If it’s right for China – it’s right for you.
20 years ago I stood in an office on a saturday morning and registered my company. Not a letter box company. A real Ltd. with real capital. The Chinese official (who works on saturday) asked me to fill in a paper. Not long I had to ask my Chinese brother Bill: “what does that mean? ‘How does my work help China’?”
He explained rather simply: “write down how your work will help China“. It is part of the opening process of your company. So I sat down and several days later received a call. Some people of the government wanted to talk to me as they where impressed by my writing. I had developed an idea for globalized international prototyping and wanted China to play an integral part in it. A few days later I was official consultant. Seems they ask – and listen!
Shortly before Christmas I received a Wechat message of one of the top leaders of China Railway Business. He ended with “I ask for blessings for my mother in pain and for blessing for my homeland in development“.
Westerners (like me) first look at it and then feel a bit strange. Would I ask for blessing for Germany? Nope. My homeland takes away all my taxes and gives me nothing in return.
But China is different indeed. It really delivers to its people. And its people are very aware they make up China. Each one of them. So it is absolutely common to ask “what can I do for my country?” as it is absolutely common for every common Chinese to expect his leaders ask themselves how to make his life better.
If you do business in China, ask yourself truly, with no one around: “what do I do to make China a better place?”
If you have a strong answer, you have a very high chance to succeed.
If not, look for one and you will.
“But they always cheat!”
All too common: someone looses some business, someone fails in competing with Chinese, will claim he got “cheated”.
Now there are several things to understand: one is the different philosophical and ethical structure. Given. But then again I found them to be the same human beings with same hearts, tears, smiles as we are.
They stopped in the pouring rain in the North when I could not get a taxi and dropped me off at the hotel, they worked their guts out to make my delivery dates happen. They tried to max their profits and never complained when I did so too.
In business they use strategies. Most famously the 36 strategems (google it). Harro von Senger was a Swiss lawyer who studied in Beijing when Mao was still alive and gave us the deepest insight into it. His book “Suprastrategy” is pretty good. But be at ease: there is no magic to it. Reminds me more of Ray Dalio’s “principles”. As he believes, the Chinese do so that in given situations its way better to being able to fall back to a standardized code. In other words: sometimes its perfect having a repertoire of standards to play instead of freely jamming around.
So its us to learn their code if they are winning with it. I liked doing so and I like sharing it. I don’t talk about adoption. I will always stay the German countryside man I was born. But that does not stop me from learning a new dance as long as I wont need to bend for it. And they never made me. Never tried.
I came to China with not much as my protection. The Chinese never abused that. They gave me all support and space to grow my business. They wanted to have their share of profit from it and said so. I found it entirely gentlemen like.
Disputes can be rough, loud. I sure lost my belief in case of “war” I should “not fight”. By the way, the Nobel prize winner Konrad Lorenz already had ruled that behavior into utopia. The art of war is not not to fight. But the lesson of my favorite Author Peter Scholl-Latour: wars are best ended when they are won.
In China, no body is interested in endless blockage. That makes crisis management easier – in case you are ready to heat and speed up.
Let’s face it: we all want to win. And we all want to be part of a society, a bigger thing than ourselves. We understand we are woven into an interdependent web of human beings. No difference all around the world.
In the West we got a bit comfortable by not having to fight that hard, that much any more. So China might give one the impression its a bit more challenging. But cheating it’s not. It just demands us to be top fit.
Nothing wrong about it.
(As a personal note: I never got cheated better than by Oxford-studied rich-family-boys who inherited tractor fortunes in my hometown, had a life on the free ride and more rotten concepts than a fermented shark. In contrast to latter they even proved to be ultimate cowards. Why I mention this? The sentence “the Asians lie, can’t see their eyes smiling” and other rubbish all too often is a losers lament by exactly these hypocrites.)
China’s “rise” is advertised everywhere.
Sometimes in admiration, sometimes with fear and not too rarely with some envy.
If you want to understand China, you must imagine their own understanding of “rising”: coming back to where they (feel, believe, absolutely) belong. They don’t feel they just made some miracle happen. To them, it’s pure historical logic. Their last 150 or so years where felt as the great humiliation by the West. We wanted to sell them drugs so we could finance the tea trade. We stole their tea seeds, their technologies and their pride. Now what should we expect of them?
Think of them as the same ones that where there where they built pyramids. Or temples in the jungle. When us Germans hit the Romans and so on. Same language, same thought concept. If you read “Antifragility” by Nassim Taleb, you might call China very “anti-fragile”. Did not break under pressure, just became stronger. And all Chinese do feel attached to their past. It’s still China. They are still Chinese.
When we admire their rise, they quickly think we mock them secretly (as being completely ignorant of their history; why should you admire a champ to win?). If we fear them, they don’t get it as they never sent a bullet over to us (but we quite some to them).
If we want to stop them (and stopping means we want to limit them, tell them they should or shouldn’t do things), they feel a horrendous amount of anger. Because they feel China’s misery, their fall from being the number 1 industrial nation in the 18th century just had one single reason: us. That may or may not be the case. I am not discussing it. I try to prepare grounds for a better understanding.
Lots of people think, Chinese want to have a USA in the East. Or a EU like system. This is nothing else but western hubris. Sure enough, they have their points of criticism. But they are not much interested what we think of it and even less want to hear our “ideas” how “China can be better”.
Chinese people are utterly pragmatic. They manage their own fortune. And they do so in complete self-control. We might, being confronted with China’s comeback, best accept it. And draw our own conclusions. Nobody in China asks us to follow them, their ideas, their principles. They ask us to compete. They expect us to do so. Maybe not on our set of rules. But then again who says our set is globally binding?
Think of it as a kickbox competition: no need to complain of an elbow used. Better learn how to use it yourself.