This instance of the blog is one where everybody contributed.
Let’s talk a bit about the Chinese culture and misconceptions that we have learned. For the ones of us that have never been to China we have been enlightened on how ignorant we were about this culture. Coming from the US we all thought that China equaled cheap stuff, thiefs (ip), people are repressed and no one can talk about anything without getting in trouble. Also, we thought that our way is the way to do things and they should follow. Interestingly enough most of this is not black and white, China has a lot of innovation, the Internet has given the people a voice and now one can find very high quality items. One of the things I found extremely interesting is that you cannot see a lot of misery as in other countries. Now, all of this does not mean that there are no problems, of course ip protection is an issue, the government presence is felt everywhere and doing business is challenging.
In the past two days we went to the Forbidden City, this place is just amazing. The scale of the place and the thought that this was built for only one person is daunting. With 9999 rooms this is probably the largest house in the world.
After touring the Forbidden city we went to Baidu which was a great experience as it gave us a chance to compare with the other Internet companies we visited. The biggest difference we saw was that Baidu has been able to succeed in China with a very similar business model to Silicon Valley.
During the trip we kept hearing that KTV (video karaoke) is really big in China. Seven of us ventured to one and I have to say it was a great experience. I also realized that my karaoke skills are no better than that in the US. Thankfully we had a couple of great singers in the group.
For our last day in Beijing we travelled to the Great Wall of China. Arthur, our tour guide, told us there is a saying in China that until you climb the wall you are not a real man. After climbing it we realized why they say that, it was a pretty darn tough climb! Funny enough one of the most memorable events on the wall was going down. We took a very exciting toboggan where your life depended on a single break stick. For lunch we had what Chinese call farmer food. The food was really good, the main difference was that the dishes were a lot simpler.
Here are some insights from my fellow travel buddies:
When you only have 30 minutes to lunch in a mall it truly feels like the Amazing Race.
Relationship, the myth and the truth. Relationships have evolved more to I do you a favor you owe me a favor.
Interestingly enough for companies to be listed in China, regulations require 3 years of profitability. This is despite the fact that successful companies in US such as Amazon did not making profits for the first 10 yrs.
The importance of balancing localizing product and work environment, versus bringing in western work ethic (no hierarchy) keep companies attractive to users,employees and still be innovative.
The Chinese government recognizes that the Chinese people are climbing Maslow’s hierarchy, fulfilling basic needs first before they value the freedoms that we, Americans, believe they want. They all want a better quality of life, comparable to the American way of life first. Once they achieve their material goals, they will eventually value freedom of expression.
Top misconceptions: 1) China isn’t just stealing, they’re innovating. 2) GDP per capita isn’t important, but instead Chinese consumers buy products that give them status. 3) you can take what made you successful at home and succeed overseas, but localization is important in foreign markets. 4) issue with chinese censorship isn’t the great firewall, it’s local censorship.
The government focus is on the societal harmony. China has 6 million graduates per year so there is a need to keep the educated employed to avoid social unrest and, hence, focus on innovation in tech.
When doing tours and going through the croweded subway we need to stick together like sticky rice!
Guanxi is not anything mysterious in China, it is the same how you go golf with business partners. The only difference is that people do that at the dining table in China.
One way of looking at how Chinese think about products and business is with a quote from one of our speakers “I don’t care if you bring me a white cat or a black cat. If it catches the mouse than it is a good cat. ”
The national bird of China is the crane.