Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Archive for September 6th, 2010

My Friend the American Communist

Posted by w_thames_the_d on September 6, 2010


I have a friend who is an American and a great guy. He has a pretty big position with a joint venture with a local Chinese State Owned Enterprise (SOE). A SOE is basically the communist arm in the business world. What that means is that if a bank , for instance is an SOE, then the state or China and thus the communists run it. The logic following this is that in order to be a higher up in one of these enterprises, one MUST be a communist, meaning a member of the communist party.
So, this guy is a higher up and in order to attain that position, he had to join the party. I do not know how it happened, but right now this guy is a card carrying member of the Chinese communist party, and even has a card to prove it. What a place….

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A Rare and Not So Rare Sight in China

Posted by w_thames_the_d on September 6, 2010


This was taken at the bus station. It is rare insofar as the people are actually standing in line. It is not so rare insofar as there are a ton of people

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Chinese Management Skills- Non Existent

Posted by w_thames_the_d on September 6, 2010


I am blessed to work with an international company which has saved me much of the hell of working with Chinese managed companies, but I do have some in-depth experience with 100% Chinese owned and operated businesses. Let me first say this…. Chinese owned and operated companies are frightfully poorly managed. My experience in China, with Chinese companies is with some pretty big names, companies I am sure that you may have heard of , and to a one, these companies have no clue of what it means to run an international business.
Now, before you disregard this as a foolish rant, please allow me to explain. Firstly, I have a bit of experience int he west, also with some Fortune 50 companies, so I kind of know what I am talking about. In addition, I have attended a few of the better US institutions, now that we have that out of the way, please let me continue.
What I mean to say is that in general, Chinese have no idea of how to run a modern business, because historically and even currently in China, those skills were not necessary. China is a land of guanxi, which loosely translated, means contacts and corruption. I have only been here for three years, but trust me, in this place, you can sell poison for food if you have guanxi, and as we have all seen, this really happens. So the Chinese have learned to eschew traditional management ideals. they figure that the country has been growing at a break neck pace for some reason, and due to their arrogance, they forget that much of what allowed them to grow, viz investment and development came from the west. Thus, much of what has happened here is attributable to the west.
Unfortunately this is not what we as a world are being sold. We are being told of the Chinese miracle, and how it will continue and soon they will take over the world. The funny thing is that they said the same thing about the Asian tigers and Brazil and Japan. Sure China is kicking butt and will continue, but it has some huge endemic flaws and one of the most glaring is the lack of qualified management.
Now let me explain how Chinese companies are run and how their arrogance will be their own demise. I help a very large Chinese company with some projects and the problem is that no one is in charge. Chinese org charts are similar to Chinese queuing up to get on a subway, they are utter chaos. Of course there is a boss, but in reality the bosses are too worried to make decisions as decisions lead to mistakes and mistakes mean someone is fired or worse. Thus, in Chinese companies, just like the country, maybe 8 people make decisions, and 1 299 999 992 people try to look busy and act like they are adding value but in reality are merely doing their time and hoping not to get axed.
Coming from the west this is odd as to us, accountability is huge, we like to know who is in charge of what and the specifics or deliverables, in china you will be hard pressed to find these – trust me. Sure the company will say that they are following xxxx management scheme and they are ISO 9000 or whatever, but in reality int he office and on the plant floor it is utter chaos. The funny thing is that the Chinese deal well with chaos, or much better than we do. the issue becomes that this chaos is not sustainable, and will soon crash.
As an example, one of the companies that has asked for my help has some pretty typical problems. Their foreign customers are very very upset with their service quality. Thus, the Chinese have asked for help. the problem is that they do not know what quality means and do not wish to listen. they look to hire foreigners to assist them but then hamstring them with Chinese who will make the decisions. couple this the the language and cultural problems and it becomes a carnival or circus. For instance, they asked for some help in terms of how to deal with some angry clients, a team was assembled. the internationals explained who the foreigners saw the problem and posed solutions. they were foreigners and presumably had a good idea of the needs of the customer and understood more readily the complaints listed. the problem is that the Chinese took the advice from the foreigners and then passed it on to the ‘Chinese executives’ most of whom had never worked abroad. the ideas were mulled over and summarily dismissed, it was said that it was simply not the Chinese way. the response was , of course it isn’t the Chinese way, you are dealing with foreigners, they have different expectations. the ‘executives’ thought about this, looked out the windows at all of the cranes laboring and creating monstrous buildings in china. They responded that the Chinese didn’t need to understand the foreigners bu the foreigners needed to understand china. we offered that this may be the case inside of china, but when you go to foreign shores you must be a little more open, we were told not to worry. “Soon the whole world will be speaking Chinese.”
I dont know if this is true, and have my doubts of the veracity of the statement, but irrespective of the language they speak, they will never buy things made from a company/country who operates under this mentality.

This is working in China

Posted in Cultural oddities, Working and Living in China | 2 Comments »

Chinese Coolies Gambling on a Street Corner- China Photo

Posted by w_thames_the_d on September 6, 2010


Just a harmless little game for a little bit of extra spending money. Chinese do quite a bit of gambling like this, it reminds me of living in Houston Texas and working in the Cullent Street area…

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Living and Working in China- Raising a Child

Posted by w_thames_the_d on September 6, 2010


I have a friend from a foreign country (CIS country). They have a small child who is a boy, but don’t want to raise him in China. They feel that the Chinese boys nowadays are pampered too much and are somewhat effeminate, thus they will send the child of out the country as they do not want him to be exposed to the Chinese culture at such a young age. In their words, “The Chinese boys are kind of wimpy or too weak and they dont want this to happen to their own flesh and blood”

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Subway Begging in Beijing

Posted by w_thames_the_d on September 6, 2010


There has been a rash of beggars in Beijing lately and I really do not know why that is. When I first arrived here, beggars were few and far between. But lately I have seen a ton of them by Guomao and Dawanglu SOHO. Today I was on line 2 which sourrounds the city like a square. Within five stops I saw no less than six beggars roaming the cars. All of the beggars were women with the exception of one man.
I have heard that these people are actually traveling gypsies who have money but are too lazy to work. I dont know if that is true, but I do know that the temperature outside is about 80 degrees, while the subway is a comfy 69 degrees or so…Thus, maybe they are beggars or just smart lazy people.
But the guy, I am relatively sure, was a real beggar, he seemed pretty bad off. What gets me is for a place that is supposedly a communist/socialist country, why do they have so many destitute people.

Posted in Cultural oddities, Let me educate you... | 2 Comments »