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 my journey so far (see “related articles” on the right-hand side).
I am coming to admire the flexibility and adaptability of Chinese people. Whilst I have discerned that what the West sees as creativity and innovation is not so evident here –and I sometimes sense that pragmatism overrides principle – the ability to cope and adapt is itself a form of creativity, even if it is born of survival instincts.
I have experienced many examples: today in Hong Kong, I snapped a picture of one that made me smile: a big street poster declaring “Hong Kong business community celebrates the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China” – few would have predicted that 20 years ago.
No one in China seriously doubts that all forms of media are managed, manipulated and monitored. Indigenous copies of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are tolerated – and do well – probably because they accept a degree of intervention and cooperate with authorities if “abuses” are identified.
TV and newspapers sometimes seem surprisingly open with their comments – but one can equally see that there are limits and when these are reached, correction occurs! Even more troubling to the West is the suggestion that China is behind a series of RAT-attacks (Remote Access Terrorism – a form of cyber-espionage) on other countries’ businesses and government agencies.
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