The China Commandments

A friend of mine forwarded me the following list of Commandments for foreigners living in China. For anyone who’s spent time spending on the Mainland these rules will ring true.

Commandment #1
Know what you don’t know – (for many westerners, this is by far the most difficult challenge.). Any similarities between China and “back home” are purely accidental. This is a completely different culture. Do not be fooled by surface similarities or by local people who “seem to get it”. Sources of reliable information are your #1 asset.

Commandment #2
China is still a communist country – and there is absolutely zero chance of that changing any time soon.

Commandment #3
You have to show up to win. You must be physically present and put in the “face time”. There is no “autopilot” in Chinese business. If you feel that you are too busy to learn about China, then you are certainly too busy to be successful here.

Commandment #4
If things worked well here in China, then there would be significantly fewer opportunities for competent westerners. Try not to get too frustrated by the challenges you face.

Commandment #5
Time does not mean money here. Chinese business people do not believe in “opportunity cost”. Even simple negotiations can drag on for a long time. Avoid getting sucked into an endless cycle of meetings that don’t accomplish anything.

Commandment #6
Truth, honesty, good-will and long-term benefit are all culturally-specific concepts. Don’t expect your western standards to carry over here. Win-Win is not standard operating procedure here. Do not fool yourself that your long-term relationship with a local partner means anything.

Commandment #7
Don’t check your brains in at the border. You wouldn’t hand over your company’s money, intellectual property or trademarks to a virtual stranger in Sydney, London or San Francisco and expect to make a windfall. Don’t do it in China. The people that are offering to open doors for you are the same ones that can lock you out. Beware of people who peddle their “powerful friends and great connections”. They can use them to hurt you as well as help you.

Commandment #8
Due Diligence becomes more important when the language and systems are unclear, not less important. Don’t settle for the “least worst” deal or partner. Partners don’t get more honest and relationships don’t improve as the amount of money involved increases.

Commandment #9
China will still be here next year, and in 5 years. Don’t be pressured into signing a contract or making a deal because you are afraid of “missing the boat”. The boat has been here for 4,000+ years.

Commandment #10
Having a sense of humor helps. Having a Plan B helps even more.

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