If you’re not doing business with
China and want to start, Einar Tangen’s Dispatch
from China should be required reading. In fact, I think anyone in
manufacturing would benefit from following this terrific newsletter. (I don’t
know what other word to use to describe it.)
Tangen has been a Milwaukee-based
business executive, the chairman of the Wisconsin International Trade Council,
and an advisor to the Korean Government’s Direct Foreign Investment Recruitment
Agency. He currently lives in Beijing, where he is serving as a technology
adviser to the Heilongjiang Province
He is not shy about sharing his
opinions. Here’s an example concerning the motivation for doing business in China.
“Are you curious, are you
just following the crowd or do you see foreign markets such as China as vital
to your business’s survival? If the answer is not the last one, take a tour or
a class. The time, energy, resources and difficulty of getting involved… should
not be taken lightly, especially when you are not familiar with the languages,
customs, laws, taxes, accounting, politics or people.”
His first dispatch provides a
wealth of information. Most of it might be available through other sources,
such as a Google search, but not in this condensed form, and not with the total
business focus. Even the facts are surprising. He points out, for example, that
2/3 of China’s exports are controlled by multi-nationals, many of which are
U.S.-based. I didn’t know that.
He is at his best, however, when
his analysis mixes history and statistics with personal experience. For
example, he reminds us that there was a period of ten years, from 1966 to 1976,
when there was no education beyond grade school. “Keep this in mind,”
he cautions, “if you are sitting across the table from a 45- to 60-year-old
Chinese business person.”
All in all, his tone is cautious
about doing business with “The Dragon.” The goal, as he puts it, is
“to make a deal, not be a meal. Think of it as kissing a crocodile.”
I have heard advice of this
nature elsewhere, but never have I seen it so well put and cleverly expressed.
Read the original!
And for those of you who view
China primarily as a tough competitor rather than a huge market, read my next
posting for the story of how four Wisconsin companies are winning back business
lost to China only a few years ago.