The recent economic progress of China is nothing short
of extraordinary. The sixth largest economy in the world in 2003, it might already surpass France and
the UK this year, well on its way to becoming a superpower that could ultimately match the United States in
economic size and business strength. While the almost unlimited availability of low-cost labor combined with a
robust infrastructure benefit China's economic development, these facts alone are not sufficient to attract international
investment and grow an economy to a large scale. Rather, several aspects founded deeply in its culture and
long-standing traditions continue to help China expand its economic influence at such an astonishing pace.
Throughout the many long and prosperous periods in its
history, China has kept a rich legacy of trade and merchantry, extending into its imperial past. Today, that quality
is still alive. Much of the people’s energy seems devoted to making deals and growing successful businesses.
Another advantage for the country's business people is
the fact that most of them are skilled and effective negotiators. Their spectrum of negotiation techniques and
bargaining tricks is much broader than is usually found in Western societies. Negotiating with the Chinese
can be an entertaining and sometimes chilling experience.
Contrary to typical Western cultures, where business
planning is usually done on an annual basis and any timeframe beyond 3-5 years is considered long-term, the Chinese often
think and plan in much longer time frames, sometimes spanning several generations. That long-term perspective comes
combined with persistence and firm patience, characteristics of the culture that also apply in many business areas.
China’s grand business strategy continues to follow a long sequence of coordinated steps designed to open up its
markets, liberate commerce and trade, and stimulate foreign investment at a gradually increasing pace.
To the Westerner, it may sometimes be difficult to see
the value in the patient and persistent ways of China. In Western culture, patience is confused with slowness.
Taking a long-term perspective may be read as a risk to overlook near-term opportunities. However, these cultural
forces have served China well throughout the country‘s economic development, and the rapid progress of recent years
is in no small part a result of the momentum they helped build over many years.
Most Chinese believe that the collective good is much more
important than any individual’s benefit. At times, this strong group orientation can be a hindrance to
business. For example, the decision making process is often slower in China than in the US. However, when a
decision has finally been reached, the group or organization will quickly gain traction through the momentum built by all
members acting in unison and with full commitment. Once Chinese organizations have figured out how they will go
about reaching a goal, they become very difficult to stop.
Guanxi, a system
of mutual and reciprocal obligations, further aids business efficiency in China. Favors that have been paid can
and will be called upon later to support an individual’s and group’s best interests.
Guanxi is an important key to getting things done, and successful companies and
their leaders apply it skillfully to open doors and achieve fast results.
The Chinese people possess a strong work ethic.
This is another asset of Chinese culture that has helped re-stimulate its economy. Modesty, dedication, and commitment
to one’s work as a contribution to the larger community are powerful values shared by most individuals in China.