It was around 25 years ago that many large and small Australian companies entered the Chinese market with great enthusiasm and a healthy dose of ignorance expecting to handle their business negotiations and marketing initiatives the Aussie way.
Many well documented costly mistakes were made and gradually there was an understanding that it required (and still does) a good understanding and preparedness to learn, understand and accept the Chinese culture and way of doing business.
The benefits for many Australian companies have proven successful and nowadays most Australian businesses understand that to negotiate with Chinese or even have a Chinese partner requires tolerance, cultural knowhow and preferably an ability to speak at least some Chinese language.
But now the boot is on the other foot.
The many large and small, private and state-owned Chinese companies, which are looking to do business with Australia and in Australia, are going through the same painful learning experiences.
For example, an Australian architecture firm’s skills and knowhow may be highly appreciated by Chinese developers and various government departments, yet the Chinese side may want to incorporate a western level of service and Australian-design at Chinese prices and with Chinese principles.
There is a growing number of small to medium-sized private Chinese business people coming to Australia attempting to export our wines and various agricultural products, without speaking any English or understanding our legal system, commercial rules and dare I say ‘our culture’ – and many fail.
I have noticed that even some of the corporate SOEs now entering the Australian consumer market have a lack of language skills, and little understanding of our requirements to succeed here.
It is interesting to observe, that 10 years ago many Australian corporates spending time, effort and money attempting to establish themselves in China, often complained about their difficulties getting their head office in Australia to understand their needs.
I have now heard the same complaints from some of the Chinese firms, when requiring support from their head offices in China.
A further twist to this mutually ever-expanding Australia-China business environment is that there are now a growing number of very successful medium and large Chinese companies which have established their business here for the past 10 to 20 years, which neither want to do business with the many so called ‘new rich’ and inexperienced business people coming from China.
How times have changed.
In this issue, our annual Australia China Alumni Association Awards feature, we recognise the achievements of the thousands of Australian university graduates – some Australian, many Chinese – who have made extraordinary careers for themselves in China. The ACAA, and its annual awards, are another means of closing some of theses business and cultural gaps between our respective countries.
Publisher, Australia China Connections■