With the recent addition of China to the World Trade Organization, economic opportunities between the East and West should reach new heights.
To capitalize on the opportunities, the Chamber of Commerce has teamed with Florida Community College at Jacksonville to prepare entrepreneurs looking to establish relations with the business commuity in China.
“We wanted to establish a long-term educational series to get people ready to do business in China,” said Joanne Emslie-Korn, executive director of international economic development at the Chamber.
The Chinese Business Education Center is scheduled to open by January, with workshops, seminars and orientations provided by experts in Chinese language, culture and business etiquette.
FCCJ’s Kent Campus will be headquarters for the program, but faculty members are willing to bring instruction on-site for large companies wishing to educate large groups of employees simultaneously.
Covering more than just the basics, the program promises to address topics a person desiring to transact business in China would need to know. Chinese heritage, history, regulations, philosophy and political and social systems are part of the mix. The courses can be tailored to fit different user’s needs.
Orientation begin in January with both short-term and long-term training courses available. An information clearing house will serve as a resource for business opportunities, development plans and word processing in addition to offering interpretation/translation services and a library of Chinese business rules and regulations.
“I think America lost its chances in the past [for trade with China] because of its policy,” said Arthur Chiang, professor of Chinese Humanities at FCCJ.
“They tried to punish China for human rights [violations]. Japan and the European countries all had a big piece of the pie. Now we separate politics and business.”
Chiang conceived the idea a few weeks ago with the help from some friends from his homeland. Born in China and reared in Taiwan, Chiang immigrated in 1971 and secured his degree in instructional technology from Indiana University. Over anecdotes of their collective experiences, Chiang saw the need for the center.
“I had some friends in town from China who have their business in China,” recalled Chiang.
“From our informal gatherings I heard all kinds of stories — some of them horrible; some of them pleasant. In China things are totally different. You just can’t go anywhere and say I want to open a business here. You have to deal from the state level all the way down to the street level.”
From a glimmer in his eye a short time ago to a living, breathing reality, Chiang has led the efforts to place Florida businesses at the head of the pack when the gates open.
With 1.2 billion citizens, the decision to host the 2008 Summer Olympics and radical changes in its perspective, China has shifted from entirely state-run distribution systems to privatized operations.
“China’s president wants to open up the whole west of China,” said Emslie-Korn. “They don’t have a Chamber of Commerce. There were very rural before. They’re allowing Chinese entrepreneurs into Parliament which means free market enterprise. Business people are now allowed to have a say in government.”
“Their internal Chinese business people community are pushing the government to also separate the politics and the economics,” concurred Chiang. “The newer generation of leaders at a central government level all have some sort of a business background. Appointing military leaders or old party people does not have as much pressure as before.”
Playing the role of facilitator, the Chamber will offer what they call a Gold Keys appointment service as part of the pilot project.
Working in tandem with the U.S. Department of Commerce, Chamber representatives will assist those in the program with securing business contacts by pre-screening prospects for the student/businessperson so when they touch ground on foreign soil, they don’t have to waste time with dead leads.
On the cusp of a technology revolution, the vast humanity of Chinese citizens will be in desperate need of modern innovations to keep up with the changing currents of commerce.
Americans could turn a profit in China with many commodities, but the most promising industries are expected to stem from the legal, insurance and agricultural fields because of changes in the Chinese marketplace.
“Before it was a closed market,” explained Emslie-Korn.”This is a huge breakthrough. It’s the last big frontier. Their growth rate is seven percent per year. It’s a huge growth market.”
Before every company in town decides to hop on a jet bound for Chinese soil to peddle its wares, however, an intensive study of the country is in order.
The Chinese Business Education Center is looking to provide just that background.
Misconceptions and ignorance can sink any business deal not properly handled, but especially when that businessperson is dealing with a completely foreign culture.
For example, McDonald’s would have little luck promoting Egg McMuffins in China because muffins, translated into Chinese means horse droppings. Symbols, gestures, even colors all have significance.
“The color white here is considered pure,” said Chiang. “In China white-colored flowers are reserved for funeral services. Another thing is insurance. If an insurance salesman goes to China and knocks on someone’s door and says, ‘OK, you’re going to die in about 10 years and what are you going to do about your family?’ you will be thrown out the door right away. You don’t talk about death in front of the Chinese people. They fear it. You’ve got to have a different approach.”
As part of the program, an advisory board consisting of business professionals will steer the organization during its development. The idea is to have businesspeople teach businesspeople and not have the process get bogged down in academia.
“There are some universities that are doing similar things but somehow they are left in ivory towers,” said Chiang.
The center’s intent is to provide the practical tips needed to assure business success. Certification may be offered down the road.
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