Somewhere in China…

Dali Zhang's Garden

Dali Zhang’s Garden

Do you ever feel like the rules keep changing faster than you can keep up?!  For me, it’s a matter of first learning the rules in China, then keeping up with the pace of change!

As you may have noticed, things have been pretty quiet on this blog lately.  Two primary factors:  1.) My main focus has been on Job #1: Language Learning, and 2.) I was trying to decide how to handle writing about China’s diverse and constantly changing landscape.

It seems that immediately after posting legitimate and accurate articles, I am confronted with a paradox:  a real life observation that seems to contradict what I have just written about.  A recent example was the apparent lack of pecans in this region (see Updated Pecan blog).  Another example included the open man-holes I reported on previously (Rule #1: Watch your Step).  Since then, I have actually seen good examples of local safety practices (cones, safety tape, etc.) being implemented while man-holes are open and exposed.  So, should I just stop writing in order to avoid the possibility of spreading misinformation?!

I’ve concluded that these paradoxes serve as an important reminder that:

“Everything you’ve heard about China is probably true somewhere in China.”

For me, it means suspending absolute conclusions and judgments about China based on one person’s report or account – regardless of their credentials and whether their report is favorable or unfavorable.

From a business perspective, it’s also a sober reminder that selling to a broad (generic) market in China is very risky.  If you don’t know exactly who your customer is, what they value most, how much they are willing/capable of paying, and where to connect your product/service with those specific customers (marketing/distribution/logistics), the outcomes will likely be very disappointing.  Yes, this is standard business practice (e.g., market segmentation, channel management, etc.), but it seems to me the penalty for violating these rules in China is likely much greater than in other markets around the globe.  The good news is that even the smallest (niche) market segment in China can represent a very large absolute customer base, due to the sheer scale of China.  The challenge becomes finding a way to understand and connect with those specific customers.  If you can do that, serving “niche” markets in China may actually be a more attractive strategy than chasing larger marketshare in other parts of the world, especially if you also have a robust mechanism for identifying paradoxical behavior and tracking changes among those customers.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this relevant and challenging topic!

Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2015.  All rights reserved.

One Comment

  1. “suspending conclusions” is the challenge. After a while, the cross-cultural pilgrim wishes for SOMETHING to be certain. It sounds like one certainty is that there are, at least for now, pecans available. Enjoy.



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