So now that it’s all over, what’s next?
First a couple of comments on the 0lympics and then some application to doing business here.
I’ve said for 8 years—this will be the best Olympics ever—and it appears that it was. Was there any other choice? With more police than foreigners in the capital, control of the weather, no protests (no iTunes), people so happy and proud of China you’d think you were in Disneyland instead of a “real” country. It was bound to be perfect. Congrats to the Chinese. They’re proud of themselves, and that was the goal.
Best Olympic quote, by David Zweig, China expert at Hong Kong University of Science: “I think there was over-expectation from the West,” Zweig said. “China was authoritarian on the way into the Games and it will be authoritarian on the way out.” This is likely to be the case for many years to come—can your “China strategy” deal with that reality?
Second best Olympic quote: “This is the beauty of dictatorship: They can do many things that other countries cannot do,” said Guoqi Xu, a historian and author of the book “Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008.” “You have to remember they even controlled the weather. No other country would do this.”
The sad thing is not that China held an honestly great event or took the most golds but that Thomas Friedman (NYT, The World is Flat) and others are jealous of the Chinese govt’s ability to “get things done.” They whine about the fact that in democracies projects can’t move as fast (due to unions, human rights, legal statutes, contractual obligations and other worthless democratic bullshit). They think that infrastructure and events are more important than people and freedom. Pathetic really.
So now that it’s over, what has changed about working in China? Nothing–except maybe the attitude of your Chinese supplier.
You still need to ask the right questions to the right people. You still need to be on the ground as much as possible and you sill need to QC, test and recheck everything. But now, you’re not so hot any more. China “has arrived.” At least in the minds of 1.6 billion Chinese.
Hopefully there are a few other things that we all learned from the 0lympics too First is that China is GREAT at presentation. Know this before you go into a factory.
Second, the priorities of your China supplier are most likely NOT the same as yours. You may be “partners.” You may be working for the same physical end results. But do you know what their expectations, goals and priorities are? If you don’t, you’re going to be on the short end of the stick when it comes to price/quality/timing/etc even if you do get what you asked for. Know your partner or, like the IOC, you’ll get caught with your pants down when the final product is revealed. Third best quote about the 0lympics (but I can’t remember the source): “Probably not much will happen (with the Chinese gymnasts issue). The IOC just wants to get out of China in one piece.”
Finally, English didn’t take as a permanent fixture in China, so you’d better hit the Chinese lessons again. I’m a big proponent of people learning Chinese. Not only is the only way to assure you get exactly what you want, it’s polite and it shows commitment on your part. And, as the medal numbers suggest, it’s probably just future smart. Besides, it’s not that difficult—honest. Maybe you’ll never be able to write, but with computers now, you don’t need to. If you can sing you can speak in tones and there is no conjugation of verbs! Grammar is pretty simple. Besides you’ve got more than enough available tutors who are all dying to trade you English for Chinese lessons–just go to Starbucks, sit down and start smiling at people.
Here’s a great example of what you get if you speak Chinese. This is a great site, by the way. I don’t always agree with some of Jon’s politics, but he plays basketball, speaks Chinese and is here for the long haul, so he must be a good guy. As for the blog, great language postings (most of the time), good business-applicable comments (some of the time, even though it’s not his focus), a fun blog with some fantastic language tools (all of the time)–check out the pages other than the blog. No, I don’t know him.
A couple of other sites for either beginners or intermediate learners of Chinese. Serg has a great site with simple lessons that start from beginners to advanced. He updates them weekly and you can buy worksheets and activities too. CSLPod is one of my favorites. You’ll have to have at least some basic Chinese to use this, but once you’re past 102 level you can lean current events vocab on your own. You can get both of these in pod-cast format too on iTunes (not blocked any more–Yeah! And yes, I bought the T!bet album just because it was blocked–no such thing as bad publicity, eh?).
*The title quote comes from my kids’ favorite Disney movie, The Emperor’s New Groove. (OK, it my favorite Disney movie.) At the beginning of the movie, the emperor is changed into a llama. In the end, while trying to change back to a man, he gets changed into a number of other animals, one of which is a llama, again. Thrilled to back to “normal” he says—Yea! I’m a llama again! Welcome to China after the 0lympics.
Update–some other Post 0lympic Articles of value.
SECOND UPDATE. One more GREAT!! Post 0lympic article from the Times Online. This backs up my contention that many (under)educated (or extremely liberal) journalists wish they could just “fix” the rest of us without having to deal with the democratic processes.