Meet Sean Shadbolt – Photographer and Chinese Language Learner

We recently interviewed Sean Shadbolt, who has been learning Chinese Mandarin at Euroasia for a number of years. Sean is in Elaine Wu's Advanced Chinese Class on Wednesday evenings.

Euroasia: What do you do professionally?

Sean: I am a commercial photographer. I shoot a lot of different things but mostly centered around food and lifestyle photography. Its always changing and while it has huge ups and downs as far as work and income are concerned, its always interesting with the people I meet and the experiences I have.

E: Tell me how you first got involved in photography.

S: I first got involved in photography when I managed to talk my way into a temporary job as a photographer for the Wellington city council in 1983. After that I worked as a trainee photographic technician at the tourism and publicity department for two years and after that two years of study at Wellington Polytechnic. In 1991 I started my own business.

E: What do you do when you aren't taking photos/working?

S: When I’m not planning for or doing photography I am either studying Chinese or working on my own or my friends houses. I would like to spend more time travelling but recently have been unable to but hope to go back to China within the next year.

I usually just tell people I am a photographer and not much more, technical details of what it is exactly I do can be dull and complicated, Most people’s experience of photography is wedding photography which I engage in occasionally. My family still isn’t really sure what exactly it is I do.

Euroasia client and commercial photographer Sean Shadbolt talks to us about his life journey
Euroasia client and commercial photographer Sean Shadbolt talks to us about his life journey

E: What has surprised you most about learning Chinese?

S: The thing that has surprised me the most about learning Chinese is how many Chinese speakers there are now in New Zealand. I hadn’t really noticed too much before I started although through my work I was quite aware of Chinese culture here. I also have some close friends who are either Chinese or have Chinese heritage. I also taught a number of Chinese students when I was a photography tutor.

E: What's the best thing to happen since you started mixing with Chinese people/learning Chinese?

S: I think the best thing to happen to me since I started learning Chinese is a much wider appreciation of the culture and heritage, also having a window into Chinese perspectives on life and values.

I also enjoy learning Chinese because it is a language that is spoken everyday in New Zealand, unlike the European languages I studied many years before. You can go into any Chinese restaurant or shop and get a little bit of practice.

E: What would you tell someone who is thinking about learning Chinese?

S: I would advise anyone thinking of learning Chinese to be prepared to do a lot of extra study and practice, especially at first, as progress can be very incremental, also to consider doing the HSK exams, that can really give a goal to focus on.

E: What's it like to be learning Chinese at Euroasia?

S: I enjoy the classes at Euroasia because of the after hours times. It is difficult to fit in any study during the day so it fits in with my schedules. I don’t miss too many classes. The classes are also very social and I enjoy catching up with the other students every week and also in our trips to Chinese restaurants.

E: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?

S: If I wasn’t doing photography I would probably do some kind of teaching. I taught photography for a long time and also did a CELTA and language teaching course a while ago at Unitec which I thoroughly enjoyed.

__________________

Thanks Sean for sharing your thoughts.

For more details about Sean, check out Sean's website.

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Ken Applegate from Fisher Funds on doing business with the Chinese

At Euroasia, we have the privelege of meeting talented New Zealanders who do amazing things in their day jobs. For today’s blog entry, we have Ken Applegate, who has been learning Mandarin with us since early last year to share his views on the Chinese economy, why he’s investing there, and his experience in working with the Chinese.

Ken is the Senior Portfolio Manager for the Fisher Funds International Fund, a specialist New Zealand-based fund manager with assets under management of NZ$1billion spread across more than 30,000 clients. Thanks Ken for sharing your story with the Euroasia community.

Fisher

As a global investor we have the ability to invest anywhere in the world and our allocation to Chinese companies has ranged from 20-40% of the fund. We have a long term structurally bullish view on the Chinese economy. This is not just our opinion; it is based on fact and history. China has been a global economic powerhouse more than once in history. Countries like the US and the UK have dominated the world economy once before and even Rome was ‘great’ once. Just a little more than 200 years ago China’s economy comprised approximately 1/3 of global GDP and it is on the rise again. To quote Warren Buffett, a legendary investor, “the 19th century belonged to England, the 20th century belonged to the U.S., and the 21st century belongs to China. Invest accordingly“. I firmly believe most people underestimate how important this shift is and the significance of its implications.

