The Xi – Obama summit

What people are saying about Mulberry Fields
“Your blog speaks to the many issues I have experience with when doing business in China” – a company in California

President Obama and President Xi Jinping concluded their 2 day summit over the weekend. The summit was a breath of fresh air after some palpable tension the past few months as Beijing and Washington were locked in a game of accusatory ping pong, each side leveling allegations of high level computer hacking against the other. All this amid China’s continuing spat with Japan over the Senkaku Islands, a dispute which, much to the chagrin of Beijing. finds Washington on Japan’s side, Let’s just say that China US relations have seen better days.

You would think this does not affect you as a small business owner but it does. Anytime China is embroiled in a dispute with the US or Japan, or any other country for that matter, anti-foreign sentiment resurfaces in China. The papers and the air waves abound with headlines that give the Chinese point of view at the expense of more objective reporting. And the mood on the street, normally friendly, can turn cold. In fact it is uncanny how quickly the mood changes and how everyone will give you a piece of their mind. Not surprisingly, vendors are less receptive to orders unless the margins are very good and generally you just cannot expect the same level of service from your vendors as you can when Washington-Beijing relations are hunky dory ( if they are ever that). Don’t forget that China is a country where politicization starts early and informs all levels of society, unlike in other countries where politics comes off as a sport and the choice to get involved or not ( for better or worse) is a personal one.

A good rule is this: when you go to China to do business, leave the political discussions at home, even when relations between your country and China are going well. As I said, the mood in China changes quickly.


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