Entries Tagged as 'Uncategorized'

“Life, uh… finds a way.”

John Hammond: [as they gather around a baby dinosaur hatching from its egg] I’ve been present for the birth of every little creature on this island.
Dr. Ian Malcolm: Surely not the ones that are bred in the wild?
Henry Wu: Actually they can’t breed in the wild. Population control is one of our security precautions. There’s no unauthorized breeding in Jurassic Park.
Dr. Ian Malcolm: How do you know they can’t breed?
Henry Wu: Well, because all the animals in Jurassic Park are female. We’ve engineered them that way.
[they take the baby dinosaur out of its egg. A robot arm picks up the shell out of Grant's hand and puts it back down]
Dr. Ian Malcolm: But again, how do you know they’re all female? Does somebody go out into the park and pull up the dinosaurs’ skirts?
Henry Wu: We control their chromosomes. It’s really not that difficult. All vertebrate embryos are inherently female anyway, they just require an extra hormone given at the right developmental stage to make them male. We simply deny them that.
Dr. Ian Malcolm: John, the kind of control you’re attempting simply is… it’s not possible. If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh… well, there it is.
John Hammond: [sardonically] There it is.
Henry Wu: You’re implying that a group composed entirely of female animals will… breed?
Dr. Ian Malcolm: No, I’m, I’m simply saying that life, uh… finds a way.

(Thank you, IMDB)

Would you get fake-divorced to save on your taxes?  Apparently hundreds of people in China will.  I’m not saying that this is right or wrong, it’s just one way to play the system.  But I am saying that even after 20 years in Asia, the extend that average people will go to make money still amazes me sometime.

Ultimately this story is either a great example of how creative Chinese can be in overcoming political/financial obstacles thrown up in their pursuit of wealth.  Or, with a bit of context, it’s another example of how that pursuit of wealth has made even the sacred fair game.  Maybe it’s both.  The point being, This Ain’t Kansas Anymore.  While the “game” is the same (make as much money as you can ASAP), the way it is played is not always what you’re used to back home.  If you still dont’ think that everything you see is a show, you just don’t get it.

Are you performing The Ferrari Test?

Don’t let the fact that the companies in this article are all large lull you into to thinking you’re too small to get ripped or that you’re too important a client for your factory to pull these kinds of tricks on you:

Despite well-known risks in China, auditors there often are not inquisitive enough or alert to possible fraud, some experts say.

Auditors in China may pore tirelessly over documents and yet “fail to spot the red Ferrari parked on the doorstep and fail to ask who it belongs to, how it was paid for,” said Peter Humphrey, founder of ChinaWhys, a Shanghai-based anti-fraud consultancy that has investigated white-collar crime and fraud at scores of multinational firms in China.

China experts said it is difficult to do business there without encountering demands for gifts or kickbacks.

Transparency International, a corruption watchdog, surveyed business executives who said Chinese firms in 2011 were second only to Russian companies in being most likely to pay bribes abroad.

As always, the key to being successful in any work in China is the Due Diligence done BEFORE the project begins–and don’t fret if this DD takes longer than the production time of your project itself.  It’s time well spent.

If you’re spending more money than you can afford to lose (or can afford to pay double for the same qtty’s) then you need to go to China BEFORE you ever start any work or sign any agreements.  Visit factories/suppliers actual facilities, not just their trade-show booth.  Go to at least 2-3 different cities as well (and I don’t mean three neighboring cities like Dongguan, Songgang and Huizhou either).  Spread your visit out over multiple provinces and cities so that you can really get a feel for the level of development in the surrounding area (likely where all the sub-suppliers will be located).

A trip to multiple cities in China for 7-10 days can cost less than $5K.  Compare that with the cost of being 14-30 days late or the cost of shipping incorrect, poorly produced and/or unacceptable product back home.

There are things on the ground that you can never get from Skype, email, photos and even trade shows–you have to be there to know what it’s really like.  Spend the money now to be assured that you know what you’re dealing with or spend it later on repairs, rejects, late-delivery and other hassles.

Good luck!

Why do good companies stumble in China?

This is a response to a question by Dan Harris of China Law Blog Fame.

why do some companies seem to just coast into China while others stumble in and never recover?  What more should we be writing about to help those seeking to do business in China or to sell to China?

