Navigating China can be confusing. When I got to China in the early 90’s, I was puzzled. I had a million thoughts on what was right, and China violated all of them. I still have to tell myself that some methods are not wrong but only different. We use mouse traps that snap, and they use sticky paper for example.
However, principles are different. I was committed to integrity and even transparency when possible while the culture at large was not. It is not for me to cave on my values in China. I need to be very flexible in my methods to get there, however. I need to plan ahead to avoid being pushed to use the back door as well.
Navigating China: Finding a Way
Gradually, I also found out that China has people who also love transparency and live with integrity. I began to build teams and companies around people like this and things bloomed again and again.
So, in China, think what your principles are and find the path to consistently stick to them gracefully. Be firm and find a way. At the same time, find different ways within your principles to do everything. This innovation can be natural here if you know which principles to stick to.
I recall one time when the U.S. side wanted to get a heat testing system to check a one-off quality issue in a product being developed. The Chinese side wanted to put the product in their car in the hot summer sun and take regular readings. The principle was to get readings at higher temperatures to see how the product reacted. Using the car was an innovative way to get the same thing done. Let’s grab chances to encourage innovation by holding to our principles.
What do you think?