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US China relations

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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Last Man Standing Part 3: POV Counts.

POV counts. Chinese have opinions too.

In US China negotiation, POV changes everything.
POV changes everything in negotiation

Some westerners are pushing back against the idea that we are facing the risk of rising trade barriers or a breakdown in orderly trade regimes. Their logic is that, “The US has a lot of levers, and we can assert our rights without necessarily sparking a trade war that the Trump Administration doesn’t want.” Not wrong, but it makes the dangerous assumption that trade relations are going to be something Washington stays in control of.

Trade frictions almost always take on a life of their own due to a single inconvenient point: Both sides in a dispute get an opinion. If you don’t know the other guy’s point of view (POV) then you have absolutely no control over the final result.

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Last Man Standing: China as Global Leader

Takeaway: As the US rapidly disqualifies itself from global leadership, China will find itself shoved into a role it doesn’t want it and isn’t ready for. We will almost certainly see a more China-centric world. Here’s what it may look like.  

What a difference a week makes. In my last article I spoke about 3 big issues China would face if it tried to step into the position of global leader.   In just a matter of days, however, the new US administration not only allowed it to happen, but seemed to be have been actively

Chuang Tzu and the Turtle
      Chuang Tzu tried to warn you

pushing the PRC into that role.

China went from the scrappy challenger who looked like a long-shot for the title to the last man standing in a remarkably short period of time. They’ve emerged as the odds on favorite by default.  The US has taken itself out of the global leadership game.  Europe looks fragmented and weak — and may very well end up following the US into isolationism. Russia is a military force. China is the last man standing and leads by default.

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Is China ready for the global BIG Time?

Before China can step up to global leadership it needs to address 3 BIG challenges:  Branding, Innovation, and Globalization.  It’s just not there yet.

The Trump inauguration and British exit from the EU may very well usher in a new era of isolationism. Every 10 years or so, pundits like to ask if it is China’s turn to step up to take center stage in global politics.   Even China’s foreign ministry has said it will reluctantly step up – if it was necessary. The truth, however is that whatever the external situation might be, China simply has a set of BIG problems that will contain China to a regional power for the time being.

China map - doing business in a regional power
Still Regional, after all of these years

 Branding

 Innovation

Globalization

Branding:

Still all Party. Chinese corporate branding tends to be very vague (at least by international standards) or very “talking head” (think Alibaba’s Jack Ma or Wanda’s Wang Lianjin). It’s very hard to separate the image of China brands from the CCP itself, and that’s a problem that isn’t going away. Global brands like Apple, Disney, Mercedes, and L’Oreal have their own identity – so they can manage their international image at will. You have your own view about Google or BMW. You can make it personal. China Inc. simply doesn’t work as a consumer brand, and even the few Chinese privates with global heft don’t have much identity apart from their owners or the Party.   (For a detailed examination of Chinese branding download BrandZ’s Chinese Global Brand Builders )

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People’s Daily & XinHua: Required Reading for International Business

China Negotiation Pro Tip: Start Reading the Chinese People’s Daily. The news is fake, but the sentiment is real.

Takeaway: The People’s Daily and other Xinhua-driven official news outlets offer Western decision-makers valuable insights into 1) CCP official policy and 2) Street level sentiment of Chinese public.

As we enter a new period of increasing tension and trade barriers, individual decision-makers

China negotiators should read people's daily and xinhua
The news is fake, but the sentiments are real.

will once again have to scramble for real, actionable news about China. I want to point you in an unexpected direction: the Xinhua News Agency / People’s Daily. By now we have all learned about the dangers of filter bubbles and echo chambers (at least that’s what my Facebook feed tells me), so I’m offering up a cheap & easy means of getting direct access to genuine CCP official views.  Here are the links:

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China and the Unpredictable Negotiator

Chinese negotiators tend to shift from guanxi-seeking partner to cut-throat competitor mode when confronted with an unpredictable counter-party.

Chinese negotiations usually follow one of two paths – towards long-term partnership or one-off competition.  What’s the difference?  You are.  If a Chinese counter-party feels that he can do better as a long-term partner, that’s what he’ll go after. If he feels that you won’t honor the terms and obligations of a durable & profitable relationship, he’ll go for your throat.

