Great piece of cultural information from Jason Patent’s blog post, Friend of China or … Other? [link no longer exists].
Patent’s post starts out talking about Lenovo Chairman Liu Chuanzhi’s recent comment on how Lenovo is “lucky Steve Jobs has such a bad temper and doesn’t care about China. If Apple were to spend the same effort on the Chinese consumer as we do, we would be in trouble.”
Patent expects this comment “has been well received” in China and he attributes this to the fact that “few things are more important in China than being a ‘friend of China.'” Patent then quotes from Dr. James Chan, who has this to say about the importance of “Acceptance” in doing business with China:
There is one thing many Westerners don’t think about when they walk into China. What the Chinese people really want from Westerners is “acceptance.” If you want to sell anything to the Chinese or, for that matter, build relationships with the Chinese, you must make your customers, contacts, associates, and partners feel you are not behaving that a “barbarian” or “marauder.”
This is a key perception that is deeply-rooted in the Chinese psyche based on thousands of years of mistrust and distrust of the “outsiders.” There is one thing about “acceptance” that only you can do: you have to be able to accept the Chinese as they are. You want to do business with the Chinese; you don’t want to change the Chinese. The moment you make people feel that you’re going to China to make the Chinese look and act and adopt the same values that you fine “superior,” you’ll be perceived as the age-old “barbarian” and “marauder” whom they’ve learned and taught to distrust. You cannot make all 1.32 billion Chinese to trust you.
But you can find and groom the one or two persons, the “insiders” who feel that you respect them and that you listen to their advice. If you can do this, you will make money for as long as you desire in China.
I completely agree and this is something I am constantly preaching to clients and friends who go overseas, not just to China. We Americans are so used to being the “big dogs” that we generally do not care much about what others think of our country. I have learned through my own personal experiences that this is not true of most other countries.
My own experiences tell me that if you make an effort to learn some of the history and some of the language and some of the culture of the countries to which you go, you will be very much appreciated for it. And if you respect/accept what is good/right/beautiful in other countries, you will be much appreciated for that as well.
Rather basic stuff, I know, but I have sat through many a dinner or a meeting where someone from the West has used the occasion as an opportunity to explain to the Chinese (or the Korean or the Russian or the whatever) businessperson all of the things his or her country must do to grow/develop/improve or whatever. Nobody appreciates being talked down to, particularly those from countries who are already wary of Westerners claiming superiority. It is not good for business.
What do you think?