Saving Face


Slowing things down and seeing things from a macro perspective, my view of western economies is that they:

  1. were all in trouble before the crisis (with record debt levels, negative interest rates, zero wages growth etc.)
  2. will all be suffering a painful recession after this Covid crisis as Governments try to re-start their economies, reduce the heavy reliance on Government payouts/subsidies, and get everyone back to work again (we can all agree that this won’t be easy)
  3. will rely on China’s middle class consumption engine, and the highly populated Asian region as a whole, as their best chance of kick-starting their economies in 2021 and beyond. Without this, the ‘recession’ will turn into a longer term ‘depression’.

I would therefore humbly suggest to Government and industry leaders of all western countries, especially the one that I happen to live in, to think a lot harder about point 3 above in their day-to-day decision-making process, particularly when given a chance to appear in front of the media. By doing so, they’re sacrificing the short term benefits of popularity in exchange for the longer term benefit of saving the economy and keeping their jobs. I appreciate that this may be less relevant to a US President seeking a final term in office this November.

The concept of “Face” is, and always has been, an important feature of Asian culture, and the best way to avoid acting in a way that will cause influential Asian leaders to “Lose Face” (which causes irreparable damage to the important relationships that we’re going to need to get ourselves out of this crisis) is to communicate sensitively behind closed doors. It’s not helpful or beneficial to criticise them in public and it usually provokes an angry and/or irrational response.


It always used to be done this way and everyone understood the importance of “Face” in an Asian context. Apart from the aforementioned US President, why is it so different now?


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