China and the unpredictable negotiatorChinese institutions are known for their long memories, and well after members of the new administration have forgotten their twitter tirades and decided to “move on and get on with business,” American firms will still face increased scrutiny, hostility, and non-economic barriers.

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US-China Business Negotiation 2017: Tactical Ambiguity

There is uncertainty in US-China business right now. Whatever your politics, there’s no denying that the business environment is going to shift in unknown and unpredictable ways over the next year or so. Let’s talk about how to make this work for you.

Tactical Ambiguity = Using Uncertainty as a Bargaining Chip

Strategic ambiguity is about long-term planning. Tactical ambiguity means turning an unclear situation into a valuable bargaining chip. Don’t minimize the impact of uncertainty or try to put an optimistic spin on everything. Chinese counter-parties generally fear chaos, and plan for success on global markets. Both of those buttons are lighting up bright red — so this is an opportunity to reframe your negotiations and planning sessions. You know your counter-party’s hopes and fears right now, and your job is to turn that to your advantage.

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Lessons from the G20 for “Regular” Negotiators

China’s treatment of the U.S. delegation as President Obama arrived at the G20 conference sparked controversy and a firestorm of international criticism. There are some great lessons here for front-line negotiators involved in cross-border deals.

Barack Obama ‘deliberately snubbed’ by Chinese in chaotic arrival at G20 – The Guardian

The US president was denied the usual red carpet welcome and forced to ‘go out of the ass’ of Air Force One, observers say

China chides media’s hype of G20 spat – Global Times

Overblown reports show arrogance: foreign ministry

Lessons from the G20 “tarmac row”

The conflict may or may not have been serious – but it was real. It says a lot about both the US and Chinese cultures. The Chinese infuriated the world with their hostile behavior. (Don’t be politically correct and insist on saying “perceived hostility”. Many people were angered by the way national security adviser Susan Rice was treated on that airport tarmac, and you may have been one of them. Own it.)  We infuriate the Chinese by talking about it publicly.

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Is it Still Worth it to do Business in China?   Part 3:  Myths about the New China Economy

China bears and the Chinapologists are spreading myths that lead to terrible business decisions. The truth lies somewhere between these two extreme – and dangerous viewpoints.

The Fragile Bridge
The Fragile Bridge: Conflict Management in Chinese Business

Last week we talked about China realities.  The ultimate conclusion was that while the Chinese business environment isn’t fair, it’s still the best game in town in terms of growth and opportunity.  As a China negotiator and decision-maker, you have to decide early – go all in or get completely out for good.  China is a terrible place for half-measures.

Two types of China myths.  China bear and Chinapologists.

Chinapologists are the China experts who support and spread the orthodox China party line.  You can usually spot them because they tend to preface every statement with, “I’m not supporting the Chinese party line but…” and then they proceed to do so.  When a Chinese person does this it’s pretty easy to spot them as either 50 Cent Army (paid posters on online chat and BBS sites, who are alleged paid half a mao – or fifty cents – for each pro-government entry) or direct beneficiaries of Chinese policy.  It has become common for Westerners living in China for a long time or hoping to curry favor with bureaucrats or officials to actively defend Chinese policies that many Westerners consider unfair or discriminatory.    Sometimes these Chinapologists feel they are winning points with decision-makers who will soon repay the favor; sometimes they got to this position via a slippery slope of defending elements of Chinese business or society that they genuinely believe in- but ended up completely in the China camp; and sometimes they are merely mouthing politically correct positions in public while take a much more realistic stance in private or with paying customers.  However they may have come to act as apologists for the Chinese bureaucracy, their arguments usually fall into one of three main categories:

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Is it Still Worth it to Do Business in China? (Part 1)

Guanxi-building gifts, premium pricing for prestige brands, and closely guarded trade secrets used to be the hallmarks of a savvy international management team in China – now they are prosecutable offenses.   

Glaxo SmithKline.  Mercedes Benz.  Yum.  McDonalds.  The list of Fortune 100 MNCs getting into high-profile legal trouble in China has been growing – and the

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

severity of problems growing more intense than ever.  With the conviction of a well-known Western consultant and the widespread deployment of China’s Anti Monopoly Law, even the most die-hard Chinapologists are having a hard time arguing that international firms are getting fair treatment from Beijing.  In the past the biggest problem facing Western managers and negotiators in China was the lack of consistent laws – now the problem is too much law and uneven enforcement.

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