So what’s China really like? Part 62704

Like I’ve said before, this is probably the question that I get asked the most—and the answer, today from the WSJ, is: “it depends on which part of the elephant you’re touching at the moment.”  From the article, “He said he didn’t think corporate transparency was any worse now than before, but “I don’t know why people believed [the numbers] so much in the past.””

Yup, while China is a complete different place than it was 20 years ago, China isn’t really any different today than it was 16 years ago when I first arrived. Yes, the infrastructure is MUCH better, but it’s not safer (high-speed rail).  Yes, there is much more money especially in cities, but crime and poverty are still dominant daily issues for most Chinese.  Yes, the standard of living has gone up for many, but the quality of life (food in particular) is horrible.  And connections are still the way the game is played.

Sometimes living in China can be great, sometimes scary and if you’re a buyer—you need to be doing QC 24/7 (eating, sleeping and dreaming about QC).

Here are a few different versions of China all from today’s  inbox.

1. Selling US-made chopsticks to the Chinese.

2. Chinese buyers in SEA—locals beware.

Hi David,

I came across your post on why a buyer should always do QC.  I have a concern about a potential business deal and would be grateful if you could offer me some advice.

I am a buyer from SEA who has access to product X. My friend introduced me to a Malaysian company who has a buyer from China. The buyers from China want to visit the actual facility in X.  I’m glad to take them and I suggested them to meet at our company office to see samples and videos, sign Non-comps and then proceed to the location.  But they disagree and want to come to the supplier site without any agreement in place.

What do you suggest I do? I am afraid they will by pass me and go straight to the supplier.



If they won’t sign anything, you’re right not to take them.  You’re also right that they will probably find someone else if you don’t take them.  You have to choose—do you want to work with them or not already knowing that they will probably not follow any contracts or agreements that you sign together.

If it was my choice I wouldn’t do it.  Sure you might be passing up some money, but the problems and the potential to get stuck with a client that won’t pay or will lie to you/cut you out is just not worth it.


3. US Citizenship for my Chinese wife.

4. Scared to eat.  If you can read Chinese, you can regularly read about chemicals in chicken feet, pork, bad oil, etc.  Here’s a look at some of the issues around the Chinese food industry highlighted by the recent pork issues in Wal-Mart.

4. Molds again and again.  You didn’t think I could get through this blog without a good (bad?) production-problem story, did you?!

We’ve had more than our share of mold issues with a project that we’re working with a factory in Fujian–so many in fact that the client asked me today, “Is it just our bad luck or are there serious issues with this factory and/or our product?”  My answer–just our bad luck.  Sometimes things really do just go wrong.  We’ve had a number of temp molds break and the final mold, because of some imperfections and changes was brittle and broke as well.  Each brake requires time to build another mold.  The good news is that the factory has been very good at accepting responsibility for both the problems and delays.  The project isn’t huge, but the factory has been good about working with us.

So which China is it now?  Or more importantly, which China is it going to be to be for you?  This one, or this one? I’m decidedly on the fence.  Actually I think it will be more of the former, but a really rich and arrogant and petulant version of the former.  Like the last two options in this article.

Just know that it’s always changing—that’s probably the only think that you can count on in China.  But watch out for the pop!

One Response to “So what’s China really like? Part 62704”

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