“It’s not what China can do for you, it’s what you can do for China.” This quote from one of our speakers to me defines what China is on so many levels. When he first said it, he was talking specifically about doing business in China, but I now realize that it extends beyond business and it is a mindset truly ingrained into so many Chinese and evident in their actions. It is this mentality that has shaped business ventures, government policies and day to day interactions in China. I also see this Chinese collectivist mentality as an enabler for their rapid economic growth and recent accomplishments.
Actions speak louder than contracts
A few of our speakers talked about business negotiations in China. It is not a run in and run out sort of deal. It takes time, and often much more than what foreigners are used to spending. Our speaker noted that this process was a test of character. The potential partner wants to make sure that you can handle the stress and are willing to take the time to invest in the relationship. I think it also relates back to that quote. The Chinese want to make sure that your intentions are not one sided, but rather you care about your partner and are willing to do what you can for them. This is what every partner wants of course, but it seems that acting upon this idea is what is really important.
Signing a contract shows little sign of character. While going out to visit the partner, spending hours with them at a dinner table, being understanding of their wants and needs and trusting their word shows that you are dedicated and determined to reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial and you trust them to do the same.
Emphasize and focus the business around creating value for your partners and customers
What is important is not what a partner can do for you, but rather what you can do for them. The emphasis is on providing something unique for your partner, rather than concentrating on what they will give you in return. Therefore, the focus is on creating value for your partner or customer rather than concentrating solely on your own profits or personal benefit.
Many companies entering China do not create a unique value proposition for their customers and partners. They simply try to implement their US business model in China, without genuinely making adjustments. Their China strategy, however, should look very different than their US strategy, because they are serving a different market that finds value in different areas. The companies that fail to deliver this unique value to their customers or partners are the ones that are not focusing on what they can do for China, but instead are lost in their own agenda. Ultimately, these firms end up losing out.
The central government and people have China’s well-being in mind
The government and its people have great aspirations for themselves. They want to grow, improve the standards of living and live in peace. This sounds like every country I have ever heard of really, but the commitment in China is incredible as is the overall coordination by the central government. Before going to China, I think a lot of us were a bit skeptical of the Party and their strategic plans. Relocating millions of people to build up infrastructure or favoring an industry in one area over another all seemed to make me feel a bit uncomfortable. Economic growth sounds great and all, but these are people we are talking about here.
Then again, we often forget that these things happen in our own country. It just happens a lot more in a country with one billion extra people and in a country that did not develop their infrastructure over time as their population grew around it. I know not everyone is happy about the sacrifices they have to make, but many Chinese share this mentality that they are helping to build something bigger, which in the end will benefit all of China.
Another observation is that the central government really does have China’s best interests in mind. They are focused on doing what they can for China, rather than finding out what China can do for them. Yes, there are accounts of government corruption and Party members that take advantage of their power. However, overall, I would argue that the government is doing good things for their people and have good intentions. Their unified approach and long term vision allows them to make impactful decisions that have been instrumental in building up infrastructure, driving the country’s growth and helping people improve their standards of living. There are many challenges they will need to address in the future, but they are moving in the right direction in regards to many of those difficulties.
China’s collectivist mentality has accelerated growth
It seems that whenever you engage in a relationship in China, it is best to have the “here is what I can do for you” approach. When bargaining at a local market, incentivizing employees to come to your company with added benefits or bringing your children up to care about the family as a whole instead of just themselves, it seems that this collectivist mindset is widespread.
I am convinced that this mentality is a reason that China has been able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time. The people are united around common goals rather than attached to their own agenda. When you get millions of people supporting one long term vision, then that’s when you start to see some pretty amazing things come from it. China still has a long way to go, but I am impressed with their effective and original approach towards development, and am optimistic about their future.
The media’s negative portrayal of China needs to be seriously adjusted
Now I am trying to think of what I can do for China. I haven’t quite figured it all out yet, but there are a few things that I think can help with right now. The twisted perceptions of China in America need to stop. We need to be less afraid of China and more enthusiastic about the US-China relationship. There is so much opportunity in working together, and the Chinese see and believe this. They want friendly competition, but also mutually beneficial relationships to improve the lives of both Americans and Chinese. The negative US attitude could cause us to miss out on growing together and achieving much more than we would apart or in direct competition. Americans need to have more of the collectivist mindset and see what we can do for China, in order to develop a strong, lasting relationship.
Hopefully sharing my insights on China can help provide a new perspective for the people I know at the very least. Below are a few other random observations:
1. China is smoggy, yes. But through the smog and the clouds, that sun is strong, so watch out. Also, China does recognize that pollution is a problem. It is just difficult to regulate and incentivize 1.3 billion people to live green and control their pollution emissions. Regardless, reducing pollution and going green is in their 10 year plan, and if I trust any country in following through on their goals, that would be China. I am sure we will see proof of that soon.
2. Yes, China’s healthcare system is in trouble as their population ages, but honestly which country’s isn’t right now.
3. People in China love Americans and want to meet you. They are so welcoming. Walk into a bar and I am sure a tray of shots will not be far off. You will be asked for your email address or even your US phone number. In whatever way you feel comfortable communicating, talk it up. These people live such interesting lives and come from the most diverse backgrounds. I learned a lot about China by these random conversations. You will only be hurting yourself by shying away.
4. You can definitely get by without knowing Chinese, but I wish I knew it. It is very easy to navigate (at least in the cities). However, we were told there are little nuances to the culture that are difficult to catch unless you understand the language, so I am working on it now.
5. China is a beautiful country with a bit of everything for everyone. I was beyond impressed by the various mountain ranges, rivers, skyscrapers, parks, KTVs, clubs. No matter what you like to see and do, you will find it in China.
There is so much more to say. This trip exceeded my expectations in every way. I end it being even more curious about China than before. This might have been my first trip to China, but it will not be the last. Thank you Trey, Denise, Gigi and UVA for making all this possible…
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On my honor I have neither given nor received aid on this assignment.