China is a nation of 1.3 billion contradictions.
It is governed by a Communist party but is fundamentally capitalist. It wants to open up more to the world, but censorship is everywhere. The government has vowed to crack down on internal corruption and yet, instead of focusing their attention within their own borders, they have reportedly asked the British government for help in extraditing around 50 ‘foxes’ who have fled to the UK.
These discrepancies were to the forefront of my mind as myself and around 60 class colleagues departed for Shanghai and Beijing on an eight day intensive study tour as part of the MBA programme at UCD’s Smurfit School. While we could only hope to see a snapshot of the country in such a short period of time, we were keen to absorb as much information as possible about the local culture and how to operate within their business environment. It is likely that many of the class will be working within the Chinese market after graduation, or dealing with Chinese counterparts. So any experience or insight gained as part of the Doing Business in Emerging Markets module, could prove invaluable.
During the trip we visited a number of companies including CICSO, youku, ChinaHR and BaoSteel. The difference between the indigenous Chinese companies and those which were owned and/or operated by Westerners, was marked. In the West we are accustomed to a certain level of candor – and irreverence – but that is not part of the Chinese culture. While this is something Western business people struggle with, it is also something which we must accept. The way they do business is very different and as ingrained within their culture as our methods are within ours.
Take for example, the different ways in which business deals are struck. While in the West we prefer to get down to business and agree a legal contract as quickly and efficiently as possible, business is done differently in the East. They prefer to build a relationship first, with negotiations taking a long time – and even when a contract is signed, it could be changed. While the these methods seem diametrically opposed, it is testament to the desire of companies and individuals on both sides to do business – and make money – that they somehow surmount their differences and go into business together.
But of course, the entire module wasn’t only about business – it was also about finding out more about the culture (via shopping and visiting restaurants), climbing the Great Wall of China, and finally, finishing the week on a high at the Beijing St Patrick’s Day Ball. There were some sore heads on the flight home the next morning, but we also brought back with us some new insights into China, and a desire to learn more about emerging markets and the possibilities which exist within them.
Edel Kennedy ~ Full Time MBA