Managing China program on CNBC World

April 13, 2009

cnbc-world-logoI just watched a program on CNBC World called “Managing China.” If you are interested in doing business in or with China, this program is a great tutorial on the big picture.

Song Zhenghuan

Song Zhenghuan

goodbaby-logoThe program is a one-on-one interview format. The segment that I watched was between interviewer (Mr.) Luo Zhenyu and (Mr.) Song Zhenghuan, president of > Goodbaby <, a successful international business in China. The program is conducted in “putonghua,” which translates basically as “the common language,” or, as we call it in the western world, “Mandarin,” with subtitles in English.

The interview is more exploratory than expository, and so a lot of seemingly “softball” questions are asked by the interviewer of Mr. Song; however, that strikes me as part of the Chinese cultural way, and there also were questions asked about aspects of Goodbaby’s business model that would seem to be questioning its basis for success. So what I’m saying is that not all question were softballs.

Sage advice for East-West business people.

Sage advice for US business people doing business in China.

If someone in the USA is interested in feeling more comfortable in one-on-one business interactions with their Chinese business counterparts, this program provides a great example of appropriate comportment on the Chinese side. In particular, I think it’s difficult for people from the USA with no direct connection to Asian culture to figure out how to express disagreement in business dealings with the Chinese. This is because one of the things we always hear is that the Chinese “avoid direct disagreement,” and the direct way we handle disagreement in the west would cause our Chinese associates to “lose face.” It leaves us with no explanation of how, then, to handle disagreement.

istock_000004992109xsmallI think this program shows how one might investigate issues, express doubt, or uncertainty and do it with a politeness and humble approach to which we simple are unaccustomed, and which would seem unclear, perhaps too subtle, seen through the cultural lens here.

istock_000000710955xsmallMake no mistake that while a harmonious society is a primary Chinese cultural value, the Chinese are tough negotiators and do not always agree among themselves or across the table. They do, however, maintain a surface appearance of harmony, and one of the ways they would handle disagreement is to have a person who acts as liaison from each of the opposing/collaborating teams. This allows the leaders to lay issues on the table while making the expressions of mutual respect and toasting to each other’s success, while the liaisons deliver information about problematic issues and allow the team leaders to work out the problems indirectly, through their liaisons.

This works whether the problem is a large business issue between company heads or a hotel room that is not up to one’s standards. It’s best, if possible, to have a liaison/functionary on your team handle these issues for you with another person on the other “team” similar in status to him/her.

istock_000006968173xsmall2The program today was an excellent study in direct discussion, though, which would be a step up from and riskier way to go than the liaison route, but shows it can be done. Not an exercise for the inexperienced, I might add.

So, those are my thoughts on the program. It was a wonderful discovery this afternoon, while I was working on my blog. If you also have seen this program, please post your thoughts about it here.

AsiaNet information (in English) about Goodbaby

China Daily story (in English) about Goodbaby

Editor’s note: I was unable to find a photo of interviewer Luo Zhengyu.

Sage advice graphic from


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