It’s complicated. Evaluating charities and doing business in China version. Part 1

Several posts on this site have looked at the issue of how complicated life is. Some may look at my pondering and think ‘bout time you caught on. For the rest of us, journey with me as I ponder some more.

In the next post, I’ll come back to what got me thinking about this. Wednesday evening I read two articles from ChinaSource Blog that pointed out yet one more time how incredibly complex China is, especially coming from my background as an American.  Full disclosure: I am currently providing professional services to ChinaSource.

The first article, Some Common Mistakes, points to a longer article.

Consider just one common mistake made by people trying to do business in China:

Do not underestimate China’s up-front time commitment.

You cannot just make one or two trips to China and think you are ready to go. No. The attorneys say you will need to send several high level staff to the country for years before you can really get started.

Years. Not months. One or two trips is nothing more than the preface to the introduction to the first chapter.

Check out the article for five hints of the complex differences in doing business in China compared to the U.S.

Another article, Humility and History: Addressing the Unspoken, illustrates the differences in a collectivist versus individualist culture.

Here is a glimpse of my individualist orientation:

I do not hang my head in personal shame over slavery in the U.S. or the horrid treatment of Indians during the westward expansion. Both were terribly wrong, but I wasn’t there.

In fact, my ancestors were on the Union side.  My great-great-grandfather fought in the Union army and his brother, in a sibling Iowa unit, died shortly after being wounded in battle. I take only minimal pride in that.

Here’s a picture of the collectivist orientation:

The author’s article explained he got to the point where he could openly talk to some of his college-age students of some unpleasant parts of Chinese history that were an embarrassment and shame to the students. They felt bad even listening to the harm the national leadership did to the people in the country even though those events took place before the students were born.

To reduce their pain, he shared with visible sadness some of the bad times in American history.

I grasp the collectivist concept the author discussed, but that is so far removed from my experiences and foundational attitudes. I need to work to understand the concept. Would likely give offense to many if I was in China very long.

Cross cultural issues are very complicated. Whether in business, ministry, or diplomacy, those are huge issues. They carry across to many aspects of doing anything in a different place.

I discussed this a few years ago in my review of a book call Cross-Cultural Partnerships.

It’s complicated.

Next post: How can you evaluate charities that are vastly different?

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