China dominated the world economy 200 years ago

China_gdp

I have worked as a global fund manager for more than 15 years with the majority of my experience gained while living in California. I first visited China in 2000, and I now travel to China 2-3 times per year. In addition, I speak with Chinese companies and local investors/analysts on a weekly basis and often meet with Chinese companies when I attend investment conferences throughout Asia, especially in Singapore and Hong Kong. I have described below two examples of investments made in China which highlight some of the many challenges I have encountered and learned from over the years.

I also believe in continued learning and my latest pursuit has been learning Mandarin. I began taking a weekly class at Euroasia language school in Auckland in early 2010. I have experienced first-hand the difference between speaking Chinese and thinking Chinese. While I have spent a good deal of the last 10 years trying to understand the Chinese way of doing business, I decided that learning the language could be another way to bridge the gap between cultures. Many Chinese attempt to learn English so out of respect why shouldn’t we attempt to learn the most widely spoken language in the world?

China’s future will be driven by urbanisation and the emerging middle class

China_urban

It is critical to understand that while China is one country there are significant regional differences. One way to gain a holistic picture is to travel to a variety of locations throughout China. While Shanghai and Beijing are the financial and political centres, they comprise less than 5% of the Chinese population. The real future of China, in my opinion, lies in the emerging middle class so I have made an effort to travel to tier 2 and tier 3 cities. In addition to Guangzhou in the south, I have been as far west as Chongqing and Chengdu and as far north as Changchun. I like to visit similar locations every few years to see how things are developing. The reason for my travel is to visit company management at their headquarters. I have found they are much more open to a dialogue and it forms a lasting impression if a fund manager from New Zealand makes an effort to come and spend a day with them on their home turf.

This is the welcome I received from Cao Zhao Hui, the CEO of Wasion Group, when I visited them at their headquarters outside of Changsha in 2009

Ken_applegate

The first example is an investment that didn’t work out. One way we generate our investment ideas is through quantitative screening of financial metrics. We discovered a company called Dapai, China’s leading branded backpack and luggage company. I was attracted to the company because of its leadership position in its industry and cheap valuation. The valuation of the company was low because the company had made some decisions that did not fit the mold of a ‘typical’ high quality publicly traded company.

After significant research on the company and numerous conference calls with company management I believed that this was an investment worth pursuing. We are strong believers in quality management so I travelled to Quanzhou, Fujian Province, to spend a day with the CEO and Chairman at their facility. I also conducted research by interviewing customers at shopping malls (including the competition) to gauge the perception of the company and brand.

As mentioned previously the cheap valuation was due to subpar decisions the company had made in regards to how the stock and company was perceived. I believed these decisions were made in naivety. During my meeting with the CEO I highlighted how to change their perception which could lead to significant wealth creation. I offered my assistance and facilitated a conversation with a public relations firm and numerous specialised brokers and made myself available for discussion on any decision-making if required. They responded positively and we celebrated a fruitful day and good relationship over dinner.

I had continued conference calls with management and while the company did make some positive steps forward they were only baby steps. Unfortunately the key decisions continued to be poor in spite of my advice. This was frustrating as there was no logical rationale for the decisions. The decisions were actually made for reasons other than purely financial reasons, which meant sacrificing

their own business in the short term to maintain relationships with distributors. I understand this is important, but it was still

frustrating as management had committed to change. While I do understand how Chinese think, I am ultimately a westerner, especially when it comes to business, and our way of decision-making does not always prevail.

Touring the Dapai factory with the CEO, Chen “Perry” Yong

Dapai

The second example involves a more positive outcome. The company is China Automation Group, a leading company in safety equipment for the petrochemical and rail equipment industries. It is similar in structure to the first example where my research and relationship was developed over a 6-month period. The major difference in this example is that I already had relationships with a number of players in the rail equipment industry. This added depth and meaning to my relationship with this company.

We first invested capital in China Automation Group in mid 2008 and while business for the company continued to be positive, the stock took a dive in 2008. This was frustrating for the company and for me. I remember meeting with Xuan Ruiguo, the Chairman of China Automation Group, in Hong Kong in October 2008 when the stock price was HK0.60/share.

To put this into context we bought our first shares at HK$2/share. The good news is that now the shares are trading at more than Hk$6/share. We showed our confidence and belief in the company by buying more shares and it was this day that defined our relationship. I had breakfast with the Chairman in March this year and he recalled my support during that challenging time and said that he always has time for me.

