04 October 2005

Business in China

This story has a happy ending, but I'm sure there are millions that don't.


I can think of only a few scenarios in which I would bother doing business in China or anywhere like it:

1. You are seriously well connected, like the son of a cabinet minister or something.
2. You are huge and they can't ignore you and you can afford the massive bribes that could tempt a bigwig.
3. You have the patience of Job and you want to test yourself.
4. Your only reason for living is to do some kind of business in China.
5. You live there and can't get out.

The moral is: think twice, then forget it.

From my experience in Vietnam, (and I feel it is not unrealistic assume that the Chinese are very similar) I draw the following conclusions:

1. Half the people in Vietnam are the nicest, friendliest, most honest, most generous, most honourable people in the world.

2. The other half are the most deceitful, lying, dishonest, cynical, selfish, incompetent people you will ever have the misfortune to meet. They will be nice to you but they will be rude to the waiter. They feel morally obliged to cheat you and rub your face in it. They will even cheat you where it is more profitable to be honest.

3. You are most likely to meet the second category in business. (This by the way makes it very hard for those in the first category to make a living.)

4. This person is likely to be a member of the Communist Party, a state official, or both. Either he joined for corrupt reasons, which illustrates the extent of his cynicism, or he joined and became corrupt, which also illustrates the extent of his cynicism

5. You will be told that when you go to a meeting, it is customary to give a gift (such as a bottle of scotch). I am convinced that government officials put out tenders for projects simply so they can meet with foreign businessmen to receive such gifts. I suggest all foreign businessmen reply that in the West, to give such a gift before the deal is an expression of defiance of Fate, and Fate will punish such insolence by jinxing the deal (rather like when you say "I have never had a car accident"). The cunning Qing knows that we are desparate to do business there, and milks the 'Asian culture' and 'Oriental tradition' for all it's worth. I say milk back.

Consider doing business elsewhere.


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