A lack of specificity is not something I am normally accused of.

But recently I had a conversation with someone who asked for much more, specifics that is. So here is a bullet-point-specific-article on China, and about what you can expect to see if you have to come here to do HR or recruitment in 2008. It might get you up to speed quicker than a narrative.

If you are from China it might give you some perspective on what people from overseas actually perceive, as opposed to what you believe they see, from a single perspective of course:

  • China is still in the formative stage of its opening up and people here still have a tendency to see China as the centre, with foreigners as ‘the rest’. People in other countries are more keenly aware of their existence as a country among other countries.

  • The end of China’s transition is some time off. The country has gone from full central control to an approximation of the capitalist system in twenty years. It’s the old adage about “90% completed, 90% to go”.

  • The last twenty years can be seen as an MBA in internationalization for China. Most countries in Asia started from a more open system but they simply don’t have the same development that China has had. Try finding a construction Project Manager in the region without some experience of China.

  • By definition, experienced managers are hard to find in all industries in China. That’s what happens when the economy explodes into action.

  • Graduates will not fill the gap any time soon. They are lacking in practical experience and come with the millstone of high expectations and high confidence in their limited abilities.

  • Managers and bosses in China are expected to behave like a substitute father ie. loving but strict. Adopt a different approach and you will more than likely fail.

  • Employees in China will not take tasks from your hand and deliver results at the deadline. You have to help them to help you without being seen to help them.

  • People in China are synchronous in their behaviour, while most people coming from abroad will normally be sequential.

  • Over-management in China is not a big problem. It is the solution. Employees will do everything in their power to avoid giving you bad news. So you have to go find it yourself, before the small problems become big problems.

  • Expect the unexpected in China, and you won’t be disappointed.

  • Pollution is such a big problem it influences people to want to change their jobs and their city.

  • Variations in personal styles and approaches to business in China are greater than, say, the difference between London and Berlin, or Dallas and New York.

  • As the main business city, Shanghai is equivalent to New York. Beijing is equivalent to Washington.

  • There are huge social changes in China and this causes unknown difficulties in the hiring and retention cycle. This would take a book to explore.

  • The rate of expatriate failure in China is high. The cause is the differences in approach to life and business. Despite huge improvements in the country’s infrastructure, there is not much to do in China, especially for expatriate spouses.

  • China is not regarded as a big hardship location by comparison to other countries because its superior infrastructure makes it look easy to operate in. But that does not mean it is Paris. For the expatriate actually working in the country the difficulties are in the things that cannot be seen, like the culture and the approach to work

  • There are much greater differences between the generations than you would normally see in other countries. The older generation have not absorbed the changes in the same way as young Chinese professionals, and they are much more numerous by comparison to, say, the Baby Boomers and the Millenials.

  • The issue of “Face” in China will drive you crazy, but only if you forget that you have it too, in smaller doses. Walk on eggshells for a while, until you get used to it.

  • Conflict is avoided at all cost, even at the cost of your profitability. Maintenance of relationships comes first in China. It’s not necessarily the worst way to work. Ask Brazilians, French and Middle Easterners.

  • There are many people studying foreign languages in China but there are still massive shortages of these skills, to the point where English language skills are often the biggest Halo Effect in China.

  • The current generation have never had it so good but it’s hard on them. They have six sets of expectations on their shoulders, two parents and four grandparents, so they are very hungry for new skills. Knowledge, especially self-knowledge, is a different matter, and this will take time.

  • On the internet no one knows you are a dog, and in China your middle-ranked industrial brand is unknown, despite your belief to the contrary. This is hard for some people to get over.

  • The new labor law will make your life more difficult, but not as difficult as it will for companies that skirt the laws of the land. This will take a thorn out of your side. All you have to do is make sure to cross your t’s and dot your i’s.

  • Business in China is contingent on recruitment, not sales. The business is there but the people to deliver are not. You can get the project from Toyota to deliver 50,000 seats per year but the first thing you will have to do is show them the Project Manager that will run the show. Now you have to find him.

  • Recruitment is a long-term problem that is normally approached in a short-term way in China. Take the longer term approach and you are already ahead in the game.

China is hosting the Olympics this year so you can be sure that most of the specifics in this article will be lost in that particular narrative.

You can’t beat hosting the Olympics for creating positive feelings and expectations.

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