If you were to read the history books — and ones that don’t go back particularly far — you’d find out that China is the enemy of the United States. We fought multiple wars to keep the Chinese communist expansion from bulging ever further outward, including those of Korea and Vietnam. We fought a Cold War against both China and Russia. And we’re engaged in a current cyberwar against China, with a full-on trade war looming. We still engage in multiple, aggressive military maneuvers and drills to steel ourselves from China’s naval aggression. We have nukes pointed at them.

But to look at our profession’s “leaders,” you’d think China was a charming, if inoffensive, neighbor for whom you can tell all your secrets without fear of any judgment or fallout. So, basically, Canada.

ISO’s last President was plucked from a Chinese company brutalized by the EU with huge sanctions after they were found to be engaged in steel dumping; the current President is from Canada, was appointed to the China Standardization Expert Committee (CSEC) of the Standardization Administration of the People’s Republic of China (SAC). The IAF has a new President, too, who heads up the state-run Chinese National Accreditation Service (CNAS), the official accreditation body of the country that … you know … produces more fake accredited certificates than any other on the planet.

Now the American Society for Quality has launched its new China lovefest, with its first China-US “Quality Summit,” for which ASQ CEO William Troy has upgraded the three stars he used to wear on his US Army Lt. General uniform to promote the five stars on the Chinese flag. His recent pandering to China — in which Troy was lovingly interviewed by China’s state-run news agency Xinhua — has been nearly nauseating, and his colleagues still in uniform must be horrified.

The signs were on the wall for a while. As ISO certifications started to plummet in the “early adopter” nations of Europe and North America, ISO had to look elsewhere for countries to use in their promotions. South America is a heavy user, but not as much as “Asia,” the term ISO likes to use for China, Korea and India (ignoring most everyone else in that region.) The problem, of course, is that two of those three countries are pumping out fake ISO certificates as fast as they can print them. But ISO doesn’t really care — remember, it’s go-to line is that it’s “not responsible for certifications” — so long as people are buying their standards, or (in the case of China) they can say people are buying their standards. (Ironically, China also prints a lot of illegal copies of ISO standards.)

Meanwhile, the US’ other Cold War enemy — Russia — gets treated like мусор by ISO. That country is also responsible for some of the largest numbers of fake ISO certs in circulation, but in that case ISO did something about it and publicly adjusted their ISO Survey numbers, pointing the figure at Russia for the decline. There’s no huge publicity push for a “Russia-US Quality Summit,” and ASQ isn’t putting Russians in as their keynotes at conventions. So what gives?

The best thing that American professionals and workers can do to start understanding the reality they live in right now is that China won the Cold War. They won the trade wars, the culture wars, the cyber wars and nearly every other war that didn’t require firing bullets. They did it because they are smarter than us and, most of all, patient.

Generational Patience

China has what I call “generational patience.” The culture of their people is not geared towards the immediate gratification of the individual in his or her lifetime. This propensity to work towards common, long-term goals led the Chinese to a natural affinity to Marxism and, soon after, Maoism. This cultural phenomenon is seen at two levels within the largely polar Chinese culture. First, the impoverished peasant class work to improve their lot for their children, sacrificing their own adulthood in order that their families may one day escape poverty. This is different from the impoverished classes in South America, for example, where family members scrap amongst themselves for an individual, temporary benefit (don’t let the Catholic posturing fool you into thinking otherwise.)

Next, the upper ruling classes operate to extend the Chinese empire over millennia, and are less focused on the personal benefits that come with running a country as members of a dictatorial single power. Sure, they will take the benefits — the ruling class eats more caviar than the peasants — but that’s not what motivates them. Look at the current and past leaders of China: Xi Jinping, Hu Jintau, Jiang Zemin, and going back to Mao Zedong in 1949. These were not men who cultivated images of wealth and power, but instead a quiet (if often sinister) ambiance of humility. Compare them to the dictators we usually see, who wrap themselves in the symbols of the personal wealth their roles won for them: Muammar Gadafi, Robert Mugabe, Nicolás Maduro, Saddam Hussein, the princes of Saudi Arabia. These are people managing their control over societies for personal gain, in this lifetime, which they can consume right now. The Chinese are interested in world domination through slow, cross-generational advancements, many of which will never happen within the lifetimes of those executing them.