Summary

I have always believed in a long term approach to investing and this is a mindset that is critical when it comes to doing business in China. The best lessons I have learned have not come from reading books but from my own experiences on the ground. This will continue to be the focus for me in the future. We shouldn’t overestimate the ability to change others’ mindsets and this is not a sustainable outcome anyway. We need to adapt if we are to conduct business in their country, and both parties in a relationship must be satisfied. This requires a long term approach – it’s not just about trying to make a short term profit.

The best piece of advice I give people who want to try and understand China is to go there. I tell them to spend some time in one of the big cities and then travel inland to a smaller city. I have offered numerous times to provide assistance to those interested in an attempt to make the process seem less daunting. Seeing is believing. It takes time to develop an understanding and time to create relationships. Confucius said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”…and the long term rewards can be unlimited.

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Chinese New Year of the Rabbit kicks off 3 Feb 2011

This Thursday, 3 February, marks the start of the Year

of the Rabbit, according to the Chinese calendar. The Rabbit ( 兔 )

is the fourth animal in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. Despite its winter occurrence, in China it is known as “Spring Festival,” the literal translation of the Chinese name 春节 (Pinyin: Chūn Jié), owing to the difference between Western and traditional Chinese methods for computing the seasons.

Apparently those born in the year of the Rabbit are gracious, kind, sensitive, soft-spoken, amiable, elegant, reserved, cautious, artistic, thorough, tender, self-assured, shy, astute, compassionate, lucky and flexible. They can however be moody, detached, superficial, self-indulgent, opportunistic, stubborn.

Do you know anyone born in the year of the Rabbit?

The New Year festival

begins on the first day of the first month (Chinese: 正月; pinyin: Zhēng Yuè) in the traditional Chinese calendar and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day. Chinese New Year’s Eve, a day where Chinese families gather for their annual reunion dinner, is known as Chú Xī (除夕) or “Eve of the Passing Year.”

The Chinese New Year coincides with the Japanese and Korean New Year as well. So if you meet any of your Chinese, Japanese or Korean friends this week, wish them a Happy New Year! [Ed: In 1873, Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar, moving away from the Lunar calendar (but not the usual New Year traditions).]

Or better still, sign up for a course with Euroasia so you can greet them in their language!

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Working with China – key tips

I came across a good story in the Summer issue of Bright, the NZTE magazine that goes out to people interested in international business.

Key stories in this issue include coping with the international credit crisis; insights on trading in the Middle East; tips on perfecting your sales pitch; the world's growing bioeconomy; interviews with two members of NZTE’s China Advisory Board; carbon-labeling of exports; staying sharp in the adventure tourism market.

I want to highlight some salient points from the  interviews with the 2 members of NZTE’s China Advisory Board, who have in-depth China market knowledge and have lived and worked in China for a long period.

chinaIf you have some time, do read the article. The 2 guys interviewed are:

David Mahon, Chair of NZTE’s China Advisory Board.

  • Worked in Beijing for 25 years, heading a private  equity firm Mahon ChinaInvestment Management Limited.
  • He says change in China has been so great though that he says it’s largely his last two years’ of experience that are relevant to clients.

Andrew Browne, partner in a corporate communications advisory company, Beijing Brunswick Consultancy Ltd.

  • Advises clients on business development acquisition and listing strategies.
  • Previously worked for Reuters for 20 years and in 2007 won a Pulitzer Prize.
  • Grew up in Hong Kong.

Some quotes from Mahon:

  • “If you’re looking around the world and trying to see sources of global growth, China is one of the bright spots”
  • “Brand New Zealand is strong but we lack unity. There are all these meat producers and wine producers selling fragments. We need to approach in a unified way – then Brand New Zealand can be protected.”
  • “Language is important”. “I learned five words a day – no one can afford not to learn five words a day.”
  • “Too often you see companies with a product in China and it doesn’t do well. China demands products unique to Ch

    ina. For example, media is very culturally sensitive.”

Quotes from Browne:

  • “What is it that China

    needs? They need brand, technology, marketing and sales channels. You’ll see a very serious shopping expedition going out in search of all those things.”

