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Blind monks and business networking in China

Ningbo Business Club Logo
Speech by Niall O’Reilly
Founder Ningbo Business Club
2nd B2B Networking Reception
33rd Floor, Mingzhou Suite, Shangri La Hotel, Ningbo.
7th November, 2013

 

Good evening Ningbo Business Club members and distinguished guests.

I am delighted to see so many of you here tonight attending the second Business To Business networking reception of the Ningbo Business Club, which is brought to you in this magnificent Shangri La Hotel setting by Ningbo Focus – our media partner – Point Corporate Services, and Reindeer Station.

By way of introduction, in August 1988 courtesy of a Chinese Government Scholarship I came to Beijing to study the Chinese language and foreign trade. I assured all my family and friends “just one-year and I will be return back to Ireland. Well, that was 25 years ago and, as you can see, I am still here!

Once the dynamism and buzz of day by day living and working China breeds permeates your skin… well, it stays there, and with respect to Ningbo, for very obvious reasons:

  • We are in a city which in 2012 registered GDP of RMB 652.47 billion, at an annual growth rate of 7.8%
  • where the GDP per capita, by resident population count, is over US$13,500 and heading towards the US$20,000 mark by the end of 2016
  • A city that in 2012 recorded an import / export trade value of US$96.6 billion.

Ningbo is now firmly on the map as a leading business city in China in its own right and nowhere is dynamic change more evident than in Ningbo’s infrastructure construction boom:

  • The CRH high-speed train I took this afternoon from Hangzhou East Station to Ningbo East Station involved a journey of only one hour. Two years ago I recall a rail journey of over two hours. The completely new 150 kilometres high-speed railway line between the two cities took less than two years to construct.
  • The 35.7 kilometres long Hangzhou Bay Bridge, which took only four years to build, now makes driving to Shanghai is now a breeze

Looking out the window of this 33rd floor presidental suite at the spectacular views it is clear Ningbo’s infrastructure investment explosion over the past 5 years is simply beyond staggering.

Yet, given that we are living and doing business in the city that hosts the World’s second (soon to be) largest trading port… Where else would you want to be?

Networking

Perhaps you have heard, or not heard, about the story of the six blind monks who are asked to determine what an elephant looks like by feeling different parts of the elephant’s body.

  • The first blind monk touches a leg and says the elephant is a pillar.
  • The second blind monk touches the tail and says the elephant is a rope.
  • The third monk touches the trunk and believes it is a tree branch.

and so on until the

  • The sixth blind monk who feels the tusk and says the elephant is a spear.

Each blind monk could feel a part of the elephant, and are certain they had the whole of the elephant.

However, in reality they only had a part of it. None could grasp the reality of the big picture: Many of us look at China in the same way.

The media, both here in China and outside, can distort our awareness and perceptions about China by sensationalising the good and the bad, while from time to time its seems that everyone has a different opinion about what is going on..

So how do we make sense of all the information we are being exposed to?

Each time we return home to our countries, or when we read newspapers from back home, it seems that the path to business success here in China can be neatly packaged into three themes:

  • Learn Chinese
  • Build guanxi
  • Understand the culture

However as we all know these clichés can inevitably turn out to be the most difficult, misunderstood and costliest approaches to success and profitability in China.

For example, the fact Chinese businesspeople from Hong Kong (speaking Cantonese), Taiwan (Mandarin/Hakka), Singapore (Mandarin/Fukienese) and Malaysia (Fukienese) struggle for success in China indicate more than language skills are needed.

Being based on the ground here in Ningbo you will know that the word guanxi is a widely misunderstand concept, not to be confused with back door games and buying favours. It takes a very long time to build true guanxi, which, as we know, can be stronger than any contract.

We also know that when it comes to learning the culture, what’s really important is getting a handle on the specific nuances, for example at business meetings  when sometimes what is not being said can indicate the true meaning, while our Chinese counterparts can hear the same words but interpret things completely differently.

欲知前方事,且问过来人

Yù zhī qiánfāng shì, qiě wèn guòláirén

“To know the road ahead, ask those coming back”

(Chinese Proverb)

And in my opinion there is really no better way to make the right connections and access the right information here in China than through Networking Networking Networking.

The Ningbo Business Club

With such conviction, and seeing the considerable potential in China for the social networking website for business professionals that is LinkedIn, 5 years ago I set up a series of China city business networks including Ningbo Business Club (NBC), which now has close to 450 members.

Our Ningbo Business Club (市商业协会) is devoted to bringing professionals and entrepreneurs here in Ningbo and surrounding areas quality (as opposed to quantity) connections, information and knowledge about how to use and leverage business networking to meet their professional objectives.

