On the Frontlines: Doing Business in China

Presented by The Atlantic

James Fallows, Editorial Supervisor and Co-Host, with analysis by Joe Nocera of The New York Times
Plus over 150 candid interviews.

Doing Business in China - Box Set
Buy Now Only $199

This could be the best business investment you ever make.

will shift the paradigm in the way America looks at China. While obviously meant for experienced businesspeople, anyone interested in Chinese culture will learn from it. Essential for students of business, history and culture. ”
- Prof. Ronald M. Schramm, Columbia University Graduate School of Business
Click for a complete list of the people we interviewed.

On the Frontlines: Doing Business in China

Answers To The Two Key Questions
About Doing Business in China

It is January 2009 and we are getting glowing reviews over ON THE FRONTLINES: DOING BUSINESS IN CHINA.
(Please see our Reviews page.)

But those are mostly coming from western businesspeople already in China, who were the first to get their hands on this new resource.

ON THE FRONTLINES: DOING BUSINESS IN CHINA is just going on sale in the United States and there are two questions we keep hearing:

  1. How can a resource created for the China-savvy be useful for an executive with no background in China business?

  2. Isn’t China suffering from the global business depression, just like everyone else?

Those are good questions and they have good answers. Let’s start with the second question, as it is more urgent:

China Right Now

Yes, China feels the global business situation, but no, not like everyone else. As western economies went through their disastrous slide in the fall, China’s economy went from double-digit growth to just nine percent growth.

Please notice the key word: Growth. China’s economy continues to grow despite bad news from its key trading partners in the west. Even the worst figures put China’s GDP growth for 2009 at 7.8%. If a major western economy had that sort of growth, there would be dancing in the streets...both Main Street and Wall Street.

So why aren’t you reading about this? As with most things, it depends on what you read.

The mainstream media likes stories about a particular factory in China that may be working under-capacity, but the people truly making money aren’t looking to make headlines.

As we kept hearing from the presidential candidates, China has two trillion dollars of American money to play with. Like anyone with money in a recession, China is buying. It has learned that it need not buy a majority share in a company in order to control it. Many Americans are finding themselves in the same position as those in IBM’s personal computer division, when it was bought in 2005 by China’s computer giant Lenovo.

But let’s return to the current headlines. There’s some good news-very good news-if you know where to look for it. There’s an economy that’s doing even better than China’s. It’s the economy of western companies in China.

There’s a good chance that whatever newspaper you bought today has a story about General Motor’s seemingly insurmountable troubles. But did you know that GM in China made $6.6 billion dollars in profits in China in 2008?! General Motors owns half of its Chinese subsidiary, its take was $3.3 billion... and that’s not counting a profitable truck company in which it is a major partner. Can you imagine where GM would be today without the $3.3 billion it made in China in just one year?

Shanghai GM Sales

To sum up, 80% of U.S. companies in China are reporting profits. And 50% of those companies say they’re making more money in China than anywhere else in the world.

Think back to 1991...the start of the first “China Gold Rush.” The world was mired in recession. China was just a year removed from major political turmoil. Yet companies like Black & Decker invested...making nearly a billion dollars on an invest of under $12 million.

Question 1: The China-savvy vs. Those who are new to the Opportunity

How can ON THE FRONTLINES: DOING BUSINESS IN CHINA be suitable for both those who know business in China and those who are new to the China scene? Aside from the fact that the China-savvy know they can never learn enough, that question can be answered in one word: Video.

ON THE FRONTLINES isn’t just a name, it’s a business philosophy. If you put a raw recruit on the frontlines, he or she will look around and gather a certain amount of information. At the very least, the recruit will learn whether to keep his or her head down.

But if you put an experienced officer on the frontlines, the officer will gather much more information from the same data.

By using video, ON THE FRONTLINES lets you see for yourself what is happening. With interviews from the boardrooms to the factory floors, you will experience not just what is said, but how it’s said. Experienced executives know how crucial that is, especially in China.

So while those new to China will be able to follow ON THE FRONTLINES without any problem, experienced executives will be able to read between the lines. They’ll notice small hesitations, they’ll judge facial expressions. Even though we explain certain codewords, experienced executives will observe the precise manner in which they’re said.

Experienced people know that China is larger than Europe-both in size and population-and they are eager to see how business varies from province to province and industry to industry.

Western businesspeople in China are already benefitting from ON THE FRONTLINES: DOING BUSINESS IN CHINA. You will too. In fact, you might find that it’s the best investment you ever make.