Archive for December, 2008

Western Conflict with Chinese Business Leadership

Posted on December 4, 2008. Filed under: Corporate |

As referenced in my previous post, Leadership and Chinese CEO’s, I alluded to the difficulty in blending Western business philosophies and values with Chinese culture, Confucianism, and communist ideologies.  Comparatively, there is little research regarding this area of study, making it difficult for both West and East to come to a mutual understanding.  The Chinese are struggling and yearning for more information in how to handle the influx of Western influence, and Western countries are confused with how to engage with Chinese styles of leadership.  Again, it is nearly impossible to simply replace Eastern with Western leadership practices due to an inevitable culture clash.  For example, much of Chinese business culture is focused on relationship building, namely, determining whether you can be true to your deliverables, and Western cultures have difficulty understanding this “phenomenon,” and are unable to understand why the Chinese dwell upon this.  There’s something new…listening to your business partners! How innovative!

Chinese leadership styles is rapidly changing in order to adjust to Western markets, practices, and strategies.  This change manifests itself through its ‘unstructured’ legal environment and its difficulty to present itself clearly.  Its lack of transparency allows flexibility in its interpretation and implementation, causing confusion with Western practices.  Bribery? Gifts? Off-shore accounts? These may be initial reactions to Chinese obstacles, but here’s something I learned in re-evaluation counseling…ACTIVELY LISTEN.

It is more important for Chinese leaders to understand that you are genuinely concerned with the development of its people, the community, and its businesses.  If the Chinese government, which still controls the majority of corporate objectives, believes that your organization engages its community and business partners with manipulation, it may be very difficult for you to garner their trust and thus, its business.  Don’t worry about spending millions of dollars on cultural trainings and adjustment programs, instead, focus on relationship building, community, and support.  Remember, this is a communist country, and the development of the whole is more important than its pieces.

When preparing for operations in China, joint ventures and partnerships, be very upfront about your expectations and objectives.  List them out in detail from both parties, including short and long-term goals/objectives (1 year, 5 year, 10 year, and 25 year plans).  This transparency and dedication to sincere relationship building will increase the degree of comfort and compatibility among partners/joint ventures.  Remember, LISTEN and be UPFRONT.  Relationship building is key to your firm’s success in China, and making them believe that they are being provided opportunities in executive management and goal-setting, they will continue to believe that the two relationships are in tandem.  China understands its global power and influence, so never challenge this belief if you value your position and company’s profits.  They will leverage their economic buying power to remind you of your role in China, and its ehem, well, need of China.  Many Chinese corporations are not afraid to back out of business engagements simply due to feeling slighted or taken advantage of.

Today’s lesson: Western profits can be made in China when following the basics…relationship building, truthful confessions of short and long term objectives/goals, and continued support for the community.

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