China is big. We all know that. If you listen to some of the stories from the media, you’ll think it’s not only big, but big AND scary. The other thing you’ll hear a lot of is how important it is for UK businesses to get into China or attract Chinese visitors to your business here in good ol’ blighty. Conflicting messages? Fear of the unknown? Do you feel like the rabbit in the headlights?
First off, don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers. Secondly, suspend any prejudices you might have developed. Chances are they’re all untrue. Of course there are pit-falls and bear-traps to watch out for, but aren’t there in any international market? The one, single difference, if there is one, is to try to understand the culture; not only of doing business in China, but also doing business with Chinese people. It’s different and there’s nothing wrong with difference. That’s what makes the world go round, after all.
Reality check: China really is huge (but in a good way). It’s not just about Beijing either; Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Shenzhen, Shengyang, Chengdu, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Wuxi, Chongqing… the list goes on (daily quiz: how many have you heard of?).
China is changing so fast you really need to keep your wits about you. There’s no substitute for market research, but this should be a continual process. It’s not a one-off exercise. In fact, by the time you’ve all sat around discussing it, your carefully crafted plans could already be out of date.
Dynamism is key; as is adaptability and flexibility. Just because your approach has worked in other markets doesn’t mean it will work in China – or any of its provinces and cities
Some people will tell you to simply take the plunge – with your eyes open. We don’t like the sound of that. You might just see the sharks circling as you hit the water! The business world in China is tough and the rules of engagement aren’t always clear. There are also some robust barriers to overcome, so patience really is a virtue. But with the right advice and guidance, from the people who really know the market, you’ll find a whole new horizon open up before your very eyes.
Top tip: Don’t think you have to go it alone or hazard a guess about what you should do. More and more, there are people and organisations in the UK to help navigate a path and help you look over that horizon. This will give you the confidence to match your proposition and expertise with opportunities in the Chinese market, whether in mainland China itself of with Chinese visitors to the UK, it's pretty straightforward.