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China negotiation training

Three Negotiating Issues to Watch at the Xi Trump Meeting

The upcoming Xi – Trump meeting is the first face-to-face sit down between the two leaders.  The US side has been clear about what it wants from China, but it’s not quite as clear what it plans on offering.  Don’t get distracted by the background noise like Tillerson’s visit  or uninformed “princeling” gossip.  This is all about the relationship between 2 leaders.

Every negotiation is a competition between two narratives

The Trump story is entitled “Make America Great Again” – but the plot is a muddle of victimhood (China is bullying America) and bravado (unilateral action on North Korea).  Xi Jinping’s narrative is “The Chinese Dream” which juxtaposes a need for global respect with insistence on non-confrontation – all wrapped around one of the largest projections of power since the early Ming (OBOR, 9 Dash Line).

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The Future of US-China Commercial Relations: Welcome to the Multiconomy

Takeaway – Established Western brands will continue to defend their global leadership positions for a while yet, but Chinese corporates are taking control of growing niches and new categories. Look for Chinese entities to disrupt industries through enforced localization and substitution – not head-to-head competition.

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Welcome to the Multiconomy

Phase 1: Frenemies on a Glass Bridge

The status quo of US – China commerce can best be described as frenemies who need each other more than they like each other.  Up until now, both Chinese and Western commercial systems have been multi-faceted and opportunistic. National policies have been one of many inputs in business decision-making.

US China Relations are like a glass bridgeThis situation can be characterized as brittle, but not necessarily fragile. Think of our existing system as a strong glass bridge. It’s very stable – right up until the moment it starts to crack. Then it can no longer support its own weight, but is very difficult to repair.

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5 Negotiating Lessons from Sec. of State Tillerson’s Beijing Trip

That treacherous opening Chinese toast.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made his first official visit to China last weekend, and the White House probably sees it as one of the bright spots in a rocky transition. His Beijing hosts, however, will view the meet as a major step towards their goal of regional hegemony and global respect. Like many western execs before him, Sec. Tillerson doesn’t seem to understand what the Chinese believe he’s agreed to.

This was how the new Sec of State described the US China relationship in January:

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The New CEO in Asia

We’ve seen this before. A new CEO with limited China experience introduces himself to the international business community with tough

China policy can leave you between a rock and a hard place
China policy can leave you between a rock and a hard place.

talk and big promises about China and the rest of Asia. Then reality rears its ugly head.

The new US administration is doing what new US senior managers in China do best – sending conflicting messages, missing opportunities, and making sweeping pronouncements that are just about impossible to implement.

What can we expect moving forward?  

Expect to watch the needle swing back and forth between Partner and Competitor pretty sharply for a while yet as the new trade bosses find their footing. Here are the potential flashpoints you should be watching.

  • china businessman stressed outSouth China Seas Dumping Currency North Korea Iran Cyber spying Intellectual property protection Tariffs or “border adjustments” Christianity in China Taiwan

    Yes, the Taiwan card has been played, but you can expect to see it massively overplayed at least once again in the near future. The present administration has probably forgotten the Taiwan call & tweet , and is hoping that the tough talk on North Korea will amount to little more than a photo-op. And that’s your problem(s).

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Is it Still Worth it to do Business in China?   Part 4: Different Earnings Models, Different Bureaucratic Challenges

The Chinese bureaucracy is much more tolerant of overseas companies that spend than of overseas companies that earn in China.  That means integrated MNCs must adjust their business models – and their approach to regulators – when they are selling.

Western negotiators in China are finally coming to accept

10 China Negotiating Mistakes - Buy the eBook on Kindle
Learn from the expensive mistakes of expats who have come before you.

that no matter what the deal on the table may be, their most significant counterparty is the Chinese government bureaucracy.  The Chinese government has a much different attitude towards international businesses coming to China to buy or manufacture as opposed to those coming to China to sell and market.  International managers are still coming to grips with this dichotomy, and it is causing problems and costing money.

Ask not what China can do for you – ask what China wants from you.

