Chinese business culture and other wisdom – By Vitus Feldmann – The Wall Street Chinese has helped American businesses and individuals setting foot in China since 2009. Besides language training, teaching and introducing Chinese culture, Chinese business culture was the most taught skill from all the services they offer on the business side.
Once in a while I meet up with a group of friends for a few beers and chat about God and the world. During our recent meeting one of the topics that was discussed was “how the Chinese do business”. Of course, since I am more or less direct or indirect involved in “doing business in China”, the topic was of high interest to me. The thing that always pops up is how the Chinese would copy everything, and corruption. While my group of friends, so I believe, has a wider horizon than, let’s say other groups, I had to realize there is a lot of “lack of knowledge” determining the opinion. Without declining the facts, I had to throw out a few things that need to be considered when forming an opinion on how the Chinese do business.
First of all, and that counts for all foreign business you do, there are differences in cultures. You would be surprised to find out how many differences you will find when you do business with any European country. It might not have not such a huge influence on your decision, but the differences still exist. When doing business in China, there are a few other things that come into play, such as China is pretty much only starting to open up for everyone to do business there. That is not only new to those that go there, that is also new to the Chinese. And much more, many of the Chinese are new to do business with the west altogether. Also, think about it, when a foreigner enters your shop or office, you still do business the way you do it, right?
One of the topics, corruption, might be in everyone’s ear and memory when talking about Chinese business practices. One thing that is overseen when judging, making gifts to a business partner is part of Chinese culture. Very often the size and value of the gift determines how much value you place on the opportunity and how much you value the partner. This is a practice that shouldn’t be too new to us. There are many things in daily life where we take the same measure. We are very often judged by our appearance, the way we dress and speak and other superficial characteristics that don’t reflect more important skills, abilities and knowledge. And when we are totally honest with ourselves, even gifts sometimes must be big to make sure everyone understands the value. After expressing my opinion about the subject, one of my friends actually called the practice lobbying. I won’t go into that, but it is worth thinking about it.
The point I am trying to make is this, if you go somewhere where you are considered a stranger and you are unfamiliar with, it is a good idea to learn. Doing business in China is something that westerners need to learn. And business culture is clearly one of the things we need to learn and understand when we want to do business in China. If we are able to understand, the business rewards might be big!
As far as copying ideas and products goes, last time I checked there were multiple car manufacturers and multiple competitors in every industry I know. Even today, think technology, if your product is new, good and/or promises success, it won’t be long until you have competition, not only in China. There is also another reason why the “copy factor” should not hold you back from doing business in China. Have you realized how the Chinese are now starting to go out of their country in order to do business? I just read how the Chinese take the majority of the annual investor visas the U.S. is issuing. Bottom line, if they want to copy your product, they buy it here and take it to China and produce it. In the most cases they won’t, but you get the point. However, it might be a good idea to go to China and start selling your products before someone else does.
China is the biggest market on earth, and growing. It sure displays some problems and even issues, but it is important to put a few things into perspective before deciding that market is not for you. Staying competitive means taking risks. That’s not my speech, but it still is true. Think about it!
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