  • “It’s a truism that China is a complicated country”
  • “We each have a vision which is only a tiny slice of the whole. For all New Zealand companies, it’s critical that they meet as many people as they can and get as broad a view as possible. The secret of doing well is asking the right questions.
  • The economy has been far too focused on exports and heavy industry. The low-end sweat-shops
    along the coast have resulted in excessive use of raw material and energy. In that sense, the old
    model has run its course and was looking unsustainable before the credit crisis hit.
  • “Would you advise a top Chinese company manager coming down to New Zealand to learn a little English? The notion you can send a senior manager to China without language is ridiculous. China is changing so quickly. Language gives you a feeling of engagement and
    learning about the market.”
  • “If you’re an architect, there is nowhere in the world doing building like China,”
  • “Take parks. China needs parks; in the West, all the parks are there. Companies in the West that have long become dormant have sprung back into life in China. China is not something
    to fear at all. China is creating vast opportunities across the manufacturing and service sectors.
  • “If you’re a banker, China is your big opportunity. I’ve watched the private equity funds
    of the world trooping through the lobby of CICC China Investment Corporation with their hats off.”

Also want to highlight an opportunity for Kiwi businesspeople to connect with Chinese investors and businesspeople at an upcoming event on 30 March 2009 – known as the International Sustainable Cities Forum. A delegation of high-level business and government leaders will be in New Zealand for 4 days to explore partnership opportunities.

It's the perfect opportunity for those wanting to do business with the Chinese to attend.

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Why Tourism New Zealand must target China

In spite of the scary stories told in “Horror tales from Chinese tourists” in today's Business Herald, we must not lose sight of the potential of the Chinese tourism market. It was reported that Tourism Holdings will decide in the next month whether to keep pursuing the Chinese market. Graeme West of Tourism Holdings says “We can't be out there everywhere – we have to target where we think we can get the biggest bang for our buck. The market is there. But do we want the yield the market is providing?”

It makes commercial sense to target the market generating the highest returns. But I'm afraid that many tourism providers may be short-sighted in the same way that many language schools in the early 2000s were. Back then, the Chinese started to go overseas in huge numbers and many new language schools were opened here in a free-for-all. In the end, Chinese students stopped coming for a variety of reasons. One reason is the negative publicity that arose from adverse media reports. Cowboys in the market also did a lot of damage, by short-changing students. The Chinese began to be seen as a new goldmine, and scores of students had bad experiences with shoddy schools, greedy homestay parents, and unethical tourism providers. Understandably, ripped off students won't have good things to say about the New Zealand experience.

Many schools had to close down, and we have significant excess capacity to this day. Does that mean that China is a bad market to target? No. We're just getting punished for our short-sighted view of the market. There's a sense of deja-vu with what's happening in the tourism sector now. We can certainly learn from the experiences of the language school sector.

Chinese outbound departures more than doubled in the last five years, from 16.6 million people in 2002 to 40.9 million people in 2007. The number of affluent Chinese has increased dramatically, which bodes well for tourism. The China-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement and loosening visa restrictions are making it easier than ever for Chinese citizens to travel here.

The 2007 Neilsen China Outbound Travel Monitor Report indicated that Europe is the top dream destination for Chinese travellers, followed by Australia and New Zealand. Surely, at a time when the desire to visit New Zealand is so high, we need to be intensifying efforts to target this market, not cutting back. Rob Finlayson, manager at Tourism Holdings Limited (who looks after Rotorua's Rainbow Springs, Kiwi Encounter and Hukafall Jet boating),

was quoted as saying “All they do is the Agridome and Te Puia.” He says even if he cut his prices in half they still would not attract Chinese visitors because “at the end of the day they only have to include two paid attractions”.

Similar to various tourism providers, a number of domestic retailers are also responding in the same way. The word is there's no reason to focus on the needs of Chinese clients because there aren't many that buy. It begs the question: do you not have many Chinese/Asian clients because there aren't many around, or simply because you're not set up to deal with Chinese/Asian clients?

I don't know how we manage to conveniently forget that 1 in 5 residents are of Asian descent in the Auckland region.

Why is it that Chinese visitors have the lowest satisfaction levels (according to Tourism NZ data) of all those who visit this country? We need to talk to our clients to find out. But can we realistically do that if none of us actually understand the language spoken by our clients, let alone their culture?

Understanding the target market and taking a long term view of the value of the Chinese market is critical to success. We need to interpret our observations through the eyes of the Chinese. Let's not allow our perspectives to be so coloured by our cultural baggage that we fail to capitalise on significant opportunities.

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Why is Asia so brand conscious?

One of the readers of this blog asked a very good question: Why is Asia so brand conscious? This was in response to a photo I posted of the queue I observed outside the Louis Vuitton store on Orchard Road, Singapore. Why do people queue up to enter a store that sells two thousand dollar handbags?

Well, precisely the reason they can get away with selling two thousand dollar handbags 🙂

One interesting fact is that Japan consumes luxury goods twice as much per capita compared to the U.S.; AND luxury goods consumption in Japan is largely unaffected by recession, as evidenced by strong demand during the prolonged economic slowdown.

