From my personal experiences with both the Japanese and Chinese ways of doing things, I think James Fallow has it exactly right:

With usual caveats against sweeping generalization, what this made me think was: Japan is all about the way of doing things. Practice, ritual, perfectionism, as much fanatical attention to the process as to the result. China is all about finding a way to do things. Improvisation, little interest in rules, putting up with whatever is necessary to attain the result.

Now go check out his pictures of plane refueling in Japan vs. China. I couldn’t stop shaking my head in amuseument and dismay. *sigh*

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