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Think Like Chinese

Think Like Chinese

By ZHANG Haihua and Geoff Baker

CONTENTSREVIEWSEXTRACTS

Sun Zi said “know yourself and your enemy, then you will never lose a battle”. Zhang and Baker say, “know the Chinese mind so you can prosper!”

Think Like Chinese explains Chinese thought and business culture from the Chinese perspective. It gives first-hand insight into what Chinese are really thinking when conducting business. Zhang and Baker combine their Chinese and Western perspectives to explain, in detail, common Chinese behaviours that may seem odd to non-Chinese. They bring a wealth of personal experience in contemporary Chinese business investment and management, sharing their experiences and observations to provide strategies for overcoming such cultural barriers.

Each chapter opens with a traditional or common Chinese saying, which is given contemporary meaning and applied to business scenarios. This key to Chinese thought provides the context for guidance on practical matters such as:

  • how to ensure spoken communications are being interpreted accurately
  • understanding the importance of “face” (mianzi), and giving and receiving mianzi appropriately
  • networking effectively among the Chinese
  • understanding Chinese work cultures, identifying the real Chinese decision-makers, improving negotiations, and gaining the best out of Chinese staff
  • distinguishing “cow poo” (facts or true statements) from “hooyou” (bragging or bullshit)
  • knowing when a Chinese ‘yes’ actually means ‘yes’, instead of ‘maybe’ or ‘no’
  • Chinese approaches to the law and contracts, dispute resolution, intellectual property, investment and partnerships.

Think Like Chinese is a must for anyone who wants a better understanding of Chinese culture and how to apply this knowledge in their China dealings, whether doing business with Chinese suppliers or customers, working with a Chinese partner or managing Chinese employees.

It is also written for people who are simply fascinated about China, and want to know more about the Chinese people, their history, their current emergence as an economic powerhouse and their increasing significance in the world’s future.


CONTENTS

Foreword by John Naisbitt 

Introduction

Chinese Thinking: the Five Core Elements

Study the past if you want to define the future”
Origin: Confucius (551 - 479 BC): Analects

Contemporary China

“Crossing the river by feeling for the stones”
Quote: DENG Xiaoping

On Chinese Leadership

“The beam that sticks out is the one that was rotten first”
Origin: anonymous

Work Ethics

“The more you do, the more likely you will make mistakes”
Origin: LIU An, Han Dynasty

Communication the Chinese way

“(The Chinese) only tell people one third of what is on their mind”
Origin: ZHOU Xitao, Qing Dynasty

Relationships, Contacts and Finding the Right Partner

“Sharing the same bed but having different dreams”
Origin: CHEN Liang, Song Dynasty

Dealing with Conflicts

“Make the big things small and small things go away”
Origin: anonymous

How Small Things are Big and Big Things Small

“One leaf can block your view of the Tai Mountain”
Origin: Heguanzi – Tianze, by HE Guanzi, Warring States

Localization and Intellectual Property

“Let the past serve the present and foreign things serve China”
Origin: MAO Zedong

Conclusion

Finding “harmony of time, place and people”
Origin: Art of War, by SUN Bin, Warring States

Appendix: Comparative timeline

Notes / Index


REVIEWS

Think Like Chinese, a book by two long-time China experts, Zhang Haihua and Geoff Baker, provides superb insight into the culture and heritage that shapes the way Chinese think and is an excellent primer for any Westerner seeking to succeed in business in the world’s largest market.
Think Like Chinese helps make sense of the seemingly incomprehensible, explaining much of the history and thinking behind concepts like mianzi (face) and guanxi (connections), while also explaining how they can affect leadership decisions by local managers.
The book explains how to harness Chinese culture to succeed in the market. It is packed with genuine pearls of wisdom in a very easy to read, direct style filled with useful case studies and anecdotes some drawn from the authors’ own experiences in the market. Importantly Zhang and Baker are not just writers; both are old China hands with the scars to prove it – and they don’t mind pulling back the bandages and showing us some of the battle wounds so we can avoid the same mistakes that undid some ventures they were involved in.
And, at less than 200 pages – including appendices, end notes and index – it is a very fast read, ideal for the plane ride from North America or even Europe to your China destination.
Each chapter finishes with a summary of three points to remember, making the book a valuable resource to keep and refer to when one needs a quick refresher on a specific cultural topic prior to heading off to a business meeting or banquet.
... The book is eminently more readable and up-to-date than Chin-Ning Chu’s classic, Thick Face, Black Heart. If time constraints limit you to reading just one book about Chinese culture, make it Think Like Chinese. It covers China’s deep culture and its influence on its people in a very readable and understandable way. This is an easy read with infinite insights.

Alistair J Nicholas, President & CEO of AC Capital Strategic Public Relations, China

Zhang and Baker are partners in life as well as in this work. Together, they achieve something perhaps not possible from a single person: a native’s understanding of China told with a native’s understanding of the West. Replete with anecdotes, ancient wisdom, modern war stories, tales of friends and foes alike, Zhang and Baker cover topics both practical and philosophical with balance and judgment. I learnt a great deal from this book. For me, China remains a compelling, intoxicating place of paradoxes and mysteries. Think Like Chinese does not solve these mysteries, but arms you with the insights to better enjoy them.