The fact that our origins are online enables us to not only reach out to members doing business on the ground here in Ningbo.

Ningbo Business Club (宁波市商业协会) also provides an excellent business resource platform for business people around the world to find out about all that is relevant to doing business here in Ningbo and Zhejiang, and ultimately to secure business deals along the way  – which is why we are all here tonight!

In addition, akin to us foreign businesspeople here, many ‘Ningbo-born, bred, and raised businessmen and businesswomen’, or Ningbo’s Diaspora, are dispersed far and wide, living and working all over the globe. Ningbo Business Club provides an excellent platform for them to connect with their laojia 老家and keep abreast of what’s going on in Ningbo’s business scene.

I am the Managing Director of Accurate Group, a China market-making consultancy, operated out of Hangzhou and Ireland. Our clients outside china constantly ask us searching questions about all aspects of city and provincial market information the real-time answers to which lie within a network connection. I can also tell you that over half of Accurate Group’s client base came via connections made on Linkedin.com

Of course being on the ground here in Ningbo we all want an opportunity to meet our fellow members socially to learn “what was” and “what is” happening in Ningbo’s business scene.

Hence, this our second B2B event tonight, where moving forward, and given calibre of our two guest speakers tonight – Candy Tang, from Deloitte Shanghai (who will talk about China’s VAT Reform Pilot) and Tormod Ludvik Nilsen, from Wikborg Rein Shanghai (who will talk about the new duty-free zone in Shanghai), we anticipate that Ningbo Business Club will continue to prosper as the leading source of business interaction for businesspeople with an interest in Ningbo.

Now I would like to hand you over to our Chairman Helge Hareland, Chairman & Business Development Director at Point Services (Ningbo) Co Ltd. Thank you and enjoy the rest of your evening.

END

Source: http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=dR+qtUHbPg4=

Join the Ningbo Business Club (NBC) (宁波市商业协会) at http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Ningbo-Business-Club-NBC-975447/about

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NingboBusinessClub

Twitter: @ningbobusiness

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group Ireland China Market Makers (Route to Market, Export, Import, Partner Due Diligence)

Website: http://www.accuratelimited.com

Twitter: @AccurateChina

China Office : Niall O’Reilly, Accurate Group China 1-3 Ying Hui Xing Zhou, Jiang Nan Shui Xiang Lian Sheng Road, Yu Hang District, Hangzhou. China 310023| O: +86 571 8709 1253

Ireland Office: Niall O’Reilly, Accurate Ireland 93 Upper Georges Street, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland| O: +353-1271-1830

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China – Under The Hood: Tinder box – China’s long hot summer

It’s the height of summer here in Hangzhou and it’s extremely hot…. Like sizzling! However, the degree of how hot varies between what is official and what the common man and woman on the street knows and feels.

Official hot (government offices, factories, etc are mandated to close if the official temperature hits 40 degrees Celsius) versus unofficial hot: Mary, who runs the GoMax tea and fruit drink outlet near my apartment, insists her thermometer showed an outside temperature reading of 42 degrees Celsius, but officially it was still 37 degrees Celsius.

People like Mary are increasingly aware of the alternative perspective: The truth uniquely experienced and the massive amount of shared beliefs gleaned from micro-blogging websites such as Sina Weibo.   Worn out by the never-ending official pronouncements, a tinder box situation of growing antipathy towards the way Official China is being run and directed is palpable.

Today, China’s rising prices, ever increasing income disparities, a mode of governance that pursues rapid economic growth and infrastructue development above all else, unrelenting corruption scandals, and a lack of transparency and accountability are testing this populace like never before.

And the spark?

Translation: “The Derailed Country

You ask, why are they acting like a bunch of lunatics?

They think they’re the picture of restraint.

You ask, why can’t they tell black from white, fact from fiction?

They think they’re straight shooters, telling it like it is.

You ask, why are they running interference for murders?

They think they’ve thrown their friends under the bus. And they’re ashamed.

You ask, why all the cover-ups?

They think they’re letting it all hang out.

You ask, why are they so irretrievably corrupt?

They think they’re hardworking and plain-living.

You ask, why are they so infuriatingly arrogant?

They think they’re the picture of humility.

You feel like you’re the victim. So do they.

They think: “During the Qing Dynasty, no one had television. Now everyone has a television. Progress!”

They think: “We’re building you all this stuff, what do you care what happens in the process? Why should you care who it’s really for, so long as you get to use it? The train from Shanghai to Beijing used to take a whole day. Now you’re there in five hours (as long as there’s no lightning). Why aren’t you grateful? What’s with all the questions?