(This is, by the way, why China has a problematic relationship with concepts of intellectual property ownership, and why trademark infringement and counterfeiting is a part of their culture: they simply don’t worship the rights of the individual over the rights of the society.)

Americans have no such concept of time. We are, more than ever, a society built on immediate gratification. Our leaders operated as they do — corrupted by lobbyists and pandering to the worst extremes in the voting populace — in order to satisfy their immediate, personal needs right now. They want nice houses now. They want fancy cars now. They want millions of dollars right now. They are not interested in the long-term health of the democracy, nor even the security of the country. Every change in administration or shift in Congress only worsens this situation, and has for 100 years or more. Each “party” thinks the other is responsible, but only because the average American looking at the problem suffers from the same sickness: the inability to see time as more than what they can imagine five minutes from now. History, meanwhile, doesn’t care; it operates on the scale of billions of years. This proves itself in science as well, as some people dismiss scientific theories that require them to understand time as something longer than their own lifespan, leading them to try and debunk dinosaurs, or the Big Bang.

For example, in 2015 the Chinese Premier Le Keqiang announced a ten-year initiative called “Made in China 2025.” The plan is to bolster high tech companies, including electronics and pharmaceuticals, at home so that the average Chinese rely less on imported goods from the US. The US Council on Foreign Relations calls the initiative an “existential threat to U.S. technological leadership“:

Made in China 2025 is a blueprint for Beijing’s plan to transform the country into a hi-tech powerhouse that dominates advanced industries like robotics, advanced information technology, aviation, and new energy vehicles.

While many are focused on the 10-year scope of “Made in China 2025,” few are missing the bigger picture. The Chinese government is working on “Made In China” — without a date suffix — which is a generations-long plan to undo the stigma of the term. Between the 196’s to present day, “Made in China” meant (and means) “cheap quality.” China watched as Japan turned the derogatory term “Made in Japan” into a quality branding, typified by things like the Toyota Production System. China wants that, and the “2025” plan is just the first step; a ten-year long first step. Americans don’t think in those timescales. They want everything wrapped up — at the most — within the 4-year presidential term of their preferred elected candidate.

Which means while the US Council on Foreign Relations is warning of an existential threat due to the Chinese government’s plan to improve quality, the US American Society for Quality is helping the Chinese achieve that goal.

Who will be affected? American quality professionals, the real and paying members of ASQ right now, who will find themselves the victims of “Made in China 2025” and beyond. William Troy and the ASQ Board don’t care about that, because he wants to sell memberships, subscriptions and “CQA” certifications to the Chinese. The good news is that if US quality is an indicator, Troy’s plan won’t actually have any positive effect on the Chinese master plan to improve quality, since the ASQ was at the wheel of US quality during the period of time that allowed China to take over. Slathering “CQE” after people’s names in the US had exactly no effect on the exponential improvements seen in China, because the Chinese are busy actually doing stuff rather than buying initials to put after their names. An ASQ certification is worthless in the global competitive space, except to the guy who profits from selling it.

But Troy can’t be criticized for representing the worse traits of his countrymen, since he is a product of this generational decline in long-term foresight and addiction to immediate gratification. To his credit, Troy is (so far) not as bad as his predecessor, Paul Borawski, who many accused of using ASQ as his personal piggy bank, for raking in millions of dollars in salary while the local Sections suffered. Troy has to clean up Borawski’s mess, and is using draconian, dictatorial methods to do so. Faced with flagging HQ revenue, Troy and the bobblehead Board have simply taken the money from all the Sections and declared, overnight, that it belongs to them. The intent is to use money previously earned by the Sections to help offset ASQ’s corporate financial woes, and (of course) help pay Troy’s salary.

