Ask the Experts


Our college welcomes students from all nations, with many from China. In today’s economy, should I study foreign business and International relations?

The answer to your question radically depends on what type of business you want to do. China is recognized as the world’s second-largest economy. There are enormous opportunities for business inside China, as well as US import-export. However, the welcome mat is not fully extended to foreigners who want to do business in China. Let us discuss the reasons and how you personally can prepare.

China is not like other countries, as you cannot just arrive and open a business. There are layers of social and cultural nuances to negotiate, many of which are alien to westerners. Knowledge of the language is critical to break down cultural barriers, so learning Chinese in college certainly would give you a key advantage.

According to a USC US-China Institute report, over 51K students were studying Chinese in US colleges. This number is increasing annually, but not as fast as expected. Over 800K students are learning Spanish. Over a billion people speak Mandarin, 16% of the world’s population.

The US trade deficit with China was $347 billion in 2016. This means that the US exports only $116 billion, but imports a whopping $463 billion from China. Those imports consist primarily of consumer electronics, clothing and machinery. The low-cost of manufacture makes business with China appealing, admits electronics importer of a tip calculator.

Local Chinese competition should not be dismissed. Many industries in China are run at overcapacity, with high levels of fragmentation and subsidies from local governments. Time and research, lots of research, needs to be taken before jumping in with business in China. If you follow business news, you find many major companies have dropped plans for continued investment in Chinese expansion. Other established companies have sold their ownership in Chinese facilities or sought Chinese investment.

Trust is an element that needs to be built with your Chinese counterpart. It does not exist until there is enough foundation for trust, reveals US window treatment importer. Without a reliable legal system to ensure fair business transactions, Chinese opportunistic behavior cannot be constrained. You must accept this and make an effort to build trust and friendships with potential Chinese business partners or clients, says executive at BigAcrylic.

A strict, hierarchical society in China extends deep into the workplace. Much of the decision making comes from the very top, by-passing mid-management authority. The latter is there to primarily send orders down the chain and reports up. Status is determined by age, education and formal position.

Good news, there are an increasing number of internships now available, offered by Chinese companies to US students. You can get hands-on experience in major commercial cities, such as Shanghai. Networking is the cornerstone of business in Asia.

China is the new Japan for American business in this millennium.

John Regan is a former Director of Sales for equity research.