“Every now and then, there’s an accident. The top leaders all show how worried they are. We make someone available to answer journalists’ questions. First we say we’ll give the victims 170,000 kuai apiece. Then we say we’ll give them 500,000. We fire a buddy of ours. We’ve done all that, and you still want to nitpick? How could you all be so close-minded? You’re not thinking of the big picture! Why do you want us to apologize when we haven’t done anything wrong? It’s the price of development.

“Taking care of the bodies quickly is just the way we do things. The earlier we start signing things, the more we’ll have to pay out in the end. The later we sign, the smaller the damages. Our pals in the other departments—the ones who knock down all the houses—taught us that one. Burying the train car was a bonehead move, true, but the folks upstairs told us to do it. That’s how they think: if there’s something that could give you trouble, just bury it. Anyway, the real mistake was trying to dig such a huge hole in broad daylight. And not talking it over with the Propaganda Department beforehand. And not getting a handle on all the photographers at the site. We were busy, ok? If there’s anything we’ve learned from all this, it’s that when you need to bury something, make sure you think about how big it is, and make sure you keep the whole thing quiet. We underestimated all that.”

They think that, on the whole, it was a textbook rescue operation—well planned, promptly executed, and well managed. It’s a shame public opinion’s gotten a little out of hand, but they think, “That part’s not our responsibility. We don’t do public opinion.”

They’re thinking: “Look at the big picture: We had the Olympics, we canceled the agricultural tax, and you guys still won’t cut us a break. You’re always glomming on to these piddling little details. No can-do spirit. We could be more authoritarian than North Korea. We could make this place poorer than the Sudan. We could be more evil than the Khmer Rouge. Our army’s bigger than any of theirs, but we don’t do any of that. And not only are you not thankful, but you want us to apologize! As if we’ve done something wrong?”

Society has people of means, and those without. There’s people with power, and those that have none. And they all think they’re the victim. In a country where everyone’s the victim, where the classes have started to decouple from one another, where it’s every man for himself, in this huge country whose constituent parts slide forward on inertia alone—in this country, if there’s no further reform, even tiny decouplings make the derailings hard to put right.

The country’s not moving forward because a lot of them judge themselves as if Stalin and Mao were still alive. So they’ll always feel like the victim. They’ll always feel like they’re the enlightened ones, the impartial ones, the merciful ones, the humble ones, the put-upon ones. They think the technological drumbeat of historical progress is a dream of their own making.
The more you criticize him, the more he longs for autocracy. The more you gaomao him (piss him off), the more he misses Mao.

A friend in the state apparatus told me, “You’re all too greedy. Forty years ago, writers like you would’ve been shot. So you tell me, have things gotten better, or have they gotten worse?”

I said, “No, you’re all too greedy. Ninety years ago, that kind of thinking would have gotten you laughed out of the room. So you tell me: after all that, have things gotten better, or have they gotten worse?”

Source:

Attributed to China blogger Han Han and posted on Sina Weibo 27th July 2011 (it was subsequently deleted). 23 July 2011, two high-speed CRH ‘Harmony’ trains collided on a viaduct in the suburbs of Wenzhou, in southern Zhejiang province killing at least 40 people. Inept officials reacted to the accident by hurriedly finishing rescue operations and ordering the burial of the derailed cars. Result: Uproar.

http://chinageeks.org/2011/07/han-han-the-derailed-country/

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Accurate China Insight: Entering The Dragon’s Den

Huge Opportunities lie waiting for Irish businesses in China, but know your market

From Ireland’s ‘Business and Finance’ magazine’s ‘Enterprise Insight’ supplement, Q2 2008 edition, by Niall O’ Reilly

The world’s second largest economy China, is now the largest market in Asia, and outside the Euro Zone only second to the USA for Ireland’s exports. According to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) exports to mainland China (excluding the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) for the first two months of 2008 totalled €324.6 million, a year-on-year increase of 112%.  Exports to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region over the same period reached €110 million.

 

In the face of the current global economic downturn, a difficult exchange rate and other cost base factors, including the flight of manufacturing processes to low overhead, low material cost countries in Asia and Eastern Europe, as our manufacturers struggle to maintain productivity, the rise in our exports to China is a major achievement and presents convincing evidence that Ireland is at last starting to hit the mark in China business. Given that over the past decade the development of our economic and trade relations with China has been a top priority the Irish Government will maintain that its Asia Strategy, with its particular emphasis on China, is the key reason for  this positive development. What the CSO figures do not reveal, however, is how indigenous Irish businesses are performing compared to multinationals businesses based in Ireland.

