Digital Chinese Take Out for the Expat's SoulPosts RSS Comments RSS

Archive for the 'China Book Reviews' Category

Elephant Hunting From Hong Kong….

elephant hunting

My laohua (“OLD eyes”) ache: I am several chapters over the safe reading line this week. I have been capitalizing on my delays waiting for China transport ( I want part of my ashes scattered at the Baiyun airport baggage claim area as YEARS of my life will have been spent there and in similar public transport areas) as an opportunity to catch up on a three year backlog of books on China.

After nodding through two history books I was desperate for an easy quick read, so I picked up a thin tome in Hong Kong entitled, Myths About Doing Business in Asia by Harold Chee. It turned out to be so laden with information that I was a full week, from Thailand to Shanghai, finishing it.

While in Shanghai one of the administrators at the Smith School of Business told me of a multi-national company that was setting up a new branch in town. They were flummoxed by the myriad answers they received to the same questions from a platoon of “China Experts.”

It reminded me of the old tale of the elephant and the blind men who sought to describe it by touching its parts: It was alternately a wall, a tree, a spear, a snake, a fan and a rope rather than a pachyderm. No meta-view of the beast was literally, or figuratively, possible.

Well, good news: Myths….gives us a clear picture of the China elephant in our economic living room. Is easily the most sensible and direct guide to doing business in China I have read. First published in 2004 (I told you I was behind) it tackles such myths as:

  • China is a market of 1.3 billion people
  • The market is easy
  • Chinese business people are not trustworthy, and a host of others…

In a review by The China-Britain Business Council Chee, and co-writer Chris West, are chided with: “there are handy pointers and suggestions, although the authors’ minds seem to be on other things when they recommend that, for meetings, “women should look smart but not too sexy.” They need to rinse the starch from those stiff upper lips as it is Chee’s straight-shooting style that makes this a worthy read. And before you think the book to be a literary set of patent leather shoes: it is rife with deft personal insights, but also well-researched data. I have already used information gleaned from the book to prepare two business plans for multi-nationals en route to China. Just an aside on the dress issue: If a woman wears anything remotely revealing or provocative in a business or educational setting her character will be judged, not by content, but by her appearance especially when dealing with older or rural Chinese people. “Nice girls” don’t do plunging necklines or visible bras, etc….. Cantonese have a love-hate relationship even with the “too sexy” stars of Hong Kong that they follow daily in the tabloids.

He writes without fear or favor for either side and makes it all too clear that it is essential for western managers to adapt to Chinese values and vica-versa. Our usual MBA-style, elitist approach to negotiations with Asians will only give the Chinese a strategic advantage. This is an essential read for newcomers, insiders and outsiders in the China. The book is best summed up by Beijing Management Institute’s Wang Xaoyu in a book jacket review: “An effective manual for all non-Chinese who plan to do business in China. The book digs out the essence of philosophy that Chinese people follow in their daily life.” Chee’s book should be a cultural course mandated into B-School programs of study.

Chee, a graduate in economics, “holds several masters degrees, and has studied at the London School of Economics, Essex, Kent Universities, and London University Institute of Education,” and teaches at the Ashridge School of Business in the U.K..

The seemingly simple lists in the Appendices alone are worth the buy: …key factors for dealing with the Chinese, and …key differences between China and the West are now tacked to my fridge door and will be staples in my future classes on Global Culture….

It is put out by Palgrave Press and costs about $275 dollars–Hong Kong dollars. I couldn’t resist….

American Professor in China,Asia,Book Reviews,China Book Reviews,China Business,China Business Consultant,China Cartoons,China Editorials,Chinese Education,Confucius Slept Here,Hong Kong,India,Intercultural Issues,中国,中文

No responses yet

What would Buddha do?

Buddha in the sky with diamonds

Several years ago, attending a Jimmy Buffet concert with a Catholic priest (Indian trail, NC, not Margaritaville) , we were discussing ways to raise money for his new parish. In neighboring Georgia a woman was drawing huge crowds claiming to see incarnations of the Virgin Mary. So, we laughingly concocted a never-to-be scheme that involved catching and releasing a trout on the church property that we would say bore some saint’s likeness on its its tail. We would then put donation baskets all up and down the creek. It was sacrilegious, but damned funny anyway.

