A lively, informative primer on recognizing and avoiding the cultural pitfalls Americans may encounter while doing business in China.
A Chinese human resources director is embarrassed and troubled by the lavish public compliments a company manager offers her. At meetings, the Chinese employees say little to nothing, frustrating their American boss who wants and expects their input. Such cultural misunderstandings are common and avoidable, contend authors Kelm (Hispanic linguistics/University of Texas at Austin; Brazilians Working with Americans, 2007), Doggett, a senior lecturer at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, and Tang, a senior product planner for Dell, Inc. In a familiar business text format, they offer eight case studies, each of which focuses on a particular cultural impasse, such as those mentioned above, that may stall American-Chinese business dealings. Each case study is followed by commentary from three American executives with much experience doing business in China, and three Chinese executives. The authors then offer some final comments along with topics and questions for discussion. While a few of the case studies tend to repeat the same message and the executives don’t always agree in their commentary, overall the format works well, offering broad lessons from particular scenarios. Simply put, China is different, and American executives, if they are to succeed in China, should recognize this. Millennia of Confucian influence have produced in China a strong sensitivity to the needs and feelings of the group. A public compliment, which Americans hand out like candy, may cause the Chinese recipient to worry that other colleagues may lose face and experience public humiliation. China is also a hierarchical society; though this is changing, one does not publicly challenge the boss. If Chinese are quiet at a meeting, it doesn’t mean they’re disinterested, only cautious, and may express themselves quite clearly one-on-one or in e-mails. Dozens of such insights and lessons are offered throughout the book, all leading to the conclusion that, in China, how the deal gets done is as important as getting it done.
Essential reading for anyone heading off to do business in China.