Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

You Don’t Know Shit About Doing Business in China… But Then Again Neither Do I

Posted by w_thames_the_d on August 14, 2010


I hope you can feel me on this one, as it is written partly out of frustration and partly from despair. I have had many friends who wish to do business in China, and they ask me my opinion, which they summarily disregard, and pay the price. For instance, you can go on Alibaba or ecplaza.net and find companies who purport to sell anything imaginable, from methamphetamine to motorcycles. The companies must be legit right, I mean they are on such well managed sites?
The truth is that in China these businesses and these websites are not regulated, and thus are frequently scams. They will either take your cash and give you nothing or take your cash and send you sub-standard goods. It all seems so easy from your cozy seat in the USA, but have you heard that all that glitters is not gold? Well that is so true here in China. See, I have been here for a bit and done business the whole time while living here, and in addition, I am actually studying law here. And the one irrefutable fact that I have found after almost three years in China, is that I don’t know shit about business here, and you dont know shit about business here, and most Chinese are merely whistling dixie and know just a hair more.
The problem is that this place is tribal. What this means is that each area is different from the rest, so, if you really want to do business, you have to go to the region that makes the goods, get contacts and then minimize your risk. for instance, I have decent contacts, but they are all in Beijing and close to Guangzhou, I can minimize my risk by utilizing them, but never eliminate that risk. In addition, I am constantly asking the locals and foreigners about their regions, just to get a feel for them when I need to do business there, and it is a patchwork quilt of oddities and nuance, and this is from a man who lives here, imagine your dilemma in obtaining the same information.
So, if you want to have success in China, spend a year here, meet people, lay your groundwork, and then partner with a local who you have befriended after a few years (I have done this too). Do not merely search the net or get an export house from Shanghai to help you, you have to understand that the Chinese are tribal and help one another. That export house is more interested in a continuing relationship with local Chinese than with you, and will ensure they are happy, often to the hindrance of offering you the best in quality.
Remember, the Chinese are different than we are. Morally, in terms of laws and ethics, everything you know and think you know does not apply here so plan accordingly.
also read the book, Poorly Made in China It is spot on…

One Response to “You Don’t Know Shit About Doing Business in China… But Then Again Neither Do I”

  1. […] You Don’t Know Shit About Doing Business in China… But Then Again Neither Do I « Understanding … […]

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