China is different than many Americans believe. Doing business in China has been changing quite rapidly.
For example, China is no longer communist, we are now competing with a mix of free-enterprise and government-owned firms, China is as high-tech as we are, China is not as restrictive on travel and business relationships as it once was, and China has its own large and growing middle class. I spent three months in China, including two months teaching more than 100 Chinese managers. I was quite impressed by China.
China is no longer communist except for the official name of the political party in charge. Chinese citizens can freely own land and other possessions, travel around the world, start and run free enterprise companies, etc. You still need to get government permission to do certain things (so do we), but much less so than in the past. There are still some laws that are restrictive for businesses and individual citizens, but they are also changing for the better every year. China still has a central government that controls many things, but it’s no longer invasive like it used to be.
We have to remember: China is moving from a completely controlled economy and government to a more open one. They are moving gradually so that they don’t have the same problems that Russia and its former republics created when they changed too quickly.
There are still many government-owned companies, and they hold some unfair advantages over competition for foreign companies. For example, they get easier permission to construct buildings, easier access to funds and substantially better lending terms, and preferential treatment for projects the government wants done. With this in mind, it is sometimes beneficial for an American firm to do business with a government-owned company.
China is as high-tech as we are. They are now graduating some 400,000 engineers every year to our 65,000. Their top students are now opting to get a Chinese college education rather than an American one. Their universities are gradually learning to be as good in the sciences as we are (they aren’t there yet). Although they are still a source of cheap labor, their real advantages will soon be their technical capabilities and their own large and growing middle class (it’s already as large as ours is).
The Chinese government is not as restrictive and harsh as I had believed. American tourists now have as much unrestricted access in China as foreigners who visit the US. Chinese citizens now have almost as much freedom as Americans in the US. Yes, there are abuses of power by the government, but they are getting rarer every year. The Chinese government is going after citizens who use bribery and other unfair business practices more than they are going after people who don’t like the government.
Although only 200-300 million Chinese seem to be participating in the new economy, even the billion or so peasants have gained immensely from the economic expansion. Unlike their parents 25 years ago who were literally starving (many dying), almost all peasants now have two full meals every day and their children go to school.
The whole “feel” of the culture now is something like I would imagine America was in the late 1800s when we were expanding Westward and seemed to have unlimited opportunity. Whether it was a peasant farmer who sees her children having a chance to finish school and go to “the city” for a job, or a middle class person seizing opportunities to become rich, almost everyone in China these days is optimistic and excited about the future.
The Chinese are more like us than they are different than us. Most Chinese don’t care about international politics. They want good careers and opportunities to make money. And they want opportunities for their children to do even better. They want a peaceful world so that they can continue to prosper.
Len Tischler ASQ Expert
莱恩·提诗勒 美国质量协会专家 宋方元 译