Hermes and Bulgari have high exposure to Japan, with about 30% of all product sales coming from that country. Louis Vuitton generates about 33% of its revenue from Japan.

I remember coming across an article in the Shanghai Daily where they described a poll of Chinese citizens. When asked what would be the first luxury item they would buy, almost invariably, respondents said a Swiss watch. A Swiss watch is a symbol of luxury, much like a German luxury canadian pharmacy cipro car. It's a statement that you've made it. Everyone wants to be seen as having “made it big”.

This is very important for a person's mianzi, or face.

The irony is that those in higher positions care more about mianzi than those in lower positions. ie the more money you have the more important it is to maintain mianzi. A Chinese businessman friend of mine once related a story to me. He went out to see a potential client in his Japanese car and was asked the question: “Why are you driving a Toyota?” He promptly disposed of his car and bought a BMW.  Chinese customers need to see that you're “successful” before giving you work. It's easy to understand why that is. It's difficult to ascertain if someone has the capabilities to deliver, so we look for shortcuts to see if someone owns the symbols that we associate with success.

In New Zealand, this is rarely the case. People generally do not care about how they are perceived, and are less likely to judge a book by it's cover. I must say in my personal experience, I've noticed an increase in Euroasia's revenue after I sold the Audi and started driving a Nissan (the Audi is pretty costly to maintain). I don't think my clients think any worse of me simply because I'm not driving an Audi.  I need a car simply to get from point A to B, so all I need is a reliable vehicle.

Going to St Lukes in worn out clothes, and without makeup is pretty acceptable. Although I must say this has changed in the past few years. I'm beginning to notice that people tend to care a lot more about how they look. Either that or people these days are simply better looking.

I'm still undecided as to whether that's a good thing or not.

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Chinese people having fun

A friend of mine Justin invited me along for Skykiwi's Miss Zodiac beauty pageant on Sunday night. I must confess I had fun, not just from looking at pretty girls 😉 but I was pretty impressed with everything else: performances, ambience etc.

the girls on stage. forgot my camera, so had to take this using my phone

The entire event was delivered in Mandarin, and there were parts I didn't understand, but overall everyone seemed to have had a great time. Unfortunately, you get the jokers who keep their cellphones on, and even worse, prescriptions paxil answer their calls in public. I can't imagine th

at happening at say the NZSO or Ballet.

I particularly liked the part of the competition where each participant gets a fan/friend to come up on stage to secure support from the audience. The “fan” explains why the participant deserves to win. These guys were pretty funny and creative.

It's great that there are functions like this in Auckland. Great work Skykiwi! How I wished that there were more Kiwis there, although admittedly they would have difficult following what was happening. People need to see that Chinese people can have fun too. You wouldn't be able to recognise the members of this boisterous crowd the next day as they revert to their daytime personalities, whether in the classroom or workplace.

I notice the Jekkyl and Hyde mode more because I observe these guys in different situations. Hopefully someday more Chinese people would speak up, be funny, loud and generally just be themselves at school and at work.

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Why is China important to New Zealand

In 2007, China's GDP was US $3.25 trillion. The Chinese economy is forecast to grow at 9.9% this year. The extra dollars generated by the economic growth alone is more than the entire annual GDP of Singapore and New Zealand… COMBINED!

“Not another China article” you may say, but this is such an important topic that I think it does no harm to remind ourselves of the many implications of China's rise for New Zealand (and the rest of the world)

Perhaps part of the motivation behind not wanting to read more about China is our fear that the Chinese is about to take over the world. That we do not have to worry about, because they already have!

Since 2005, I have noticed that on average the size of China's economy climbs up a rung every year. First, Italy was beaten when China became the world's 6th largest economy, then it was France and UK that got dwarfed. This year, China's economy is set to overtake that of Germany's for the first time.

I believe ordinary New Zealanders will increasingly be impacted in at least one of the following ways:

1) Your suppliers will be Chinese

For many of you this is already the case. China is the cheapest, most efficient place in the world to make just about anything. When I take visitors to local souvenir shops, I generally find New Zealand souvenirs that are made in China outnumber those made in New Zealand 10 to 1. As factories making mass-produced goods in New Zealand become less competitive by the day, more businesses will start buying from China.