A few years later I visited Shingo, Japan where they claim to have Christ and his brother buried on a hill above town. Jesus, according to local mythology, let his brother take his place on the cross and then went to rural Japan and retired to a happily married life in the sticks. Surprisingly, there was no marketing involved anywhere near the grave site.

Please bear with me as this all comes together for you in the usual intuitive flash at the end…

I just read a delightful book first printed in 1999 entitled What would Buddha Do? by Franz Metcalf. The pocket-sized tome is rife with well thought out answers to a host of everyday questions, some that made me laugh out loud:

1. What would Buddha do if his credit cards are maxed out?

2. What would Buddha do when making a salad?

3. What would Buddha do to avoid burnout?

4. What would Buddha do about trusting the media?

The answer to last question can be found in the Buddhist writing Undanavarga 22.17: “One’s ears hear a lot; one’s eyes sees a lot. The wise should not believe everything seen or heard.” Buddha must read the China Daily too, where I found the picture above. It seems Buddha hung around for about an hour on Heibei’s Zushan Mountain, but unlike the manifestations in Georgia, he didn’t impart any wisdom to the local tourists.

In another book I reviewed recently, One Couple, Two Cultures, there was a story about a British man and his Chinese wife discussing behavior common in each other’s country. The wife seemed to have no trouble commenting on behalf of the entire 1.3 billion residents of China, while the Brit’ demured on speaking for the whole of England. I can with absolute certainty say that had the Buddha appeared in Stone Mountain Park, Georgia, that every redneck (remember before you shoot that my father hailed from Harlan County, Kentucky), instead of burning him as a heretic would have tried to sell him on Ebay. I still remember the eerie glow-in-the-dark St. Joseph that watched over me as a child sleeping in the dark.

Now I’m not sure what made them think it was Buddha and not Mother Theresa, Confucius, or Steve Irwin. But I continue to digress…

What surprised me the most is that nobody is now selling watches of Buddha waving from the peak or claiming to have private chats with Gautama himself. Another missed marketing opportunity for China. David and I are thinking about sorting through seaweed potato chips until we come up with  some that look like Sun Yat Sen or Lao Zi. We promise to donate all proceeds (and extra chips) to charity.

So what would Buddha do if Buddha were alive today? I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be standing around in the Heibei fog, though he might possible blog a few meditations–using a wordpress platform, of course. So I’m off to see if WWBD-in-canton.com is taken. This way, we can answer the pressing questions like:

1. What would Buddha do if someone stole a taxi out from under his nose?

2. What would Buddha do if someone took the food from his plate at a Cantonese buffet?

3. What would Buddha do if he found out he were watching a bootleg copy of Seven Years in Tibet?

4. What would Buddha say if his disciples kept commenting on his weight and skin color?

Now I’m getting ready to read Metcalf’s answer to “What would Buddha Do about that Coffee Habit?” If this post isn’t a call for my spiritual rehab or caffeine detox, I don’t know what is.

American Poet in China,American Professor in China,Asia,Asian Humor,Asian Women,Blogroll Diving,Book Reviews,China Book Reviews,China Business,China Editorials,China Expat,China Expats,China Humor,China Photos,Chinese Festivals,Chinese Internet,Chinese Media,Confucius Slept Here,Entertainment,Expats,Greater Asia Blogs,Guangzhou,Guangzhou China,Hong Kong,Humor,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Internet marketing China,Japan,Just Plain Strange,past posts,Personal Notes,Photos,Teaching in China,Weird China,中国,中文

3 responses so far

China CEO: Voices of Experience

China CEO

I have had a rich cyber-life these few years. I have had the chance to dialogue with some extraordinary people. I have not had occasion to shake their hands or to look into their faces because they are Internet acquaintances. I now count some 20 people as “real friends” though I have yet to hear them speak except via VOIP.

I am grateful for my time recently with Professor Chris Carr of Cal Poly’s MBA program. He is every bit the informed, intuitive, and gracious teacher I had envisioned over the months we connected via blog comments and emails. He was here, flesh and blood, to scout out learning opportunities for 30+ MBA students at Cal Poly who will visit here in June as part of an ambitious trip to immerse themselves in China’s business and social culture. From what I have seen, if I can be so prosaic, they have the experience of a lifetime ahead of them.

