A guide for foreign workers at Chinese firms

THE CORONAVIRUS pandemic has led to some testy moments in diplomatic relations between China and the democratic world. But in the long run, China’s economic power is likely to increase and that means more foreigners may end up working for Chinese corporations.

In a fascinating and detailed book, “Barriers to Entry: Overcoming Challenges and Achieving Breakthroughs in a Chinese Workplace”, Paul Ross, an executive who has worked in China, describes some of the difficulties workers face. There is plenty of scope for misunderstandings. A common complaint of foreign employees working for Chinese firms is that they do not always understand what is expected from them nor do they find the guidance they receive from Chinese managers satisfactory.

That may be down to differences in corporate culture. Sociological studies show that Chinese culture is more collectivist and displays a greater respect for authority than elsewhere (although a nation of 1.4bn people will not have a uniform mindset). Mr Ross says Chinese workers rely on informal communication for information and guidance, obviating the need for more formal definitions of their duties. As a result, one American who worked for a Chinese group concluded that the ideal Western candidate was someone who was comfortable with uncertainty, rapid and unexpected change, and...



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