 

China’s rise to become Ireland’s eight largest export destination is directly linked to its own export prowess and the craving for technology, infrastructure equipment and knowhow by Chinese enterprises that cannot be satisfied by domestic suppliers. From this perspective it is not surprising that the majority of our exports to China should consist of the information communications technology, machinery and equipment China requires to fuel its heady growth. Buoyed by breakneck 7% to 8% GDP growth in China over the past 10 years, a trend that shows little sign of abating, so long as businesses based in Ireland stay ahead of the technology curve and maintain their competitiveness exports to China will only continue to expand, thus strengthening China’s position as a major export market for Irish produce.

 

Looking ahead, where are the China market opportunities for Irish exporters?

 

Ireland commands a very strong position in the world trade rankings for internationally traded services. Recently published statistics by the World Trade Organisation 2006 show Ireland as the 12th largest services exporter, commanding a 2.6% share of world trade, while services exports now account for 35% of our total export trade. China has only opened up the service market to any great extent over the past four years and there are clearly significant additional market opportunities now for Irish service exports in engineering consultancy, aviation services, information communication technology, education and tourism services. The latter two service sectors are particularly significant given the rise in the spending power of the Chinese consumer.

 

According to the China National Bureau of Statistics, in 2007, China’s retail spending rose 16.8 percent to 8.92 trillion Yuan (US$1.24 trillion), thus adding credence to a widely held view that Chinese demand will this year for the first time become the main driver of world economic growth, with the increase in its domestic spending in current dollar terms contributing more to global growth than US domestic demand. As such, Irish suppliers should be relishing lucrative domestic sales opportunities presented by an increasingly affluent population.

 

Located two hours south of Shanghai is the prosperous city of Hangzhou, Marco Polo’s ‘paradise on earth’, which Forbes ™ Magazine has repeatedly rated as China’s premier business centre. With a registered population of 6.7 million inhabitants and an urban per capita income of RMB21,689, Hangzhou provides the ideal glimpse into the phenomenal growth in the purchasing power of China’s increasingly affluent middle class.  Not only do Bentley, Maserati, Ferrari, and Prada showrooms do a thriving business here, even more remarkable is the thirst to travel abroad whether as tourists, with Paris and London high on the list of preferred destinations, or graduate students from the third ranked university in China, Hangzhou’s Zhejiang University, seeking further education in the best schools in Europe and the USA. 

 

As individual prosperity rises so too are people becoming increasingly concerned about their living conditions. Recognising such anxieties, and looking ahead to population growth of close to 20 per cent over the next five years, in addition to the huge infrastructure building projects already underway, the Hangzhou Municipal People’s Government is actively encouraging projects focused on providing fuel efficiency, cleaner water, better sanitation, and power generation, all of which whether in material or service form present significant opportunities for Irish suppliers. 

 

As patterns of consumption change, to reflect those found in wealthier countries, such as higher levels of meat consumption, the opportunities for Irish suppliers in the development of both the food ingredients market, such as diary fats and proteins, standard cereal and grain products and flours, vegetable oils, or standardised high-quality meat products, and markets for the products of large scale cropping and livestock activities, become all the more apparent. In 2005, Kerry Group quick to seize the market opportunity established its state-of-the-art China manufacturing, technical and administrative facilities in Hangzhou.

 

However, remove the rose-tinted glasses and it quickly becomes apparent that in China the size of the opportunity is only matched by the difficulty in weighing up the risk, as the great challenges for any Irish supplier in entering what is still a relatively immature market quickly become apparent.  China’s rapid growth since its 1978 opening to the world has not necessarily meant greater transparency.

 

Making sound business decisions can be very difficult when there is little timely information available, and when the information available is either unreliable, or misleading.  What’s more, a simple misunderstanding of local business practices, which can be very different from what is taken for granted in Ireland, can harm efforts to develop solid business relationships and leverage them into strategic opportunities. As Kerry, CRH and Glen Dimplex have found, there is an inherent need for proximity to the customer base  for supplying many services. However, this forces small and medium exporter into the high cost of establishing a commercial presence in the China.

 

Rather than going it alone, working with either the Irish Exporters Association, Enterprise Ireland, or some of the more experienced homegrown market-entry consultancy practices with experts based on the ground in China, and their ability to access key business and government decision-makers,  will greatly assist Irish businesses in getting the most out of the unprecedented opportunities available in China.”

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group – Ireland China Product & Business Development (Export, Source, Import, Partner Due Diligence) Consultants doing business in China for over 20 years

China Office : 1-3 Ying Hui Xing Zhou, Jiang Nan Shui Xiang Lian Sheng Road, Yu Hang District, Hangzhou. China 310023| O: +86 571 8709 1253

Ireland Office: 93 Upper Georges Street, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland| O: +353-1271-1830

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