Dan, you’ve hit the nail on the head once again.  The non-business aspects of business are so much more often the sources of business failure than the numbers/dollars/dates.  I’m constantly amazed at how many foreign clients will say to me about their Chinese counter part, “Yea, they agree with how we do business, but our relationship is worth so much to them that we’re not worried about them doing X.”  And then it happens and they’re shocked that money wasn’t the most important (actually it likely was, they just figured out how to make it without the foreign company).

Like what you’ve read about in New Guinea, China to has different reactions to Westerization/modernization—not the least of which is the rise of (actually continuation of) Chinese Nationalism, that often manifest itself as spats of anti-foreigner racism.  These attitudes are very close to the surface for many Chinese and can be expressed in myriad ways that will affect business but never show up in any due diligence report.  Experiences that we’ve seen over the years include: Chinese not wanting to see foreign companies prosper (relative to Chinese), Chinese managers/owners not willing to work directly with foreigners, openly admitted anger that foreigners marry Chinese women, and a number of other personal issues.  While racism can be the worst case scenario, to say that it’s uncommon is a bit naive, I think.

Less personally offensive, but no-less destructive to business success would be business goals and objectives of local workers, political leaders and/or factory management that conflict with the business goals of the foreigner partner/buyer.  These are often never identified in any business meetings and are only understood after the fact as bits and pieces of previous experiences are revealed by individuals and the larger context is understood in greater detail.

For example, how both groups of workers and factories managers deal with holidays, over-time demands, rejected product, and criticism of work quality are examples of things that happen on almost every project that are almost always at odds with what foreign companies expect.  The ages, education and experience levels are radically different in various parts of China and so expectations for factories in Guangzhou cannot be transferred wholesale to Chongqing or Ningbo—yet many foreign companies are doing just that; “Going to China,” as if it’s just one big homogenous industrial zone.

There are too many example to cite but in the last ten years, my experience has been that “non-business” factors are much more likely to sink projects than are the numbers/dollars/dates (as those are usually contracted out clearly before hand).  As you continue to identify these cultural issues for your business professionals, you’ll save them time and money.  Keep up the good work!

What happens when the miracle is over?

Not sure yet, but it looks like it will be very very bad.  And it’s coming sooner than many want to believe.

From the article:

We now know that [rehypothecated assets] has been happening in China with the most critical component of its economic growth miracle: steel. We will soon discover that all other assets: stocks, bonds, commodities (including gold and silver) and finally cash (think deposits) have been comparably rehypothecated and criminally commingled. The end result will be the most epic bank run in world history, which incidentally is precisely what the central banks are attempting desperately to delay as much as possible by generating excess inflation to “inflate” away the debt, leading to rematching of finite assets and virtually infinite liabilities. Alas, in a world in which credit-money liabilities are in the quadrillions, and in which the real assets are in the tens of trillions, only hyperinflation can seal the deal.

Or, in other words, lose-lose.

Sssshhhhh…. Don’t tell anyone

From the NYT:

“China’s food-safety problems highlight both the collapse of the country’s business ethics and the failure of government regulators to keep pace with the expanding market economy. Yet an excessive focus on poor government oversight often means that the much graver problem of disintegrating civic morality is neglected.”

Add to that the fact that the economy is likely at 1% and not the 7% that is being claimed and you can see why FDI is down to 2009 levels and why unrest is more common than ever before.

The culmination of these multiple events suggests that changes, and not in a positive-way, are coming to China’s immediate future.

I’m still a firm believer that China’s economy will eventually be the largest in the world, it ought to with 1.5 billion people (and the Chinese will win more Golds/medals total than all others, etc. etc.).  But I’m much more worried that the “Chinese style” of doing business will become the most commonly exported feature of both China’s soft and real power.  The combination of “disintegrating civic morality” and wealth (an no place to invest domestically) invites the spread of Chinese business, influence, practice and corruption to other parts of world and other industries.

Now don’t claim that I’m saying China is the source of amoral business practices.  And don’t think for a second that I’m naive enough to believe that there is corruption already (at China levels?) in other parts of the planet as well.  But most, if not all of those other places, are limited in the influence their corruption can have outside of their respective locals–either due to significantly smaller amounts of money, people, resources or whatever.  China has none of those restrictions at this time and a growing sense of both entitlement (we should be the worlds super power like we were before) and nationalism.