"Sanguine" is a word with a fascinating history and an evocative meaning that transcends its original usage, finding its place in contemporary language with a nuanced significance.

Reading Max J. Zenglein's article today, I was struck by his description of the attitudes of German chief executives towards China - he described them as remaining "remarkably sanguine." This is not a term used casually in conversation; instead, it possesses a depth that calls for a bit of unpacking.

Derived from the Latin term "sanguis," meaning blood, "sanguine" in its earliest usage described a concept from ancient and medieval physiology. The body was thought to be governed by four humours: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. The balance of these humours supposedly dictated a person's temperament. A "sanguine" individual, dominated by the humour of blood, was characterized as optimistic, cheerful, and confident.

Over time, the word evolved. While it can still refer to a rosy or ruddy complexion, the more common contemporary usage of "sanguine" relates to a mindset. A sanguine person today is not necessarily one with a ruddy complexion, but one who is hopeful or positive, especially in the face of adversity or challenge.

To label the German executives as "sanguine" about China is to suggest that, despite the uncertainties and potential risks involved in international commerce, they remain optimistic about their ventures. They do not merely see a challenging market; they see an array of possibilities. This disposition may be due in part to past experiences; as Zenglein notes, German corporations have not had their major investments in China fail or become victims of economic coercion.

In this context, being sanguine can be seen as a pragmatic business stance, a resilient mindset that allows these executives to approach complex international markets with a balanced perspective. It's a perspective that acknowledges potential problems without being derailed by them, focusing instead on the opportunities they present.

In a broader sense, the attribute of being sanguine can be seen as an essential part of optimistic leadership and positive psychology. It is about maintaining a positive outlook despite challenges, a quality that is crucial for leaders in any field, whether in managing corporations, navigating international relations, or addressing global challenges.

So, the next time you come across the term "sanguine," remember: it represents more than just a rosy complexion or a cheerful demeanour. It signifies a mindset that embraces optimism and resiliency, a trait that is as important today as it was in the times of the ancient physicians.

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