Cracking Business in China #54

Cracking Business in China with Jim James | EASTWEST Public Relations Group #54

One country that’s always in the news is China. That’s hardly surprising – it’s has the highest population of any, at around 1.5 billion and a unique political system that’s largely distrusted by most Western countries.

In the last few months alone we’ve political concerns about the treatment of its Uighur muslim population, tensions in Hong Kong and now the Coronavirus outbreak.

Here at Grow through International Expansion, though, our fundamental interest is global business. And, right back from the days of Marco Polo, China has been high on the list of countries of interest to every type of business. In the last 20 years, trade has mushroomed – mostly in one direction. Western companies have taken great advantage of the high efficiency and low cost of Chinese manufacturing, and now so much of our possessions, from the clothes we wear to the microphone I’m speaking into now, were made wholly or partly in China.

The trade imbalance has been highlighted by the trade war created by the US introducing tariffs on Chinese imports. Much of those are finished products or components brought in by American companies, who have not so much shifted production and jobs rather than exploited the opportunities for new technologies that were never made in the States.

That’s been highlighted by the escalating concerns about Huawei, and the fear that they might be building some sort of spying capability into the 5G mobile phone network equipment that they supply. The cynic might point out that their mobile phones have been sold in the West for years without any political complaint; they’ve had a lot of competition. Apple iPhones are made in China. Lenovo is a Chinese company and has a huge market share of the laptop market in the West. However, when it comes to 5G infrastructure, there’s no US company that can compete with Huawei. Perhaps that’s the real reason for the hubris – some say the point is proven by news that the US government is considering funding US companies to take over Ericsson and Nokia, the only ones that might be able to catch up. It’s an interesting world when one considers that the West now has a technological imperative that it’s failed to develop for itself and finds belatedly that it’s left it to the Chinese.

Anyway, from the perspective of international business, China always remains a great opportunity, given its market size and proven business efficiency.

Our host, Oliver Dowson, first went to set up a business there back in 2006. It had to be a joint venture, and you may have listened to his podcast telling the story of some of the potential partners that he met. Oliver writes “Having decided on my partner, I found it surprisingly easy to get started – in retrospect, so much so that I never asked a thousand questions that I should have done. I’m not saying that anyone was trying to deceive me, but my business would certainly have been more successful had I taken more time to understand the culture and read all the small print more diligently. I should also have talked to someone who had done it all before, and, better still, was based there and achieving success.”

One such person is our guest on this podcast, Jim James. Jim’s original business, and his business now, is public relations, but he’s spent most of the last decade in China. He took the iconic  Morgan cars to Beijing as their founder and managing director; still with cars, he got Lotus started there too. Jim also played a leading role in starting a whole string of other companies in China – you’ll need to check out his LinkedIn profile to marvel at the range. Given that, it’s hardly surprising that he became vice-chairman of the British Chamber of Commerce in China too.  Now he’s back in the UK, still running EastWest PR, setting up a forum for older business people and… well, let him tell you all that for himself.

Jim James EASTWEST Public Relations Group
Jim James EASTWEST Public Relations Group

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