In a late-August ruling, China’s supreme court declared one of the country’s most infamous work practices illegal.To get more chinese culture news, you can visit shine news official website.

Known as “996,” the term is shorthand for a work schedule spanning from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days per week. Though popularized by the country’s soaring tech firms, often evoking images of hip urban startup employees with stock option plans hustling before being made millionaires by an IPO or funding round, “996” has evolved in how it is understood and applied by employers and employees, as well as how it is viewed by regulators.

Indeed, while the August 26 Supreme Court decision and issuance of guidelines from the Ministry of Human Resources will impact tech firms and their well-educated, well-compensated employees, the case itself dealt with a worker much farther down the digital economy hierarchy: a logistics worker making a salary of 8,000RMB (roughly $1,240) per month, which is just slightly below the average of the country’s 37 largest cities.

China’s regulators appear to be sending a message to employers and employees alike that the rules that define their relationship must change. As is the case with many things in China these days, what the country’s leaders are asking for will require a change not just in action, but also in the philosophies, psychologies and incentive structures at the core of Chinese society. What this change will look like is only starting to come into form.

Whether as a result of the intense work culture that has defined many Chinese companies or as the pacesetting example that many have emulated, there is perhaps no better case study of the spirit, the benefits and the potential toxicity of a 996 work culture than that of Huawei.

Known for its “wolf culture,” the Shenzhen-based telecoms behemoth became defined by its intensity. Depending on who you ask, the description can be interpreted in multiple ways. In a more generous interpretation, it is seen as a sort of kinship, of team members moving in coordinated packs in pursuit of a shared goal. For others, it can mean something far more brutal. “In Huawei, ‘wolf culture’ means you kill or be killed,” explained a former Huawei employee who I interviewed for an article on the company in 2017. “I think the idea is that if you have everyone in the company competing fiercely with one another, the company will be better at fighting and competing with external threats.”

Regardless of how its employees came to characterize it, the intensity central to Huawei’s culture also helped shape its success. In contrast to its European competitors Ericsson and Nokia who have been criticized for their cumbersome bureaucracy and perceived complacency, Huawei’s willingness to win and deliver projects regardless of seemingly any obstacle made them favorites of telecommunications network providers across the world.

Though juiced by cheap financing from the Chinese state and lucrative contracts in its domestic market that allowed it to subsidize its overseas business, there is also a competitive logic to the extreme zeal that has characterized the firm’s culture, and which also helps to explain why other Chinese firms adopted such spirit in the form of “996.”

While now considered cutting-edge innovators in some areas, Huawei and other Chinese firms experienced a constant struggle to overcome deficits in technological sophistication in comparison to their foreign peers in their early days. Without holding an advantage through unique or advanced tech, they achieved an edge through cost, speed and a flexibility in circumventing the obstacles to doing business that can be particularly tricky in the developing world.

“What Chinese tech companies seem to really understand is the value that execution can have over product,” explains Skander Garroum, a German entrepreneur who has founded startups both in China and Silicon Valley. “The U.S.-centric tech narrative is so often one of a genius who creates a great product, and due to an open internet and open economy, it scales simply due to its obvious superiority. But in China and other developing markets, [there] are more obstacles, less openness, and scaling is a question not simply of how good a product is, but how well a team executes, and how hard they work.”

While such narratives are often hyperbolic renditions of the truth, the willingness to outwork rivals is a badge of honor many Chinese companies carry. For ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing, its famed victory over Uber in their mid-2010s battle for the Chinese market was a result of a myriad factors. Yet to ask many who were involved, the answer is often that they simply executed better on a local level and were willing to fight harder until Uber deemed it to be simply not worth continuing the fight.

Self-defined by their work ethic and hunger, many firms have actively sought out individuals without a privileged background but who aspire to move above their station in life. Huawei, for example, is known to target its recruiting efforts on young, skilled people from fourth- or fifth-tier cities looking for their “first pot of gold” (第一桶金 dìyī tǒng jīn), using a phrase meaning the first opportunity that a person receives to make a lot of money or to move into the middle class.

As China grew and its firms rose to global prominence, the dream of the first pot of gold was indeed achievable for many and generous compensation often accompanied the demanding work hours. For longtime Huawei employees enrolled in the company’s share scheme, annual dividends have been known to surpass hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars for individual employees, in many cases eclipsing employees’ salaries. It was hard work, but hard work that paid off.