The Chinese Way of Doing Business

As our day started on 10.00 am, many of the group members took their chance to sleep a bit longer. We began our last day of the trip with a harbour cruise. It was quiet surprising that we did not have a normal „tourist boat" for this cruise. Instead we had a private yacht for us alone which was absolutely fantastic.

On our 3-hour-trip through the harbour of Hong Kong, we could enjoy the amazing skyline, the very impressive container harbour (which is one of the biggest in the world) and the old airport.

As everybody of us knows the Movie „Titanic" it was not a big surprise that we saw many Leo`s and Kate´s today. Sometimes also two Leo´s…

I also would like to send a big „Thank you" to Mr. Petrus. It was really nice, that he organized blue sky and hot temparatures for us (Our todays tourguide informed us, that it rained at the beginning of the week and that it should rain during the next few days). The harbour cruise wouldn´t have been so interesting and enjoyable during a summer rain.

As second-last point of the long schedule of this business trip, we attended the general counsel of Switzerland for Hongkong, Mr. Hans Jakob Roth in our YMCA at the Salisbury road. To be honest, this is more of a hotel than a YMCA you would imagine. So we were quite relaxed to pass our last nights of this trip in a very confortable hotel.

Mr. Roth has a wide range of experiences in many aspects and differences between Asian and European culture, as he has also lived in Japan. In his speech, he summed up some of his results written down in his book: Managing in China.

He explained that there are huge contrasts in Asia, starting from simple businesses, out of traditional natural environments to very modern, industrialized areas. He pointed out at enormous perspectives and visions for the future for Asia in general. He sees the western perspective as a central one with overvision function, always as a view from distance, the person as an observer. Whereas he sees the Chinese view as a work with all senses, densitiy, lack of planning and strong confidence in the flow of time and very short time horizons (especially in higher hierarchies). Chinese thinking does not make a difference between important and unimportant, cause and effect. The reality is perceived as a flow of events, as a film (whereas the Europeans see it like photos). Only one thing seems really to be important, who that person in front of you is, as the personal relationship is extremely important to know if you and your business partner are reliable. Once trust is established, working is much easier with Chinese people, he mentioned. The westerners do rely only on strong facts, whereas they aren’t listening to an actual information, perceived by senses.

He also explained that to work in an Asian environment is much more proximity between persons, it is people-oriented, not target-oriented. A key element is to go nearer, but to keep the necessary distance. The basic understanding of the asian culture is to live close to Asian people, to view how densitivity is lived. He did as well in his time as a student living in a flat with Chinese roommates. Privacy as we know it, gets very public in the Asian culture. Also space is luxury, people behave very self-controlled. If the point of no return is reached, the only solution is a tragic end (i.e. suicide as an example).

The thinking in Asia is as a family-society (departing from a village society), it is a consensual behaviour in the in-group, whereas the survival is Darwinian in the out-group. The Chinese pattern of competition is the pressure of the social environment. The Chinese often show their mask and on the other side have their real face, he pointed out. So the wall is very high from the outside, but once you are in, the expectations are much higher. In the western environment we say the customer is king, but we do not mean it really. The process in Europe is top-down (i.e. Mercedes designs the “best” car and then offers it to find suitable customers), whereas in Asia it is bottom-up (Lexus looks at the needs of the potential customers to offer it afterwards). In certain situations, as westerner you should remain really hard, Asians can be very hard too, he explained.

For the economy Mr. Roth said, that in Europe we work with small amounts in quantity with big margins, whereas the Chinese work with volume and very small margins.

He summed up, that there are certainly quite a few differences between the western and the Asian way of doing business, but at the end he said: “Anyway, China is not so different, just a little bit…”

Now it was the last time to stick together with our group and we headed to a fish-market to choose our dinner still swimming in its aquarium. Our dinner was prepared directly in a very nice restaurant in the same area. We enjoyed very much this delicious meal with lobsters and a lot of seafood and had a last official speech of Mr. Rüttimann and his organization committee, who did really a great job on the whole trip. The China-Travellers enjoyed the last hours together in a bar singing karaoke and enjoying some last drinks in Asia.

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