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June 18, 2008

Three Pieces of Advice on Working in China

Kai-Fu Lee
President, Google China
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The first bit of advice is to really try to understand the Chinese culture and how the Chinese people think. It’s easy for Americans to be very optimistic and wanting to share their success, methodology and ideology, because they have had 200 years of amazing success and prosperity.

China, on the other hand, has been a disaster for the last 200 years. So the Chinese people tend to be very concerned about things — even paranoid. They might be concerned about foreigners, who haven’t generally done good things to China over the past 200 years, or worried over the increased connectivity of the world. They want to build stability and sustain it.

The Chinese people have a strong sense of their culture and country, and they do spend time learning different ways of thinking. It’s an amazing, enriching experience for someone to learn to see things from different perspectives.

The second bit of advice is this: Don’t change too rapidly. In any career change, it’s sort of like rock climbing: You have four limbs, but you never move two limbs out in the air; you always keep three limbs attached to the rock and just move the fourth one so you don’t fall.

So as you think about a career change, don’t think about the dramatic jump. If you were previously in an American media company, don’t jump directly into a small Internet start-up in China, where the employees don’t speak English. Instead, think about going to a multinational American company that is trying to set up shop in the media, then move into a multinational Internet company, then move into a Chinese company and take a few years to get accustomed. I think that would be much better for your career than to take a quantum leap.

The third thing to keep in mind is that China is an amazing, fast-paced place; make sure you are ready for that. Everything is moving at a thousand miles an hour. There are good things about decisiveness, about deals being made very quickly, about people’s desire for success, but there are also challenges: people or companies trying to cut corners, things being done in very strange and potentially questionable ways, people eager for success who make decisions that are maybe good for the short term but bad for the long term.

But regardless of the good and bad, it’s incredibly fast-paced. If you feel you’re ready to work really hard and get accustomed to such an environment, then China is the place for you.

Image credit: Steve Webel

Comments

by Maggie Tham | July 08, 2008 at 4:27 AM

It is, of couse, true that doing business in China, is different from doing business in the USA. But that is true of doing business pretty much in any country in the world. They all have their unique culture & evironment and their own quirks and nuances. But there is a lot more similarity than differences - IF you approach people and opporutnities with an open mind. After all, we are all after the same thing in all the different countries - to come up with a good business model to succeed.

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