An added perk for me was Chris making good on a promise to bring a copy of China CEO: Voices of Experience by Juan Antonio Fernandez and Laurie Underwood. Amazon is still just a rain-forest here and the area bookstores nearby rarely have material that I want to read: it is censored or just not in stock. So, I am thrilled when guests coming bearing literary gifts. Come back anytime Chris!

The book is filled with dozens of insightful advisories for doing business in China. Professor Fernandez and Journalist Underwood have a well constructed, predictably pedagogical text about how business is done and should be approached by would-be expat executives.

The authors mined the information presented from 20 American, European and Japanese Fortune 500 executives and 8 “high profile consultants.” The average interviewee in the book had was about 50 years of age, had 23 years of experience with the same company and five years of expat time in China out of a total average of 15 years abroad.

The book details:

Qualities of a Successful International Manager in China
Managing Chinese Employees
Working with Business Partners
Winning Over Chinese Consumers
Negotiations with the Chinese Government
and Living in China among other offerings wherein Guanxi, IPR, Cultural Adaptation and other expected challenges are discussed. The enormous scope of the book limits greater detail, but the reader will still glean many important tips from its pages.

It is a must-read book for the executives or foreign service types being posted here for the first time. The chapters on adaptation strategies for new expat families and managers alone make it worth the cover price.

It is likely not a useful book for the young traveller/adventurer. It is not, as it purports to be, a guide to establishing and managing businesses in the Middle Kingdom. It is effectively written by the power elite in China. Most of these CEOs, personable and kind as they might be in life, likely don’t interact much with everyday Chinese citizens and long ago forgot what it feels like to be an entrepreneur or specifically a China Expatrapreneur.

It is an exceptionally well outlined text and would be a perfect prepackaged course for an MBA or DBA introduction to China. It will make you functionally conversant in the language of expat businessmen and is an worthy primer to read while on the path toward greater fluency.

I am now waiting for a book that looks over the impressive heads of the CEOs of Bayer, BP, GE, Coke and Siemens–all interviewed in China CEO–to the grass roots leaders who are part and parcel of the China most of the rest of us know or will likely come to abide in. I am hoping for a supplemental text that will chronicle the stories of the likes of Chris Barclay. I think the West and China is hungry for, and and in need of, a book about the cultural groundbreakers who came here with little more than a command of English and a love of Asia and who succeeded personally and professionally.

Asia,China Book Reviews,China Business,China Editorials,China Expats,China web 2.0,Confucius Slept Here,Expats,Intercultural Issues,中国

No responses yet

Zaijian

chinglish

Books have been virtually replaced by blogs. But, puns aside, many of them showcase the transformative elements Pablo Neruda* suggests as essential to written art in Ars Magnetica:
“From so much loving and journeying, books emerge.

And if they don’t contain kisses or landscapes,
if they don’t contain a woman in every drop,
hunger, desire, anger, roads,
there are no use as a shield or as a bell:
they have no eyes and won’t be able to open them….”

Here I have I have tried to smooth the stubble of memory, share poetry, attempt humor, journal my social conscience, and reconcile my longings while shoutng to you in some far-off room. I leave here absolutely bewildered that anyone, other than my long-suffering friends, ever returned to listen. I am grateful you did.
Continue Reading »

American Poet in China,American Professor in China,Beijing Olympics,Cancer Journal,Censorship,Charity in China,China Book Reviews,China Business,China Business Consultant,China Cartoons,China Editorials,China Expats,China Humor,China Law,China Photos,China web 2.0,Chinese Education,Confucius Slept Here,Entertainment,Expats,Guangzhou,Guangzhou China,Hainan Island,Hong Kong,Hong Kong Blogs,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Just Plain Strange,New Blogs,Photos,Teaching in China,The Great Firewall,The Sharpest Guy on the Planet,The Unsinkable Ms Yue,Travel in China,UK SEO EXPERT,Weird China,中国,中文

44 responses so far