The debilitating fear of failure

"... Cao has argued that this stigma is one reason why China—despite its increasingly high-tech society—has had few homegrown scientific breakthroughs. The country’s lack of scientific Nobel Prizes has been a continual source of irritation for the government. A number of Chinese-born scientists have won the award, but all were based outside China at the time.

Cao pinpoints the Chinese education system as the major source of the failure-to-fail problem. “The way Chinese students are educated, they are not encouraged to take a critical attitude toward mentors,” he says. Institutions like the gao kao, the nationwide, high-pressure, nine-hour exam that is the sole determinant of admission to nearly all Chinese universities, doesn’t exactly foster a relaxed attitude toward academic setbacks and experimentation.

Any discussion of a problem like this risks veering quickly into lazy stereotypes about Confucian values and filial piety, with the worst perpetrators sometimes being Chinese authorities themselves. For instance, as the nationalist, Communist Party-controlled Global Times editorialized in 2012, 'The social atmosphere in China has too much respect for authority. Chinese people prefer to obey orders. They care a lot about face and fear failure.'"

–Learning to Move Fast and Break Things: Is fear of failure holding back innovation in China?