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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

10 China Negotiating Mistakes - Buy the eBook on Kindle
Learn from the expensive mistakes of expats who have come before you.

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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MicroSoft in China – Massive Schlimazel

Miscrosoft 8 Banned from Government Computers in a Surprise Announcement

According to every Yiddish speaking grandmother in the world, there are two kinds of fools  – schlemiels and schlimazels   The schlemiel walks into a busy restaurant and bangs smack into a waiter carrying a tray of hot soup, dumping it all onto a customer sitting nearby.  The schlimazel is the guy that gets dumped on.

10 China Negotiating Mistakes - Buy the eBook on Kindle
Mistake #4: Losing control of the agenda. Mistake #5: Training your own competition. Mistake #10 : Forgetting that it’s only guanxi until you get caught

Bill Gates of Microsoft is the schlimazel.

(Reuters) – China has banned government use of Windows 8, Microsoft Corp’s latest operating system, a blow to a U.S. technology company that has long struggled with sales in the country. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/20/us-microsoft-china-idUSBREA4J07Q20140520

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Negotiating with (Reluctantly) First-World Chinese Managers (Part 2)

How to do business with Chinese managers who are still in denial about their changing role in the world.

10 China Negotiating Mistakes - Buy the eBook on Kindle
Learn from the expensive mistakes of expat negotiators who have come before you…

Forget the Financial Times headlines about China’s rising international clout, and super-lux marketing campaigns targeting elite buyers in Beijing and Shanghai.  Chinese media is still carrying the Party line about China as the struggling developing market – and your Chinese negotiating counterparty believes it to some degree.  When approaching a Chinese negotiation, you have to take into account the conflicting roles that Chinese managers are grappling with.  On the one hand they are brought up to see the Chinese Nation as  perennial victim of foreign aggression, but they are also confident about their growing economic power.

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Why it’s not OK to have never heard of Alibaba.

Lack of basic business intelligence is the #1 risk facing Western negotiators in China.

10 China Negotiating Mistakes - Buy the eBook on Kindle
Learn from the expensive mistakes of expat negotiators who have come before you…

Alibaba is grabbing headlines again for breaking new ground – again.  This week it’s a record setting IPO in NY (bigger than Facebook) — though it’s newly announced deal with ShopRunner may turn out to be even more significant in the medium-term.

Just to restate the obvious, Alibaba is already involved in a very large equity cross-holding deal with Yahoo and one of their major investors is Softbank.   The company has been around for 15 years, and for most of that time their iconic founder Jack Ma has been shuttling around the world, raising funds, making deals, and speaking at international A-list conferences.  Alibaba started out as an international B2B platform whose raison d’etre was to match Chinese sellers with international buyers.  Nowadays it is China’s most distinctive brand, responsible for selling or moving roughly half of every online transaction in China (which the World Bank just ranked as the world’s largest economy).

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We Are Not #1 !

Experienced China negotiators know why China doesn’t want the title: World’s Biggest Economy.

China is trying its best to avoid the glare of international scrutiny again – but this time it’s not about censorship, corruption, or human rights. The World Bank is trying to hang the mantle of “world’s largest economy” on China’s brawny shoulders – and Beijing is having none of it.

10 China Negotiating Mistakes - Buy the eBook on Kindle
Learn from the expensive mistakes of expat negotiators who have come before you…

Regular readers of ChinaSolved are familiar with the successful Chinese negotiating tactic of BoPS  – or Balance of Power Shift. Chinese negotiators frequently enter a deal situation by purposely placing themselves in a subordinate position. They are known for their humility, cordiality, and polite flattery – “your company is so accomplished, your technology so advanced, your brand so famous.” You aren’t treated as an equal partner — you are “LaoShi”, the honored teacher who leads and offers guidance. Before you know it, you have guided your polite new junior partners right to your best technology, your proprietary business methods, and maybe even your customer lists. That’s when the balance of power shifts and suddenly your humble Chinese counterpart becomes a good deal more assertive. Once a Western negotiator has outlived his usefulness, the partnership either dissolves completely or becomes much more competitive in nature.

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