Unlocking the potential of China

Unlocking the potential of China

Courage, empathy and resilience are the key to doing business in China, says consultant and Asia Scotland Institute Fellow David Clive Price

Shanghai 2 Version 3Shanghai skyline (photo: Pete Stewart)

We all know the success story that is China.

It’s the world’s second largest economy. It has cash reserves of US $3.75 trillion. It is the world’s biggest mobile phone market, second biggest computer market and third biggest advertising market. 

But the difficulties facing enterprising Scots who want to do business in this vast, diverse and rapidly developing country are also immense. And that is where consultant and Asia expert David Clive Price comes in.

“China is a huge opportunity market for Western businesses – but we all know it’s not easy,” David told the Asia Scotland Institute in Edinburgh.

“Companies often have fears about the size of the market, the different mindset, the lack of legal protection… corruption, language and cultural barrier.

“I want to help people find solutions to these problems and to explore the tremendous opportunities in both China and in the rest of Asia.”
David has travelled and worked in China for many years. His career has included writing speeches for Sir Willie Purves, former chairman of HSBC. Drawing on this experience, David believes Scottish business people thinking of entering or expanding in China need three imporant qualities:  

* Courage
* Empathy
* Resilience

“In China you need courage and to take risks,” said David. “I don’t mean legal or operational risks or physical courage. I mean you need to change your mindset and your way of doing things to operate in a culture that is in many ways different to your own.”

A willingness to learn local cultural characteristics and to seek advise from old China hands is also vital, David said: “It’s about immersing yourself, making your company Chinese with British characteristics… not 100 percent Chinese of course but enough to assume a Chinese persona and identity.”

And the ability to bounce back from mistakes and tough it out when things become challenging is also crucial. “China is not a sprint – it is a marathon,” said David. “Enormous amounts of patience are required.

“The Chinese do not consider the contract or the deal as a central point of a business relationship. They believe much more in a carefully nurtured relationship over time.

“With four thousand years of history and a vast forward-moving country that is already nearly the world’s largest economy they have no need for rapid Western-style negotiations.”

Below, Asia Scotland Institute chairman and founder Roddy Gow interviews David, whose seventh book on Asia – The Master Key to China – has just been published. 

Our thanks go once again to the University of Edinburgh Business School for kindly hosting this ASI event

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