A Guide to Doing Business in China
By Terence Nip
The Hoffman Agency, Hong Kong
The “American dream” assures people that they can have a happy and successful life if they work hard enough. This gets me thinking: what is China’s answer to the American dream?
Mr. Xi Jinping, the new General Secretary of the Communist Party, recently talked about the Chinese dream while visiting an exhibition in Beijing:
“Everyone has their own ideal and pursuit, as well as their own dream. Now people are also discussing the Chinese dream and what that dream is. I think realizing the great renewal of the Chinese nation is the greatest dream for China in modern history.”
Currently, China is probably at or near the peak of its economic power in the world; both local and foreign companies are eyeing it for a multitude of business and investment opportunities.
As the world’s second largest economy by nominal GDP and by purchasing power, China is regarded as one of the most strategically important markets in the world.
In addition, its uniquely high concentration of foreign companies, entrepreneurs, top-tier media and government officials represents an excellent opportunity for professionals in the fields of marketing, public relations, investor relations, government relations and crisis communications.
This is the reason why I chose to go to Beijing to practice PR. This is the reason that, although from Hong Kong originally, I wanted to go to Beijing to experience the PR landscape there first hand. As Hoffman offers secondments in other offices around the world, I was lucky enough to be able to fulfill my own Chinese dream, living and working in Beijing for seven months.
During my PR placement in Beijing, I have met lots of interesting people from different Chinese provinces, or expatriates from other countries. In spite of their origins, they have one thing in common – they are all firm believers in the Chinese dream. This delicate mix of traditional and modern China, and of the East and West, create a cradle for a new economic empire in Beijing.
Over the course of my PR placement, I have helped Mainland Chinese companies go global and communicate their success stories to their investor communities in the United States and in Europe. Additionally, I have helped foreign companies to build, sustain and elevate their public profiles among stakeholders in China by coordinating with their U.S. and Asia Pacific teams.
The global economic downturn propels companies to expedite expansion in Asia, and specifically in China. However, for every high-profile success story, there are many abject failures: big names such as Amazon, Best Buy and Yahoo! have come, seen and failed to conquer.
Few of these big-name companies truly understand the importance of adapting the sales and marketing strategies to the local market, especially in a country where there are lots of hidden rules. Many American and European enterprises know that the Chinese market is enormous, but incredibly diverse. Yet they still adopt a “one-size-fits-all” business strategy when it comes to branding and social marketing. Oftentimes, these companies face serious bottlenecks in China when they extend their business footprints countrywide.
Due diligence is of utmost importance to these foreign companies. Thoroughly reviewing their business in the context of projected market conditions and competition in China is needed by all means.
My advice to enterprises or people who want to pursue their “Chinese dream” is to adapt your expectations and strategies and cater to your customers’ needs. If possible, relocate to China so that you can keep a close eye on the fast-changing market dynamics, especially if you don’t understand the language.