It is a Matter of Balance: Doing Business in China

Monday, November 11, 2013, by Eliane Karsaklian

China is the middle earth country. A country where balance is a key word. Yin and yang are complementary. Hot and cold should be compensated. Food is balanced depending on the season and the temperature of beverages should respect body’s balance.

However, when it comes to business, there is still a long way to go to find such a balance. All those who think that China has got it all worked out have to visit cities other than Beijing and Shanghai to figure it out. In my recent visit to Xi’an, province of Shaanxi, I noticed how unbalanced their business activities still are.

The Shaanxi province encapsulates some of the most relevant parts of the rich Chinese history. The very first Chinese emperors ruled the country from there and are buried there. Since the 1990s excavations uncovered the terracotta army from the Qin dynasty and Museums and Royal Mausoleums are open to visits.

It is a wonderful and enlightening place to go. However, the services and the infrastructures are far behind from what would be expected or required for such a valuable place.

The Chinese are welcoming people, and as a client you will have all you need and want. But they will do it as a duty. You won’t get a single smile. Few people can speak English, even in some local hotels, shopping malls and supermarkets. No English speaking (except for the tour guides) at the historic sites either and the translations of the Chinese explanations displayed in those sites are poor.

While local universities have well educated trilingual students willing to know more about cultures and ready to get down to business, such students live in an environment which is all but businesslike. Thus, there is a gap between what they learn and what they experience in their day-to-day lives. What is even more disturbing is that they don’t even realize that such a gap exists. In the Chinese theory-based education system, students play a role as students in the classrooms, but once they are out of there, they don’t need to keep thinking and learning. It is all about getting a diploma in the end, not about learning.

Whereas in the western world we are trained with hands-on techniques to be the most operational when getting a new job, the Chinese learn the theory needed to get a valuable diploma from a reputed University so that they can get a good job. And good job means a well-paid job, not the one they are great at. There is no passion for professions.
There is just obligation to succeed by earning money.

Not surprisingly, when you work with the Chinese, you don’t see them involved and passionate. They are inexpressive. They do their work as a duty. No matter how they do it, it has just to be done. As a result it feels like your working relationship is unbalanced.