Corruption, as a matter of fact, has become a way of life in China, It has been so closely woven into our life patterns that often we are hardly aware or even completely unaware of it. We turn to guanxi, a network of connections, believing it is the best way to get work done. Just think: Didn't we ever bribe the traffic police to avoid punishment? Didn't we ever bribe the headmaster to send the kids to a desirable school? Aren't these instances of bribery as well? Or are they too trival to be considered so?
(CNN) Chinese public opinion surveys identify corruption as the most hated social problem, yet everyone is also guilty of it.
Last year, when my father fell seriously ill, we took him to a decent hospital close by but were told the beds were fully occupied. As always, we turned to our guanxi -- our network of connections -- for help.
Fortunately, a relative, a not so senior but well-connected official, managed to secure a private room at the hospital, which is reserved for ranking leaders. In return, the relative agreed to get the son of the hospital director into the most desirable school in Nanjing.
I became aware the weight of guanxi shortly after I was thrust into adulthood: At 16 I was dragged out of the school to work at a military rocket factory.
Two months later, when Spring Festival came, my mother requested that I visit my boss' home with gifts she had prepared. Naive and embarrassed, I refused. Mother angrily predicted: "You'll never go far in life if you don't know how to la guanxi!" The verb la means to pull or to develop. Sure enough, I never got any promotion during my decade-long stint at the factory even though I acquired a degree in mechanical engineering.