It is well known that with a population of 1.3 billion people, China's market is moving quickly toward surpassing those of North America and Europe combined. Companies from the United States and around the globe are flocking there to buy, sell, manufacture, and create new products. But as former Wall Street Journal China bureau chief turned successful corporate executive James McGregor explains, business in China is conducted with a lot of subterfuge -- nothing is as it seems and nothing about doing business in China is easy.
Destined to become the bible for business people in China, One Billion Customers shows how to navigate the often treacherous waters of Chinese deal-making. Brilliantly written by an author who has lived in China for nearly two decades, the book reveals indispensable, street-smart strategies, tactics, and lessons for succeeding in the world's fastest growing consumer market.
Foreign companies rightly fear that Chinese partners, customers, or suppliers will steal their technology or trade secrets or simply pick their pockets. Testy relations between China's Communist leaders and the United States and other democracies can trap foreign companies in a political crossfire. McGregor has seen or experienced it all, and now he shares his insights into how China really works.
One Billion Customers maximizes the expansive knowledge of a respected journalist, well-known businessman, and ultimate China insider, offering compelling narratives of personalities, business deals, and lessons learned -- from Morgan Stanley's creation of a joint-venture Chinese investment bank to the pleasure dome of a smuggler whose $6 billion operation demonstrates how corruption greases the wheels of Chinese commerce. With nearly 100 strategies for conducting business in China, this unprecedented account combines practical lessons with the story of China's remarkable rise to power.
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October 18, 2005
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Excerpt from One Billion Customers by James McGregor
It should have been a routine flight from Beijing to the coastal city of Fuzhou. The government-owned airline was new and the airplane was fresh from a foreign factory. But I began to get a sense that this ride wouldn't be entirely routine when I saw how cheerfully untrained our crew was. The flight attendants sat giggling in the front row, eagerly putting together take-home bags of the best food from the extra meals. The cockpit door was open throughout the flight. The flight engineer came back to snooze in the front row.
Finally we began our descent. The lush green countryside, populated by farm huts and pigpens, loomed closer and closer. As the aircraft swung around to line up on the rapidly approaching runway, two of the flight attendants stood behind the pilot and copilot as if surfing the plane onto the runway. Then, with barely fifty feet between us and the rubber-scarred runway, the pilot suddenly jammed the throttles forward. Engines screaming, we began an abrupt climb. Amazingly, neither of the flight attendants toppled over, but they did stumble back to their seats with a look of fright. Up and around we went, once again lining up on the runway. Then I heard the distinctive eerrrrrrrr of the landing gear being lowered and felt the shuddering as the wheels entered the airstream. I hadn't noticed any of that on our first approach. So that's why we did the sudden go-around!
I was thinking about how sensible it was to travel by train as I walked into the terminal. Then I saw a propaganda poster on the wall that has since remained firmly in my mind as the perfect description of the transformation China is undergoing: Strive to Fly Normal. That is the essence of what China is trying to do: become a normal country, one that is integrated into the world economy, a place where citizens can concentrate on their prosperity and happiness instead of suffering from political power struggles. Like our novice flight crew, China has spent that past twenty-five years alternately stumbling and soaring through a massive trial-and-error reform process, and so far most of the landings have been smooth.
It is difficult for anyone in the West to overestimate China's growing role in the global economy. With 1.3 billion mouths to feed, its consumer market has the potential to be larger than North America and Western Europe combined. Measured by purchasing power parity, China's current per-capita GDP is $5,000 and rising steadily each year. It has surpassed Britain as the world's fourth-largest economy. China consumes 25 percent of global steel, 30 percent of cement, and is the world's largest market for electrical appliances. Foreign companies are flocking here, both to sell and to buy. Contracted foreign investment in China now averages $420 million a day.