Think Like Chinese by Zhang Haihua and Geoff Baker
The Federation Press, US$32 (approx)
For many foreigners doing business here, China often appears to be a country of infinite incomprehensibilities. The government seems to implement perplexing policies and illogical laws and regulations while much of the culture often confounds and confuses visitors.
Think Like Chinese, a book by China experts Zhang Haihua and Geoff Baker, provides superb insight into the culture and heritage that shapes the way Chinese think. Written in an accessible style, the book is packed with pearls of wisdom as well as assorted case studies and anecdotes drawn from the authors’ own experiences.
Zhang and Baker are both old China hands with the scars to prove it – and they don’t mind showing us some of the battle wounds. The topics they cover include leadership, work ethics, mianzi (face), guanxi (connections), conflict resolution and the evolving legal system, and how to successfully localize operations.
At less than 200 pages – including appendices, end notes and index – it is a very fast read, ideal for the plane journey from North America or even Europe to your China destination.
There are a few shortcomings, notably the superficial and unconvincing coverage of intellectual property and counterfeiting. One can’t help wondering what foreign firms and their lawyers would make of the authors’ optimistic take on what they see as China’s improving legal system.
Nevertheless, the book is eminently more readable and up-to-date than Chin-Ning Chu’s Thick Face, Black Heart. If time constraints limit you to reading just one book about Chinese culture, make it Think Like Chinese – an easy read with infinite insights.
ALISTAIR J. NICHOLAS