always wonders if he's communicating with his audience. I'm glad you found it informative.

  3. Rich, there are far too few moderate voices out there. Thanks for being a skilled, articulate one!

    1. Thanks so much for your comments. They are appreciated