Lessons from China for Today’s Business World
Business leaders, specifically those outside of the Asia Pacific Region, are focusing more on China. The increased emphasis on the country is partly due to the size of its economy, but interest in China goes much deeper. Understanding China can help today’s business leaders find success.
Just look at Joshua Cooper Ramo. He has a long history of studying China — and his success is a clear indication that this background can be helpful in many kinds of businesses. A former journalist turned co-CEO of Kissinger Associates, Ramo now sits on the Board of Directors at both Starbucks and FedEx, and his books sit on the New York Times Bestsellers List. Ramo's success stems just as much from the lessons he has learned from living in China as his business prowess.
There are a few different factors that come into play here, each one exacting its own influence on the reasons why understanding China is important. Let’s look at each one in turn:
The Nature of Disruption
While it is not clear how or when China will take its place as a new superpower, the country is continually disrupting the way the world does things, particularly with regard to technology, payment systems, and social media. In many ways, China is leading an information revolution that is every bit as game-changing as the industrial revolution — and it is the reason why that is the most intriguing.
China has a culture that embraces the novel, like technology, without sacrificing the structure of its nature. Commercial transactions can be very nuanced, tax structures multi-faceted, regulations complex, and the traditions that surround the way its people do things are longstanding, but the country still looks for better, faster, cheaper ways to accomplish daily activities as well as business transactions. Technological advancements are a major part. China succeeds because it embraces advancements.
Planting Seeds of Return
China did this when it implemented its economic reform program. While the system is complicated, it was able to help 400 million people move past poverty and into the middle class. In turn, the country increased its available work force and the active members of its economy — a move that could boost the entire economy — and it did so by planting seeds for reform and growing those efforts into lasting change.
One of the biggest lessons that China can teach business leaders is that in order to succeed, it is important to understand the complete landscape before making any decisions or taking any action. Business leaders need to understand the historical landscape of the market as well as any issues in the cultural landscape, the historical landscape, the technological landscape, or otherwise.
These landscapes are connected in a variety of ways and that connectivity changes everything. It lets each landscape influence the other. Understanding these connections and seeing their dynamics in terms of specific networks is key to being able to address the needs of those networks. It is a sort of seventh sense in the world of business.
China is on the precipice of emerging as a superpower. Every few hundred years, a new country emerges as the leading power in the world. Its culture shapes trends and its economy sets standards. As China moves into that role, there are things that business persons from all industries can learn about the way that change happens and how one entity comes to power.