Leaders share expertise at China Business SummitWritten by Morgan Delp | | firstname.lastname@example.org
John Tang, Jessica Xie, William Sinn and Wei Shen were all born in China and moved to the United States, where they work to promote relationships between the Chinese and American business markets.
These four shared advice and information on expanding local businesses to China at the China Business Summit, presented by Toledo-based Communica on May 31 at The Toledo Club.
Frank Reynolds, president of International Projects Inc., cited the most valuable piece of information he received while attending the summit to be the importance of connections. This was a theme in many of the speakers’ addresses as they emphasized the cultural differences between the two nations that need to be overcome in a prosperous partnership.
“You cannot be successful in any foreign market unless you know the challenges,” said Sinn, president of the Cleveland-based Sinn and Co. consultancy.
He said these challenges include a language barrier even within the country of China, due to all the different dialects. When illustrating the drastic language difference amongst neighboring towns in China by comparing them to Ohio cities, Sinn said that unless using the same dialect, “Toledo could not talk to Bowling Green.” He said that acquiring a skilled and reliable translator was essential in overcoming this obstacle.
Tang, attorney and head of the Shanghai-based Brennan, Manna and Diamond group in Akron, said a big aspect of Chinese culture is that people are very materialistic when it comes to outward appearances because they are extremely concerned with “saving face,” or retaining a respectable image.
Tang gave the example of the successful American chain, Victoria’s Secret, which tried to expand into China, but had to cut back because the Chinese were not interested in spending money on undergarments that could not be seen by others, he said.
Shen, managing director of BridgeConnect LLC in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., said Americans need to understand that business deals cannot be made on the first visit with potential Chinese clients. She said gaining the respect of potential clients and having patience in negotiations are key to gaining wealth in China.
However, many differing aspects of the Chinese way of life are promising business opportunities, Tang said.
“China is very polluted due to the factories, and the government knows that, so if you are in an industry with environmentally friendly products, they’ll offer a lot of incentives and open a lot of doors for you,” he said.
Another example of a “hot industry” in China right now is health care, Tang said. With the one child per family rule, every young person will end up having to take care of two parents and four grandparents, Tang said. A married couple will have to support four parents and eight grandparents on two wages. Tang said the market for nutritional and medical supplements and medical equipment is huge in China.
Shen said that with more than 400 million people in the middle class alone, China presents “seemingly endless market potential.” Sinn said China is the “only country with low cost (to manufacture) and a huge market.” The average hourly wage in China is about $2, compared to $10 in America, Sinn said.
Xie, vice president of the Hylant Group, talked about the importance of managing risks and protecting assets when expanding businesses into China.
Insurance is a relatively new concept to China, but Xie said it is a key solution to consider. Xie said she suggests considering property insurance, workers’ compensation and pollution and environmental liability, along with the mandatory motor vehicle insurance, when building a business in China.
All of the speakers touched on the challenges and benefits of expansion into China, making for a well-rounded and informative presentation, said Chris Becker, vice president of marketing for Bionix. He said Bionix already has expanded into 47 states and is considering adding China to the list. Becker said he found the Summit’s information useful as it will be taken into consideration by the company.
In addition to the four main presentations, the event included brief remarks from Jim Rush, executive vice president and head of business development at Communica, Debbie Monagan, president of Communica, Mayor Mike Bell and Regional Growth Partnership President and CEO Dean Monske. Minhua Wu from the Confucius Institute at the University of Toledo also presented on the institute’s Chinese language and culture courses it offers to teachers, business people and students in the area.