Monday, April 21, 2008

The Reality of China can be so Stressful

Public service in China needs a total overhaul. The current system can be so frustrating and stressful. While there are news that paint rosy and amazing stories about how fast their economy is growing but living here and putting up with the public service and the banking service can be such a nightmare. I am an overly patient and forgiving person and even that i broke my cool this morning while trying to get my temporary resident permit done at the police station in Shanghai, China. It was a total nightmare just to get a simple permit.

When i reached the station this morning, i had to endure rude police personnel handling my application. Not only they were rude, they were not helpful too. I thought police officers are supposedly to be guardian of the law and they are paid to protect individuals regardless of whether they are locals or foreigners.

Having filled up my application form, i was then told that i had failed to comply with rules that required foreigners who visit China for work or personal to report to the Police station within 24 hours of their arrival. How are we supposed to know this rule??? According to the police officer, she said that this is a common rule and we should had known as this information is published at the airport. I had been to China for 7 years and I had no knowledge of this rule. I explained of my lack of knowledge and the officer said I will have to pay the fine otherwise they wont issue me the permit.

The only consolation from the ordeal was the police officer had my fine reduced as it was my 1st offence. Since the amount wasnt a big one, i thought i could pay the fine and leave. After being issued the fine, i was told to go to a local bank to pay the fine as they dont accept cash payment for the fine at the police station. Here was the beginning of my 2nd ordeal, i was given the wrong direction to the bank and ended up walking and taxing to 4 banks before stumbling onto the correct one to pay my fine. The trip to each of the bank was horrible as most of the bank officers were so rude and unhelpful. The worst one was the last bank i went to when i was pushed around by 3 duty managers on the floor who had behaved like construction workers than bankers. I m not going to name the Bank's name but frankly, i dont even know how these individuals can be duty managers. Arent they supposed to be helping and directing their customers?? or instead they are some commanders directing their comrades? Even little kids have better manners.

This is Shanghai that i m refering to, a powerful financial city who pride about their stock exchange, their banks and their unique financial system. My conclusion from my experience at the police station and the banks, China has miles and miles to improve and buck up. I cant imagine how such poor service can propel their financial sector to greater height and simply cant understand the justification for the huge market cap of their Banks. Chinese Banks may have the largest market caps in the world but they simply have the poorest in customer's service by any standard. They are miles apart over the likes of Citibank, HSBC and Standard Chartered.

Olympics is a great event and I m sure its going to be the greatest show on earth having seen what they had built in Beijing. China has the best team to manage the Games and more importantly the full backing of their own people to make this a successful event. The Chinese should use the Olympics spirit to drive all initiatives not only for an event in August but to continously improving and driving the initiatives even after the main event. While the success of the Games is of great importance, the development of China towards the 21st century is even more paramount.

I m a great ambassador of China having promoted it everywhere i go, I just hope such poor service mindset will change in time to come and China could in turn be good testimony for other developing nation to follow. At the present, we all had no choice but to continue make do with the existing system until a whole new generation replaces the old one.


Charles Edward Frith said...

Like you I like lots about China but when it comes to issues like this it's all a numbers game. China doesn't need to do the best. It just needs to do it. Banks understand the numbers game better than anyone.

Alvin Foo said...

They certainly need to do more. Doing it may not be good enough. The majority of chinese is aware of the need to improve. They talk about it everyday, they need to be on par with the world standard, they want to be the next world super economy but at the moment they are not doing enough.

Anonymous said...

sometimes you can get around it by going to check into a hotel and then getting them to write you a yellow slip...then register within 24 hrs of checkout. but yeah, i hear you, it's a freaking pain

Alvin Foo said...

I m aware of that solution. I had expected the trip to the station to be a rough one. Didnt expect the ride to the bank could be even a bigger ordeal. Thanks for the advise bro.