1 Going global: How to succeed in International Business! (29 pages)

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28 Global Management: A dance with icebergs


In your experience, what is the biggest problem for Western

Europeans who want to work with Chinese partners?


Aniko Willems: The largest problem is that China is so com-

pletely different to Europe. This is true not only of the language,
but also of their way of thinking. It is something that we Europeans
often cannot understand. Europeans are constantly tempted to
look for the ‘Why?’ Such questions frequently lead nowhere. Chi-
na has a 3000 year history that is completely separate from Eu-
rope. A value such as altruism that can extend beyond the family,
originally anchored in religion here, is much less understood in
China. Typically German ideals, such as being pri

ncipled or ‘ex-

actness’, clash with the more flexible and creative “Chinese”
methods for finding solutions. Western Europeans also find it dif-
ficult to read between the lines, something essential for communi-
cation in China. Which “yes” does a Chinese conversation partner
mean when he says “yes”? “Yes, I heard you, but that does not
mean that I agree with you” or what for us is a “real” yes?


Occasionally, the thesis of “Change through business” is

talked about

– that is, the hope that the Chinese will conform to

Western styles of management and business. What do you think
of this thesis?


Aniko Willems: I think it is disrespectful toward other cultures.

What works for us does not have to work somewhere else. We of
course hold our values and our culture dear and do not want to
become Chinese, if only because a large number of the world’s
population is Chinese.

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