So Troy has to reach out to anyone who will help, and if that means China, then so be it. Troy can’t see that the larger picture, and it’s likely he doesn’t quite give a shit either. If China has taken over the IAF and ISO, then let them take over ASQ, too. If it means that Troy himself, as a person, sustains his lifestyle and power during his brief appearance on this planet, then that’s a price worth paying.

ASQ should be talking about how the United States will use the quality assurance profession to claw its way back through innovation, improvements in the quality sciences, and technological advances. ASQ should make itself part of the long-term plan to ensure that the US does not become obsolete. It should show how the US differentiates itself from China, and how we can use our profession to better our country. Instead, Troy and ASQ are openly helping to export American innovation and ingenuity to China, and openly boasting about their role in doing so! They are hastening the inevitable destruction of the US economy for their own immediate gratification. Said Troy (emphasis added):

And what we’re attempting to do with this summit is to bring that expertise together so that we can share and we can learn from other parts of the world here in the U.S., and China can definitely learn from what we’re doing here in the U.S. as well. It’s a great opportunity for everybody involved.

Thanks to Borawski and Troy, the “A” in ASQ doesn’t mean the organization holds any loyalty to the country it’s named after. ASQ is obsessed with its own global expansion, creating “ASQ China” and “ASQ India” as platforms to sell more memberships and certifications to people in those countries, even as it robs the money from the Sections within the US. It makes you wonder how long it will be before they drop the “A” entirely, and rebrand themselves the “International Society for Quality” (ISQ). (When that happens, don’t call me prescient, because it was totally happening right in front of you all along.)

Which all sounds scary. But maybe we shouldn’t care.

Shut Up and Learn Mandarin

ASQ’s Chinese Website

Unlike the conspiracy theory lunatics like Daryl Guberman — supported, oddly enough, by senior ASQ members — who present the China threat through a xenophobic, racist and Hollywood-driven infantile outlook, China’s dominance over the world may be far more subtle. As I said, China won. The sooner people learn that, the sooner they can adapt to their new reality. This does not mean that China will march tanks into the United States tomorrow and force us all to wear buttoned-at-the-neck green shirts and carry copies of the Little Red Book. They will continue to allow us our lifestyle, and use the next few generations to cultivate a cultural change so that — like the frog in the frying pan — our great grandchildren will not even know that anything is wrong. And it may not be wrong… for them. It may just be different. It may mean the US and the world operate to a different drumbeat, with a longer focus, and that the immediacy of self-gratification is purged from our species. While that might not be a bad thing, it’s unclear if whatever replaces it might be better, or worse.

For our generation, this would be a horror. But our generation is also obsessed with immediate benefit even if that means denying a future for our children.  One hopes that Troy’s own children learned Mandarin, for example. The slow march towards world sinofication may result in horror, or it may not. It may be that China’s abusive anti-human rights policies are a temporary measure, and that once it has assured its dominance, it may not need to utilize those tactics anymore; this seems to be a lesson China is learning, given its ability to win wars and overtake economies without firing a shot.

Or, yes, it could be an absolute totalitarian hellscape of fear and constant death. In the meantime, I’m being proactive and making sure my kids learn both Korean and Mandarin, along with Spanish and English.

We won’t know, but we will be able to point to ASQ as an enabler of whichever sinofied future the US faces, since it’s more interested in its monthly revenue than the future of the country, or the profession.

ASQ had a role to play in ensuring the advancement of the profession; it chose instead to advance itself, while sacrificing the profession. Troy and the ASQ Board own that.

UPDATE: A prior version of this article incorrectly stated that the current ISO President is Chinese; in fact, the new President is from Canada, with connections to the Chinese government. The previous President was from China.The article was updated accordingly.

    About Christopher Paris

    Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 25 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001:2015. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.