China vs. Japan: Getting things done

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The Atlantic Monthly’s James Fallows is flying high. He’s riding “right seat” with a friend who is moving a Cirrus SR22 from Tokyo to Macau. So far, he has flown past Mt. Fuji and down along the southern coast of Japan’s main island, Honshu; past Kyoto and Hiroshima; to Kagoshima, on the southern island of Kyushu; and, after a stop, from there down the island chain to Okinawa, and then to Taiwan.

During his trip, besides an incredible view of Mt. Fuji, Fallows remarked on what he called “the ‘way’ vs. ‘a’ way.” Noting how the Japanese ground crew approach to fueling the Cirrus was very different to a ground crew in Changsha, Hunan province he had witnessed fueling an airplane the year before, he said:

Japan is all about the way of doing things. Practice, ritual, perfectionism, as much fanatical attention to the process as to the result. China is all about finding a way to do things. Improvisation, little interest in rules, putting up with whatever is necessary to attain the result.

The corresponding photos of Japanese and Chinese ground crews fueling the plane are both instantly hilarious and telling.

Later, in his stopover in Taiwan, Fallows noted that the Taiwanese ground crew fueling was “kind of a midpoint between the Japanese and mainland Chinese approaches.”