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To succeed in China we must understand Chinese business better

The Thoughts of Chairmen Now

Grant Thornton calls on business leaders to work to better understand the outlook, motivations and approach of Chinese businesses in order to be successful in the world’s second largest economy. In 'The Thoughts of Chairmen Now', Chairmen and CEOs from some of China’s leading companies give valuable insight into doing business in China, insight that many Chinese business leaders believe Australian business leaders lack.

He Fulong, chairman of ITG Group summed up the views of those interviewed when he said: "People misunderstand China. Some people take a political position and demonise China. Others take a more cultural view and mythologise China. Both of these perspectives are limited and distorted. The reality is in the middle. China is moving forward continuously."

'The Thoughts of Chairmen Now', is authored by Jon Geldart, from Grant Thornton, and David Roth of WPP, who have both worked in China for many years. The pair hope to dispel many of the myths and misconceptions of doing business in China, applying what they have learned, alongside in-depth interviews with 14 of China’s business leaders.

Jon Geldart, in Australia this week to discuss doing business in China with Grant Thornton’s Australian clients, said: “China represents a fantastic opportunity for businesses. It is no longer just a place to get things made, but a place to get things sold. However, without understanding how Chinese business people think and approach commerce, non-Chinese businesses will struggle to grasp the real opportunity.

"Australian businesses need to better understand the way Chinese business leaders think, their values and their priorities. These are different from the rest of the world. Those we interviewed wanted to help set the record straight and dispel some of the myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings they felt much of the world has of doing business with the Chinese.

“China business leaders are open and interested in non-Chinese management. They are looking for much more collaboration but it is to understand and not to copy. They see 'blending' and mixing Chinese and non-Chinese management techniques as the way forward, to use the 'best of the best' to meet the ever changing dynamics of the Chinese marketplace. Chinese leaders look to the South as well as to the West for inspiration – they are very interested in the thinking of Australia’s business leaders.

"Brand is not only on the Board agenda but at the top of it. According to the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2013 study, there are 12 which are Chinese. The importance of brand pervaded all our conversations. China is now the world's most digitally connected country and its usage for brand building is highly sophisticated with Spring Airlines having over 2 million followers on Weibo – China's equivalent of a mix between Facebook and Twitter. Spring allows travellers to enter information about themselves so they can be sit with like-minded fellow travellers if they wish!"

With 35 million households earning an income over $10,000 and 221 cities with populations of over 1 million by 2025 and the growth of the middle classes, China presents a market no company can ignore. China is rebalancing after 30 years of unprecedented economic growth. Those seeking to do business in China need to better understand the motivations and drivers of those who lead successful Chinese businesses or they may fail to apply the right cultural lens to their efforts. To understand more visit The book can be purchased via

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Samantha Murphy
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Notes to editors
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  • 2013 Advisory Team of the Year: Thomson Reuters (Grant Thornton Australia) 
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