Monday, September 18, 2006
And The Red Tape Will Flow Like Wine In The Streets

How I wish the world of business in China was as romantic as Dickens' version of revolution-era France. At least in that tale, as long as the blade was sharp enough, even the guillotine was mostly painless. It is not so, wading the murky waters of Chinese business relations.

Beginning a job in (by Chinese standards) a relatively small city in China was supposed to make for an interesting experience. I knew there would be hurdles - but they were not what I had expected. The biggest issue was not a language barrier issue (although Shandong accents are almost unbearable to listen to), nor was it a matter of background. It was a matter of one's attitude toward life; a culturally engrained mindset that I previously took for granted.

In the United States (and most of the West), in the era of Donald Trump and the "American Dream," we are taught that it is hustle, that sense of urgency and competition that pushes you to outdo your opponents, that makes you a success. And in the States today, we talk so much about Chinese modernization. With those thoughts of modernization comes the idea that if they are modernizing, they must be becoming more like the modern nations. But some mentalities are here to stay. In China, things are done when they get done. Little details are to be saved for another day. Impressions are only important when they're made public. Human resources and public relations are like the appendices of business (the body part, not the section of a book).

I know some of you might be thinking, "But look at their success! It can't be that bad." Well to that I say two things: First, a good number of companies here are foreign-owned or have foreign board members and are therefore based on Western business models. But second, and more importantly, business-hub cities like Beijing and Shanghai hold only a portion of businesses in China - especially when you only consider organically Chinese businesses and exclude foreign-owned/foreign-run enterprises. While Beijing and Shanghai companies may have their act together, a good number of companies in other smaller cities do not. These are the pitfalls of the Chinese lacking a historical international business base. While I wish that I could single-handedly reform the whole of these businesses, it is indeed no small task. But over the next six months, I will be digging my teeth into the steel giant that is the Laigang Group and I can only hope I don't come out with a mouthful of air.

P.S. Extra kudos from me to those of you who speak French and get the cartoon :)
posted by Rachel @ 11:01 PM  
THE WILD WILD EAST: Everything you never knew you didn't know about life on the other side.
In China, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The Chinese, who call this land "home," and the expats who migrate here. My name is Rachel. I am an expat. These are my stories.
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