BOOKCASE : How to do Business in China: 24 Lessons in Engaging the Dragon

• Nick Dallas
• McGraw-Hill Professional Education
• $15.00

It’s small book, but worthy of proper review. How to do Business in China: 24 Lessons in Engaging the Dragon is but 56-page booklet which, for me, conjures up images of mouse chasing an elephant. That said, if said mouse has more cunning than said elephant, then it would probably win. I digress.
China’s economic ascent and rapidly expanding consumer market has captured the attention of the Western world – which is making steady inroads and investment. Obviously, with increased opportunity comes increased risk and this is what this book aims to mitigate. Billed as an employee handbook for enhancing corporate performance, it is series of bite-sized ‘how to’s’ for those planning to branch out into the Chinese market.
The advice offered ranges from the diversity of the Chinese market (which boasts more than billion customers), and finding the right partner (often the difference between success and failure), to investigating diaspora links and performing thorough risk analysis.
Of particular interest is the information on ‘Guanxi’ – usually translated as connections, trust and relationships. It warns of the temptation of being attracted to doing business in China due to its low labour costs and large domestic market, while underestimating the high trans­action costs required to cultivate relationships (Guanxi means the relationships, not the costs). “Guanxi represents blurring of the personal and professional. People’s sense of themselves is largely determined by their relationships with others and how they are perceived by others. That the social should overspill into the commercial shouldn’t come as surprising.” That information is probably not rocket science, but it’s vital to have the basics in place.
The list of sources and further suggested reading at the end of the book are also useful – the book is short and easily digestible, yet offers avenues for further investigation should the reader be so inclined.
At first reading, the Chinese proverbs irritate – “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart”, “Patience and the mulberry leaf becomes silk rope” and so on – but if you take them on trust as being credible and parochial then they do offer insight (albeit likely stereotypical one).
All up, an interesting and informative volume which is inexpensive and light. It tells you what to look out for and be aware of but not how to tackle these issues. For that, you must go deeper.
A small quibble: the last piece of advice “Just do it!” – saying that no amount of reading will fully prepare you for the challenges of doing business in China – seems to undermine the book’s stated role.

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