Want to Prepare for Business with China? Study Chinese History and Mandarin

Sunday, May 4, 2008 2:15
Posted in category Uncategorized

Long a proponent that halfpats were the future in China , I recently came on two articles that I think have done a great job of identifying some of the issues that US business persons have with China.

The Fortune article You have 7 years to learn Mandarin is an piece on the fact that doing business in China is changing into doing business with China.

Reaching back to the years of Japan Inc., Geoff Colvin writes

While short-term investors are already cashing in on China’s growth by playing the global commodities boom, smart long-term thinkers are contemplating what happens when China matures from an exporter of cheap goods to a competitor in sectors where the U.S. is dominant – technology, brand building, finance.

To make sure firms/ individuals have a place in an area where China’s GDP is larger than the US (he thinks 2015 – I have my doubts) and when Chinese firms begin buying up or competing with US firms , he writes:

So how should we make the most of our seven-year grace period? For companies: Focus on getting better at your highest-value activities. Just because the Chinese will be fighting you in the same industries doesn’t mean you’ll lose. It only means you’ll have to work harder to win.


For individuals: You can avoid competition with Chinese workers by doing place-based work, which ranges in value from highly skilled (emergency-room surgery) to menial (pouring concrete). But the many people who do information-based work, which is most subject to competition, will have to get dramatically better to be worth what they cost.

For government leaders: Improve U.S. education above all.

All of which is good advice, regardless of whether or not China can find the resources necessary to grow 600% in the next 7 years.

The second article from Christian Science Monitor that I think actually will be more relevant, more important, as it gets to the heart of the matter The real US deficit with China – knowledge

Written by Xu Wu (assistant professor in strategic media and public relations at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University), this piece addresses what many have been saying lately.. the U.S. leadership and media are out of touch with the realities of China and that this condition will only hurt the US in the long run

The first sentence sets the stage:

Americans are out of touch with today’s China. It’s a knowledge deficit that carries more weight in the long-term bilateral relationships between China and the United States than the ballooning US trade deficit with China. And as China makes a comeback on the world stage, it’s one that the US should address.

Following this, Professor Wu addresses several misconceptions about political hot buttons and common thought on China, which he believes are simply rooted in the fact that the US as a system has done little to educate its people about modern China… something he believes China has done well with:

For at least two decades, tens of thousands of the best and the brightest Chinese students attend American’s top-tier graduate schools, channeling back the most updated perceptions and information about the US.

Although the number of American students studying in China witnessed a huge jump over the past few years, the accumulated knowledge deficits and language barriers are still immense.

Where he and I agree is that this is a situation that has lead to a number of misunderstandings in the business world – product safety, environment, labor conditions for a few examples – that do not create benefit to anyone, but in fact reduce the overall benefit.

Professor Xu finished the article with a sentence that I think is worth exploring:

It is highly probable that the next generation of Americans will live in a world where China is the largest economic power. Are they prepared? When and how are they going to fix this current knowledge deficit with China?

For my part, I have been doing my best to hammer away the point that the politicians have been taking the wrong approach. Rather than look at the fissures in the American economy and the lack of responsibility in their own firms, stories such as the RMB, Product safety, and China’s contribution to the environment get top billing.

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11 Responses to “Want to Prepare for Business with China? Study Chinese History and Mandarin”

  1. danny says:

    May 4th, 2008 at 4:18 am

    With the rise of Chinese netizens, more and more people begin to learn Chinese, because here is clear career potential for the future. Childhood, I think, is the best period to start to learn Chinese or other language, so begin learning Chinese as early as you can. I suggest you take courses in language training school, because it can help you learn easier and faster. Check this site http://www.learnchinese.bj.cn It may help you. Good luck!

  2. Chinese says:

    May 5th, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    A 2-steps plan to masterize Chinese
    1. Learn the basics online: http://www.chinese-tools.com/learn/chinese
    2. Study in China, for a semester or two: http://www.chinese-tools.com/study
    Then you are ready!

  3. Elisabeth Montgomery says:

    May 6th, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    The need to speak Chinese and many other languages is a major competency that Americans are finally beginning to embrace, because we see the need, and because we want to learn. It is clear that understanding will come easier when we can feel the culture of another group through basic communication and history. We are working toward the fastest way to get the our citizens to speak a foreign language. Check out http://www.interlangua.com

  4. Rich says:

    May 8th, 2008 at 7:41 am

    Danny & Chinese – Thanks. I would also add my friends italki.com as well. they have recently relaunched..

    Elisabeth – I hope you are right. I still think that funding for Mandarin is well below where it should be and that (sorry Europeans) we need to get away from every school teaching latin, french, and german as the core (I do believe Spanish is still quite useful from an economic perspective).


  5. Nrupesh says:

    May 9th, 2008 at 7:20 am

    http://chinesepod.com/ , One of the best chinese learning methods.

  6. Len says:

    May 9th, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    I speak native tongue Putonghua and Guangdonghua, plus many dialects.
    Does that make me any more money in China …NO.

  7. steph says:

    May 9th, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    Thank you for this information. I’m currently learning Spanish for my career here in San Diego, CA. but my next language I think will be Chinese. I have been using http://www.edufire.com and it is a great site; very affordable and awesome for one-on-one attention which is what I need to learn a language.

    This site offers a free active forum community where they are beginning to have forums in different languages…so that one can write and converse with native speakers, educational flashcards (words and phrases) and language videos..ALL for free! Setting up a profile is free.

    Tutoring sessions via video chat have a small but affordable fee associated with each tutor.

    Check it out at http://www.edufire.com

    They offer Chinese, Spanish, Russian, German…you name it!! 🙂

  8. ADEL GEORGE says:

    May 11th, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    i wanna study chinese in china at any collage i completed 2 chinese courses at the chinese culture center in cairo and i wanna study in china but i dont know how it could be if you have any information please help me to countiue my study there in china.

  9. Alfred Jensen says:

    May 27th, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    I would like to suggest a site for learning Mandarin online – it’s http://www.zhongwenred.com . The site is free, but so far they haven’t put up any audio yet, although they say they will start putting audio files up by the end of the summer. It’s not a podcast like ChinesePod and isn’t as slick, but hey it’s free so who can complain?

  10. danny says:

    May 31st, 2008 at 8:51 am

    I prefer to learn Mandarin Chinese, because it is the language which sounds nice, it is the language which is spoken by most people. It is the language, which has potential to influence the future. I learn Mandarin from http://www.learnchinese.bj.cn/, anyone who is interested in Chinese can join me.

  11. Kristof says:

    October 30th, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    If you want to study chinese language, there is a good resource where you can find partners to study a language together : http://study-chinese-online.com

    The concept is simple : you teach your peer in China or elsewhere your native language and your language-partner helps you with your language-study.