Specialty Fabrics Review June 2020 - 46

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WORLD VIEWS

Gift-giving is a valuable practice
when working with Chinese
business partners. When the
author couldn't find face masks
in his local store in the U.S. at
the beginning of the coronavirus
pandemic, a sales agent friend
shipped him these from China.
Photo: James Chan.

Working with China
In pandemic times and beyond, doing business with the world's
most populous country presents challenges for Westerners. Here
are 15 practical tips.
BY JAMES CHAN, PH.D.

W
What is WeChat?
Imagine a place with no Facebook,
Instagram, Dropbox or Twitter. That
place would be ... mainland China. Many
of the apps and social media platforms
that are integral to businesses around
the world are blocked in China. WeChat,
on the other hand, is a part of everyday
life. Despite its moniker, WeChat is much
more than a messaging app. It's often
referred to as a "super app" because
it contains apps or "mini-programs"
within the app. WeChat is a one-stop shop
for e-commerce, banking, hailing a ride,
making a doctor's appointment, ordering
food, playing games, livestreaming, and,
yes, chatting.

ith upheavals caused by tariff wars and the coronavirus pandemic, one thing
is certain: U.S. businesses still need China as a customer and as a supplier. The
world's most populous country will remain, as it has been, both an adversary and
an indispensable but often difficult business partner.
There may well be major changes in the U.S.-China relationship. But whatever happens,
good communication practices mean a lot. They help cut down cross-cultural friction, promote
amity and beef up sales. Here are some tips you can apply right away.
1. Install the WeChat app on your devices and learn to use it. WeChat is the default
social media platform in China. Some 1.15 billion users use WeChat to talk, text and tackle
countless tasks. You can't do business in China without it.
2. Since traveling to China is impractical for the time being, use Skype, WeChat and
smartphones to hold conference calls. WhatsApp does not work in mainland China, but it
does work in Hong Kong. Fish Wang, an American sales representative based in Dongguan,
China, uses Zoom to hold conference calls with medical professionals within China. But
when I tried to reach him on Zoom, we ran into technical difficulties.
3. Answer customer emails promptly. Chinese customers complain that American managers
and technical staff tend not to respond to their emails promptly. This is a real problem. "It
may take several days to as long as two weeks to hear from my American colleagues," Wang
says. "My customers in China feel ignored."
4. Give a reason for any delay. Don't ignore nagging customers, who see silence as
evidence of disrespect or hostility. If you cannot reply to an email on the same day, give a
reason and notify your agent or customer when you will be able to supply an answer. Jeff Xu,
a veteran China sales representative in Shanghai, shares this tip: "Come up with a 'reasonable'
excuse even if the real reason cannot be told. People in China do the same thing to their own
customers. This is not a big deal."
5. Hire someone who is China-friendly to manage the market. You don't need an
expert, but my 40 years of doing business in China have taught me not to assign someone
who loathes China to run your China business. Someone with that attitude will repel good
agents and botch new opportunities. "Hire someone who is genuinely interested in learning
about the Chinese," says my agent friend Jack Ma.

46 REVIEW JUNE 2020

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Specialty Fabrics Review June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Specialty Fabrics Review June 2020

Specialty Fabrics Review June 2020 - Cover1
Specialty Fabrics Review June 2020 - Cover2
Specialty Fabrics Review June 2020 - 1
Specialty Fabrics Review June 2020 - 2
Specialty Fabrics Review June 2020 - 3
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Specialty Fabrics Review June 2020 - Cover3
Specialty Fabrics Review June 2020 - Cover4
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