I’ve been thinking about how to influence people, or as jokingly said, how to brain-wash, for a long long time. Ever since reading Sir Charles’ I may be wrong but I doubt it, making an influence has become the mission of my life. The question is how. There’s no a single answer, but surely there should be a few central principles.
I’ve been observing how the so-call influential figures put their acts together. Like them or not, they are the ones that are shaping our society. Whether it is Jay Chou, Ms. Long Ying-Tai, president Ma, or Director Wu the “Ogisan.” Of course, my attention has also gone into those that never really worked, or even counteracted, in the cases of ex-pres Chen, ex-head of ministry of education Tu, or some of the PRC officials on “how the feelings of Chinese people are hurt. There are also others making the differences in a low-profile way just as persistently, I could say Dr. Lee YT of Academic Sinica for his support in sports, so to speak.
Getting back to the topic, how to make an influence? The key lies on the receiving end: the people, or the listener. I believe that being a receiver, the level of trust, which directs the outcome, depends on how much trust he/she places on the person of delivery. Therefore it’s utmost important for the initiator to establish a reputation that’s at the least appealing and formidable, and definitely not overshadowed by some presumptuous tags. For example, as successful as businessman Gu “the senior” is, who would be surprised and moved by his supportive stance in Taiwanese independence? Would he had made much difference when he shows all the cards in his hands? Why is this? Because he’s already been tagged (or I should say “nailed”) as one of the most pro-Taiwan heavyweights. This tag has already placed a filter through the spectrum of influence, on him and those in audience.
By observing the influential figures, they make their influence in a low-key profile. Dir. Wu “the Ogisan,” he first earns the hearts of people by touching them all through his down to earth personality and ads. That’s his reputation there. People perceive him as a creditable and also understanding man. With that, he puts himself in the position to influence, even for things that may not occur so directly related to his profession. The public may doubt “hey, this (whatever issue) isn’t his expertise!” But others could argue “but he understands because he cares!” wow, how powerful those words are. Dir Wu may have cared about this (whatever issue) all these times, but he kept it a low profile to avoid the tag to permanently cast over his name. This is what I call “low key to achieve.”
Recently I read a book review written by an expat blogger, Peter Martin, in China. It’s actually not the book that I cared or was impressed by, it’s Pete’s review that I’d like to reflect on. Starting from the title “Why read a book on Chinese consumerism if you want to understand Chinese politics?” Pete worded that by raising the topic of Taiwan to any young generation in China, you’re bound to be echoed by Jay Chou and cuisine, rather than the cross-strait territorial discussions.
“understanding these impressions is vital to understanding the way that many Chinese people – the young in particular – imagine Taiwan and how they feel about it. Focussing too much on politics ends up obscuring these things.”
Remember the first key in making an influence lies on the receiving end, the audience, the listener, or just the people in general. You just have to earn their trust with your formidable reputation, because that’s how you’re being portrayed in their eyes. I remember reading a journey of a Chinese blogger to Tainan area, the so-called dark-green camp. She met a young man who pretty much spent all the time they had together allowing her to experience Tainan in the most insightful and unswerving manner, in the other words, the most hospitality one could offer. The blogger also met the young man’s father, who opened the conversation frankly aimed on the cross-strait issue. Well, based on these performances, who’d have the upper hand in the battle of pro-Taiwan influence?
I will just use Pete’s words to wrap this up, he finalized his article on why this book left out one aspect of the most debated element in China – politics:
By – mostly – leaving politics out, it makes an important contribution to our understanding of Chinese politics.
Making an influence, in a low-key fashion, indeed.
(Hey, maybe this is why slogans in politics were hardly ever popularly received!)