CCBC conference sheds light on the mysteries of business in China

  • Communications
  • |
  • Apr 12, 2013

Local companies that are already engaged with China in some way had a chance to deepen their knowledge about the rapidly evolving nation at a London-based instalment of the Canada China Business Council’s  (CCBC) cross-country China workshop.

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Hosted by Ivey’s Asian Management Institute at the Spencer Leadership Centre, the workshop offered insights on the changing, deepening and growing business activity in China. Topics included buying and selling in China, contracts, and forming an entity in China and Hong Kong.

“China has gone from a big mystery to an incredible powerhouse,” said Ivey Professor Paul Beamish, Director of Ivey’s Asian Management Institute and Engaging Emerging Markets Research Centre. “It is fascinating to watch the evolution in China.”

Ivey Associate Professor Shih-Fen Chen gave the keynote address called: How much do you know about China? Chen described the culture shock he experienced during his first visit to China and noted the cultural differences he has discovered on his many subsequent trips.

“I think China is the most difficult country for outsiders to understand,” he said.

Chen said there is an urgent need in North America for training about China, particularly now as China is transitioning and unpredictable. For example, don’t try to set up a meeting with a Chinese businessperson too far in advance, Chen advised.

“People don’t even know what time they will get home from work that day,” he explained.

The Chinese also communicate differently from North Americans. Chen said a North American’s polite decline might be interpreted by the Chinese as acceptance so one must communicate clearly and firmly.

Tony Gostling, CCBC’s Director of Member Services and Outreach, gave advice for buying and selling in China and noted common mistakes, such as not targeting a specific market.

“China is not one market. There are more than 50 fractured Chinese markets and they are all different,” he said. “One approach won’t work so you need to strategize for your particular market.”

Gostling also participated in a panel discussion on China where he discussed implications of the new Chinese government.

“I think (Chinese President) Xi Jinping will push for reform,” he said. “There is growing discontent in the middle class and disparity between groups is serious.”

Todd Bissett, Partner at BLG Law, said he doesn’t expect a major reform from the new government.

“Everything in China is planned in advance. Things don’t change on a dime,” he said.

Other speakers at the workshop included Jamie Samograd, Partner of Transaction Services at KPMG and Sue Rauth, Deputy Director at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.