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General Principles are the Terms and Conditions page of Chinese Negotiation

In Chinese negotiation, don’t confuse polite rhetoric with concerted strategy.

American and European negotiators treat their Chinese counterparties’ “general principles” discussion like the “terms and conditions” screen – we just check the box and look for the real content. Big mistake.

General Principles Discussion can come back to haunt careless negotiators

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Westerners in China often make important concessions without even knowing it. It’s common for Chinese negotiators to frame their position with a discussion of “general principles”. Westerners tend to shrug them off with vague agreement – particularly since these conversations tend to be phrased in vague, wooden rhetoric like “harmony and shared responsibility”. It all sounds like meaningless propaganda to us, and it mixes easily with the toasts, proverbs, unfamiliar historic references and folksy anecdotes that characterize a boozy banquet night in Shanghai or Beijing. Western negotiators tend to focus on transactions, and aggressive negotiators will make every effort to control the negotiating agenda and nail down concrete deal points – but the Chinese side never gives up on their deal points or general goals, regardless of the appearance of compromise or concession.

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Are International Managers in China Ready for the New Middle Class?

The service sector is the key to understanding the New Chinese Consumption Model

On Tues I attended a panel discussion at the Asia Society in NY  titled Doing Business in Asia: 2014 and Beyond where five experts shared their thoughts on direction of the business environment in Learn to negotiate in China with China SooveAsia. You can get details and see a webcast here. The 5 experts, including Quartz’s Gwynn Guilford and the Harvard Kennedy School’s Edward Cunningham  laid out their views on the future of Asia with a focus on China.

The five big takeaways:

1. The big story is the growth of the middle class – carrying with it the promise of new prosperity and the threat of greater environmental strains.
2. GDP in China will fall significantly. Although admittedly not economic experts, the panel mostly predicted that China’s economic growth would be somewhere around 5% YOY in the near future — or roughly 30% off official projections. China is shifting from an investment based to consumption based economic model.
3. Pollution will continue to be a major problem.
4. The demand for new health care is rising dramatically.
5. Chinese industry is becoming less competitive as wages rise and the cost of inputs continues to trend upwards. The new middle class is going to be big users and providers of services.

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