I hope you have found this series helpful if you are interested in traveling to China for business. While I was in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong for only three weeks, I wanted to share some insights that I got while meeting with a variety of companies. Please review my earlier posts that will provide some info on business cards, communicating in Chinese and daily travel.
This post will focus on navigating business with the Chinese government. Bottom line: You need to have a stomach for dealing with HUGE bureaucracies. My trip started by securing a visa for entry. While I have obtained visas in the past, the list of questions about my reasons for travel and other ancillary facts (e.g., the long list of diseases, including mental illnesses, that would bar me from entry) indicated that I needed to reach out for assistance through a Chinese visa processing company. I used New York-based Lotus Tours Ltd.
As well, many of those we met on our company visits shared stories about their daily interactions with the government and the numerous steps they had to take for simple tasks. One story in particular was a company who was exhibiting for the World’s Expo in Shanghai. (For those who may remember, the World Expo a.k.a. World’s Fair used to be the only place to learn about new and emerging technologies in different cultures prior to the Internet.)
This company spent over eight hours setting up the booth. Why so long? In order to move their materials from the loading dock onto the exhibit floor they had to pass through several stations and guards. Each station was managed by a different company licensed by the government and had paperwork, forms and “fees” attached before they were able to pass to the next area. And they were required to pay three separate garbage fees on top of the actual rental of the space.
If you’d like to learn more about how to navigate bureaucracies in China, please check the following resources:
Doing Business in China by Tim Ambler, Morgen Witzel and Chao Xi
Doing Business in China for Dummies by Robert Collins and Carson Block
“Essential Advice for Doing Business in China” by the U.S. Commercial Service, Beijing and Rosemary Gallant, U.S. Commercial Service
Dealing with a heavy bureaucratic system is not something we think about on a daily basis in the United States. While there are many forms, licenses and permits we need to maintain, it’s just not at the same level as what you might experience in China. We heard several stories similar to the exhibit set-up tale that indicated it was an everyday reality for doing business in China. Expect things to take twice and three-times as long as they do in the States.
Have you dealt with government bureaucracy while doing business in China? Share your experiences and any advice for others who may want to partner with Chinese firms in the comments section.
We’ll have one more post in this series that will focus on the role of “Big Brother.” Stay tuned!
Malla Haridat, the founder and CEO of New Designs for Life, is a nationally recognized expert in the specialized field of entrepreneurship education and has trained over 1,000 students. She has traveled extensively throughout the United States working in partnership with companies developing creative solutions for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. A dynamic thinker, strategist, and speaker, Malla now works with a wide variety of organizations applying her creative talents to the challenges of business transformation. Her company was awarded the 2005 New York City Small Business Award of the Year by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and has been featured in publications like The New York Times and on Martha Stewart Radio.