A practical guide to navigating the ever changing business climate in China.
According to Chao, the last decade has ushered in seismic change for China’s business environment—the growth of e-commerce, a burgeoning middle class, and a more globalized outlook have resulted in a rewriting of the old rules. As a consequence, there is a wealth of opportunities in China not just for colossal multinational corporations, but also for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that previously found the nation a prohibitively costly and complex environment. The author demythologizes the cultural barriers to doing business in China; he debunks the “half-truths and sweeping generalizations” about the value of keeping face and the indispensability of special favors and connections, and he puts into context the emphasis placed on trust and the understanding of the local ceremony. In short, Chao contends that an unnecessary preoccupation with cultural rectitude detracts from more conventionally sound business practices. Still, he avers, there is a real cultural and linguistic divide that renders a foreigner’s instincts all but useless: “Westerners may be able to make instinctive decisions when dealing with their fellow countrypeople [sic], but they lack the experience needed to make similar judgments about Mainland Chinese.” The author provides a surfeit of actionable counsel, including how to determine whether one’s business is a good fit for China, how to understand and make legal contracts, and how to negotiate effectively. Also, this second edition adds Chao’s prognostications regarding China’s future, which the author envisions as brimming with both considerable progress and social unrest. Chao has over 20 years of experience working as a consultant to SMBs in China, and his long-accumulated wisdom is evinced on every page and consistently delivered in easily accessible prose. He furnishes a helpful combination of cultural context and pragmatic advice and paints a picture of China markedly divergent from conventional orthodoxy. His points are frequently illustrated with personal anecdotes, which make the book not only easier to understand, but also a more companionable read. And Chao radiates a healthy humility about his conclusions, especially given the protean nature of Chinese society. “My book will probably be just as funny and antiquated 10 years from now; a source for jokes for the new 20-somethings going to China.”
Even those not interested in business per se but looking for a synoptic primer on Chinese culture will find Chao’s book appealing. He anatomizes with great subtlety the current generation’s uneasy juxtaposition between the old and the new, between the modern world eating up the horizon and the hold of an ancient tradition slow to concede ground. For example, contracts matter—you shouldn’t do business without them—but often the Chinese don’t interpret them as decisive and unashamedly revise them post-agreement. Chao’s rendering of China is cleareyed and relentlessly empirical, reporting from the inside the new way of doing business and the new opportunities consequently generated.
A brief but thorough—and thoroughly sensible—business resource.