2) Your clients will be Chinese

As the Chinese acquire more wealth, they will start to demand the goods and services that we sell. The global food crisis could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. New Zealand can once again be proud to be dependent on agriculture. Our dairy products and quality foods will demand a premium in China. Our professionals will also be busy; helping build China's physical and corporate infrastructure.

Andrew Grant, Head of Greater China for McKinsey, has this to say in an interview published this month:

I am hard pressed to think of any New Zealand business that shouldn’t have China on the agenda – on their board agenda, on their management agenda, on their growth agenda.

3) Your neighbours will be Chinese

I believe New Zealand will see an influx of Chinese migrants in the next 5-10 years, much like how we saw an influx of Koreans and Hong Kongers in the mid-90s. As China becomes more developed, income levels will rise. But so will stress levels. Many Chinese professionals will be tempted by the clean air, laid back lifestyle and relative safety of New Zealand. Short of New Zealand imposing a quota on the number of Chinese migrants, I foresee Chinese migrants arriving in droves.  Many such migrants will be alumni of local universities and schools, having studied here during the language school boom years of early 2000s.  The presence of Chinese migrants here will attract more, and word of mouth will ensure a steep growth trajectory in migrant numbers; much like how it happened in the mid-90s with other Asian migrants.

As most Chinese migrants will prefer living in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch, these cities will become far more cosmopolitan than they already are – sooner than you think.

4) Your colleagues will be Chinese

This is a direct result of (3). As New Zealanders become more used to having Chinese neighbours, we will also get more used to having Chinese colleagues. We're standing at the cusp of change. Traditionally, businesses have been very hesitant to recruit Asian staff. As companies have literally run out of Kiwis to employ in the last few years, they have had to take on staff they wouldn't normally employ. Much to the surprise of these “early adopters”, the Chinese staff have generated a return on investment beyond their expectations, thus clearing the way for them to employ more Asians.

5) Your boss will be Chinese!

OK, for my staff at Euroasia, this is already the case!

As the rest of the world begins to suffer from what looks like a prolonged recession and a severe credit crunch, the Chinese with their war chests will go out bargain hunting. Some businesses will inevitably end up in Chinese hands. Despite being communists, the Chinese are shrewd capitalists at heart. They are also exceptional operators, with ove

r 5000 years of trading history behind them.  I have seen many New Zealanders greatly underestimate Chinese capabilities; based on limited encounters with Chinese students and recent graduates who speak broken English.

Make no mistake, these uncouth foreigners could one day be paying your wages.

How then do we prepare ourselves for the new reality?

1) Learn Chinese

I would say that wouldn't I? 🙂

No Chinese person expects you to be fluent in Chinese. But the fact that you've made an effort goes a long way.  It also seems a little unfair that we expect other people to devote a lot of time, money and energy to learning English so that they can communicate with us if we’re not prepared to make any effort at all.

Additionally, when you travel in a country without a knowledge of the language, in some ways you only scratch the surface; only when you know the language do you realise how much you would otherwise be missing. This is more the case in China than almost anywhere else.

2) Understand Chinese culture

There's no better way to understand the culture than to learn the language. They are so intimately intertwined that I doubt you can fully understand a culture if you can't speak the language.

In addition to taking a basic Chinese language course, you can also book in for – or better still get your boss to pay for – some cross-cultural training.

There are also plenty of books on Chinese culture and doing business in China. Chinese people are not easily impressed by you saying that you've read the 20-page English translation of Sun Tzu's Art of War. It's a different story if you've read it in the original language.

3) Make some Chinese friends

This is easier said than done. But hey, it's easier now than it was 10 years ago. We no longer have to go to China. China has come to us. You would be surprised how much you can learn from Chinese students if you pause and listen to what they have to say. This, of course, requires a lot of patience and cultural understanding.

Considering the fact that you could soon end up with a neighbour from Beijing, a colleague who packs chicken feet for lunch, clients who demand progress reports in Chinese, and a Mandarin-speaking boss, it could be well worth the effort.

4) Carpe Diem!

I close with a very apt quote from Andrew Grant's interview quoted earlier (emphasis mine):

This period of unbelievable growth, we’re not going to get that purchasing clomid again. This is not something that I think people have the option to wait around for. I don’t know how much the story is being told, but in China the FTA, not just in the substance of what is written there and all of the clauses, but what it has done in terms of the way China thinks about New Zealand, it really is a very special window of opportunity that every Chinese business is interested in engaging in with New Zealanders and New Zealand. I hope New Zealanders realise how precious that is and the imperative and urgency to really seize the moment.

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