I started the Inc. Magazine story, “Betrayed in China: One Entrepreneur’s Hard Journey East,” with much anticipation. The writer of the story had interviewed me a bit regarding the story (and I show up in the sidebar at the end) so I knew him to be a really sharp guy with an penchant for accuracy and detail. And I just loved the sub-title: “Adam Kasha was proud of his from-the-gut approach to doing business in China. Then his partnership with a Chinese trading agent went spectacularly bad, and he realized he was being taught a hard lesson in how things actually work.”
I knew it would have gems for those doing business in China and, more importantly, I was salivating at the thought of being able to add adding it to the following pantheon of our “writ large” posts:
- China Polyester Writ Large.
- Fake Pens In China Write/Writ Large
- Barbie In China Writ Large
- One Small China Restaurant Writ Large. Really Large.
- China Truck Manufacturing Writ Large As Global Trade Microcosm.
- China Suburbanization Writ Large
- China Traffic Laws As Government Policy Writ Large. Channeling Benjamin Cardozo
- China Face. China Heart. Gaming And Internet Businesses Writ Large.
- Floating Houses, Conflicting Laws, And Really Nice Governmental Officials. China Law Practice Writ Large.
Now I am not so sure. It makes for great reading, no doubt, but I am just not sure how much it really applies to doing business in China.
The first 2/3 of the story read like a primer on how not to do business in China. As I was reading that portion, I kept thinking of how it would make a great business school case study of how to set yourself up for failure in China. Our erstwhile hero’s mistakes were almost too many to bear. This cannot end well, I kept thinking.
But then, just as the protagonist’s back was against the proverbial wall worse than it had ever been before, he (Adam Kasha) pulls a rabbit out of a hat and all of a sudden starts realizing that he can no longer deal with his Chinese counterparties as though they are just like the people he knows in Ann Arbor, Michigan. No, a wiser Mr. Kasha is going to go “all native” on us now heed the advice he was given in 2002 by the Chinese man he is now fighting: “When doing business in China, trust no one.” Or as, Mr. Kasha somewhat more subtly puts it, he now realizes that “what trust amounted to for an American in China …. [is] created by the possibility of future business, or by a financial incentive. That wasn’t really trust. It was a practical, amoral trellis to help the little green vine of trust grow.”
Spoiler Alert: Mr. Kasha becomes a Machiavellian-esque tactician, outwits his Chinese partner, and saves the day/the shipments/his company’s relationship with Wal-Mart.
Does it make for a great story? Yes. Are there lessons to be learned from this story, beyond the level of trust one should display? Probably. Are there lessons to be learned from The Dark Knight? There are, but as a simple China law practitioner, I am just not sure I am the one to be dishing them out. And since it is late on Friday, I am not even going to try.
So I turn to you, dear readers, for some help on this. What are the takeaways from the Mr. Kasha goes to China story? Or were his mishaps so obvious and his comeback so fact-specific that the story’s value resides solely with its literary merit?