Chao, a Chinese-American who’s worked and consulted in China for years, offers commonsense tips and offbeat takes on doing business in the world’s most populous country.
Though China’s startling growth attracts swarms of foreign capitalists, prospering in China is no easy feat. As elsewhere, success requires plenty of preparation. Owners of the small and medium-sized businesses this book targets must scope out the market warily: “Don’t ever follow your gut instinct in China. It will lead to indigestion.” Laws in China are in constant flux and subject to selective enforcement; contracts are considered gestures of goodwill rather than legal binders, and corruption is rampant. Despite the caveats, Chao sees ample opportunity for those willing to work hard and be careful, so he offers detailed instructions on how to find good markets and partners, avoid problems with competitors and succeed at the ancient Chinese art of haggling—“an emotional roller-coaster ride of anger, ridicule, disappointment, grief, and then finally confusion.” It all boils down to one essential rule: Trust no one, which is probably good advice in any land. Chao bolsters the book’s lessons with colorful examples of Chinese partners absconding with foreigners’ funds and other deals with laowai (foreigners) gone awry. Checking out a list of supposed business references by phone, he hears “babies crying or grandmas screaming that dinner was ready.” Short executive summaries cap each chapter, along with a final list of “13 Rules for Doing Business in China,” which includes “Sweat the Details” and “Never Do Joint Ventures.” The book takes a refreshingly nuanced stance on oft-repeated platitudes about Chinese cultural traits such as guanxi—connections—and mianzi, or face. An occasional cliché mars the prose—“as they say, ignorance is bliss”—but overall, this is a tightly written, sometimes even entertaining account of real-world business tactics and strategy, rather than just another boring business book.
A broad, worthy compendium of business tips to help succeed in China.