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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Making money in China - better to stay in Manchester

I forgot to add business documentaries to my last post.

However, Channel 4 aired a quite extraordinary programme on doing business in China this week.

The piece followed Peter, an upper class old boy with an innovative air conditioning unit, Tony an honest and straight forward cushion producer and Vance Miller a low priced kitchen manufacturer and a dubious character often in trouble with Trading Standards.

Vance (pictured) was an inspired choice not least because he is on the run in China after evading police arrest for an alleged kidnapping in Manchester. He managed to get on the plane to China after the incident.

The documentary crew followed all three in their pursuit of riches. Easy money China ain't. The pitfalls are plentiful and Vance was often out conned, which must be particularly galling for a sharp businessman like himself.

In the course of the filming Vance suspected the granite mine owner was ripping him off so he bought the mine and became his boss for £30,000.

Cultural differences were exposed when Vance was offered donkey private parts as a delicacy to build a relationship. It was big and it was unpleasant. Vance wasn't sure if his Chinese supplier was making fun or being respectful.

The impression is that China has not even begun to meet its peak. It is a free for all. Pure capitalism. I wouldn't be surprised if we see a Chinese Dickens with the conditions that were shown. The steps leading down to the mine were scarier than finding Edwina Curry in your bed in the morning.

To do business you need to speak the dialect, have contacts, understand the etiquette, be proactive, be patient, be prepared to lose money, know who to trust, trust no one and much more.

As for Tony and Peter, Tony got his factory built and won substantial orders from the US. Peter went into partnership with a shady character who was a seasoned businessman. However, he had a gentleman's agreement. The product was selling after the customary drinking, eating and "wenching" and karaoke sales pitch. Whether he got paid is another matter.

Apparently there is a part 2 next week, an original bit of TV that you should switch on for.

For more views read The Guardian and Scotsman.


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