One of the most common challenges I hear from Australian businesses when it comes to Chinese market is: ‘it’s just too complicated’.
As someone who has navigated through businesses (and life) in three distinctively different countries (China, Australia, France), I can totally appreciate where the frustration comes from.
Expanding businesses from Australia to any overseas market is a challenge itself, and China presents even more complexity due to the following reasons:
- Language is a natural barrier. Chinese languages shares almost nothing in common with English, linguistically and phonetically.
- Culture is a barrier. There are cultural differences at all levels. One Australian business owners recently told me that he took the business card with one hand when he met a potential Chinese partner – the meeting didn’t go well. The comfort level of ambiguity is entirely different – the ability to comprehend and manage ambiguity is one of the most essential, potentially frustrating, but most rewarding aspects in doing business with China (the same goes to Chinese with Australian counterparts).
- Business practice is different. An international marketing manager from Sydney finally learnt never, ever, to schedule a meeting with her Chinese clients during their lunch time. On the flip side, when she finally told her clients that she preferred not to meet on Friday at 5pm, she heard a long silence on the phone, and ‘but why?’ eventually.
- Understanding the Chinese regulation/law/taxation requires real efforts. Fully understanding any oversea legal environment is complex. On top of that, regulations in China are more often than not ambiguous, open for interpretation (often by the person who is in the position of exercising them), and subject to frequent changes and updates. Chinese policy makers are quite good at making unpredictable changes, sometimes at a vast scale. It’s not an easy task for even Chinese business owners to fully keep up with, and it becomes even more complicated if the information is not availably fully and/or timely in English.
One Chinese saying goes like that: ‘where there is a challenge, there is an opportunity’. The first step of dealing with any challenge is to be aware of what they are. Now you are presented with at least four opportunities!
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