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How China’s short-term thinking will hurt long term

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I recently retired as UK senior partner of BDO after 23 years as a partner with the firm. Last year, I took up a position as visiting professor at Xiamen University, China. My wife is Chinese and I decided to spend three months exploring business opportunities in the region and trying to learn some Mandarin.

I’m blogging about my experiences in China for Real Business – catch up on part onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineten and eleven of my journey so far.

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My recent comments on short-term thinking and merely doing something “well enough” seems to really chime with Chinese friends, who have added a couple of factors, which they think contribute, certainly when it comes to building and infrastructure. 

One is that there is an expectancy that today’s buildings here will be obsolete in a generation anyway, so they do not need to be built to last; and secondly, corruption is present in most such projects and the contract is rarely awarded on the basis of expected quality, or monitored for such when being built. 

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Surfing the net, a blog (which I can’t now re-find to cite it, apologies) caught my eye. It noted “I think we all have to gain a deeper understanding of Chinese culture and the value stack. 

The stack is: u8bb2u4ebau60c5uff0cu8bb2u548cu8c10uff0cu4e0du8bb2u662fu975e (speak in terms of relations (guanxi), harmony, do not speak in terms of right or wrong). 

This is fundamentally a different value stack from those of us who grew up in the Western world.” This insight helps inform some of the things I have noticed, such as Chinese pragmatism, acceptance of authority (and status quo) and business relationships. 

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In some of my earlier postings, I have commented on fraud, corporate governance and accounting in China. 

I will continue to comment on these as I observe more issues in my travels. In the meantime, I have come across an excellent blog. It is the work of Professor Paul Gillis of Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management, and I commend it for those interested in these matters, which it covers, often in forensic detail. 

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