I’ve been traveling to and from China regularly for almost three years now. Beginning in 2000 I have made multiple trips to Japan including short stays in Singapore and Vietnam. Comparing myself to westerners that have been traveling to or living in the Far East for many years, I remain a novice. I have learned a few things along the way and in reading books by western expatriates (like Where East Eats West by Sam Goodman, Poorly Made in China by Paul Midler, Mr. China by Tim Clissold, The End of Cheap China by Shaun Rein, and American Wheels, Chinese Roads by Michael Dunne), I have been able to avoid a few typical wrong turns but also have made more than a few of my own.
I’m off again to Hong Kong and southern China this week for a quick ten day trip. Quick because by the time you figure in travel both ways there are only five weekdays that I will have for business. With help from friends and colleagues the opportunities are different than they were when I started a few years ago. I’ve met hundreds of people – mostly Chinese but also a fair amount of expats that live and work in Hong Kong and China. I have not been to China in nearly 9 months and in that time elections have taken place in the U.S. and a new standing committee has been selected (not voted upon) in China. Things change so quickly in China I am curious to see if I notice much in the way of change in attitude among the people I meet.
Since my last trip my team has begun working with Chinese companies that have made a true commitment to set up a business presence in the United States. Previously almost all the Chinese companies that I’ve met with talk about doing business in the U.S. but really are not any more interested than putting their products on a container ship in China and having a distributor ‘partner’ pick it up at a U.S. port and take it from there. I am hopeful that this is the beginning of a trend and that we’ll have the opportunity to research the U.S. market for future Chinese clients then help them to name it, create their corporate identity and communications, and market their newly anointed ‘brand’ in the U.S.
What’s made it all so worthwhile is my sincere interest in the cultures and people of the Far East. Whether it is Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam or Singapore because each has its own unique culture and identity I am constantly being exposed to new data, experiences and best of all new and interesting people.
When I first started coming going to Asia I had no idea that I would have any professional opportunities but now that I’ve been on the road for a few years I cannot see a time when I won’t be involved with trying to better understand the cultures and ways of the Far East. I’m working hard at leveraging the things I learn and still have a ways to go to reach the success I seek, but I am so glad that I chose this path – or this path somehow chose me.
My next post will be from the other side of the globe.