Jason Yat-sen Li, Managing Director, RI Group China Limited

The breadth, the insights, the sources which have been drawn upon are greater than I have seen in other works. For anyone wanting to understand how better to approach doing business in China – this book is a must. For those in diplomatic or political roles – it will be equally rewarding. For anyone just plain interested in exploring a history and a way of life which is woefully misunderstood – or not understood at all in the West – it will make fascinating reading – and it will make you THINK deeply! I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Alan Barrell, Entrepreneur in Residence, University of Cambridge Entrepreneurship Centre and Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship, Xiamen University, Fujian, China

Think Like Chinese succinctly addressed key cross-culture challenges that I deal with in my business constantly. I have always said there are three critical steps to succeed in China. This book provides an excellent first step. I shall be recommending it to all my business partners and friends.

Min Yang, Chairman, ASF Group Limited

This excellent book demonstrates a true and in-depth understanding of the subjects covered in it. It is a book that I would recommend to anyone who is going to do business with China or who has any interest in China. As active participants, who else is better positioned than [Zhang and Baker] to write about and interpret the Chinese culture? Their unique perspective lends authority to their observations presented in Think Like Chinese.

The book not only tells what the Chinese do, and how they do what they do, but also explains why from the historical point of view. "The [Chinese] belief that we are ‘born connected’, not ‘born equal’ " (p 5) is the key to understanding the differences between the western and Chinese cultures.

Dr WANG Xisu, Principal Consultant of IWNC (Beijing), Guest Professor at Renmin University of China

...this book offers a wealth of experience and understanding of topics from building relationships to dealing with conflicts, handling localisation and attitudes to work ethics and the boss. It should be read and absorbed by anyone with an interest in doing business or managing staff in the world's biggest market.

Asia Pulse, August 2008

Haihua and Geoff truly help you lift the blanket and gain a real understanding of this extraordinary country. I have no doubt that this book will enable you to better understand the Chinese mindset and find a common frequency for real communication. It will certainly help you to get the best out of your investment opportunities in China and will put you in a much better position to work with Chinese officials, public companies and the essential Chinese entrepreneurs. Lian and mianzi will not be just unrecognizable words any more.
Think Like Chinese is up-to-date, revealing and on-the-ground as both the authors are themselves investing and working in China. The entire book is illustrated in a real life and business setting in contemporary China, with real case studies and is full of practical advice.
I just wish Think Like Chinese had been available when I started my own journey through China.

John Naisbitt, Naisbitt China Institute, author of bestselling books, 'Megatrends' and 'Mind Set!'

Think Like Chinese is a really interesting, practical, useful book. I've read most of the good China business guides and this one hits the sweet spot. The book's timing is perfect with ever-increasing interest in China, and it will make a substantial contribution to assisting foreign companies do business in China.

Peter Osborne, China Country Manager - Australian Trade Commission

Think Like Chinese is the book I’ve always wanted to read about China! A practical, contemporary and insightful guide to understanding the cultural, historical and social challenges that faces anyone considering doing business with the Chinese. But what makes this book so different to many others is that it has been written from both a foreign and Chinese perspective by two committed locals, Haihua (the banana) and Geoff (the egg), who bring so many relevant and engaging stories to illustrate their points. I have read many books and articles on this topic, and had the privilege to put some of these ideas into practice myself, but I believe that Think like Chinese is a breakthrough in terms of its down-to-earth, common sense and practical approach to a wide range of complex and challenging issues.
As a facilitator of business and investment by foreign companies and individuals in China, I will be recommending this book as a “must read” for new entrants to China, and essential reading for future members of our China delegations. As my friends in China always tell me “the more time you spend in China, the less you know!” so readers of this book will be armed with a valuable business tool that they can refer to again and again!

David Thomas, CEO, Think Global Consulting and NSW Director, Australian China Business Council

With the myriad of books available on China, none has really provided a concise guide on China basics. Think Like Chinese is not only a great read, but it provides valuable insights on the background of Chinese history and culture along with practical suggestions that help non- Chinese understand how to be effective, sensitive and successful in not only undertaking business, but importantly managing their most important asset - their staff.
Applying lessons learnt here outside of China may surprise many in terms of achieving improved outcomes and long term profitable business relationships. Many Western business techniques and strategies are becoming dated, ineffective and lack the depth and polish that has taken a sophisticated nation 5,000 years to develop.

Roger Wolfe, General Manager – Mining, WesTrac (Beijing) Machinery Equipment Ltd


EXTRACTS

Introduction

The Introduction to Think Like Chinese is freely available for readers to view and read for personal use. This does not include copying and distribution in print or electronic format without prior permission of the Publisher.

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Published 19 June 2008
Publisher The Federation Press
Paperback/208pp
ISBN 9781862876880
Australian RRP $39.95
International Price $35.00
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Asian Studies
Business / Finance


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