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What’s Your China Contingency Plan? I Mean You, Not Your Company.

Posted in China Business

Read an interesting post today over at Rich Brubaker’s All Roads Lead to China Blog.  The Post is entitled Getting on a plane really isn’t an option and it deals with how so many foreigners and foreign companies doing business in China who do not view China realistically.

The post anonymously quotes two executives who seem to believe their companies/they are immune from some of the difficulties that have befallen other foreign companies doing business in China.  The first is from someone who seems to believe that China problems stem from internal whistleblowers (they probably often do) and that transferring out any disgruntled employees can solve that problem.  The second is from someone who claims to recognize the potential seriousness of getting into trouble in China, but who believes that he and his family could avoid any such problems simply by taking the “first plane out of China.”

I don’t think so.

I have to side with All Roads on this (more of what “this” is in a minute) as I am often frustrated by clients, potential clients and even sometimes readers who think that they are “too smart,” too savvy,” “too connected” or “too well-prepared” to ever get caught up in/with the same problems that have struck other really smart, savvy, connected and well-prepared companies in China.  That’s issue number one.

Issue number two is contingency plans.

I used to go to Russia fairly frequently with someone who had been going there since the Soviet days. This person trained me to always have an exit strategy for each town where I would be going, mostly in the Russian Far East.  I bought into the need for such a strategy because a lot of my work there was in industries said to be controlled by the Russian mafia.  Many years ago, I went to South Korea during a particularly quarrelsome time between the North and the South and was disappointed to learn that if the North started firing artillery and/or shooting missiles, getting out before they hit/fell was not an option.

China seems and is relatively safe.  But bad things have happened to good (and bad) people there and that is the subject of the All Roads post.  More particularly, the subject is how there are foreigners who seem to believe either that they are immune to problems or that if problems arise, they will be able to get out in time.

The All Roads post quotes one senior level executive of a foreign company who is convinced that problems stem from whistleblowers internal to a company and that his ability to keep his employees happy will mean no whistleblowers and no problems:

“The recent scandal involving our industry started with a Nike whistleblower, who was known to be unhappy. in my experience, the best way to handle that situation would have been to offer that person (and any other potential whistleblower) and overseas MBA experience”

This senior level executive is half right.  He is right that problems often stem from one’s own employees and he is right that happy employees are less likely to generate such problems. But he is wrong to think that only unhappy employees generate problems and he is also wrong to think that he will be able to please all of the people all of the time.

All Roads also quotes another senior executive who is of the view that  whatever happens, he will be able to get his family and himself out of China before the problems can really bite him:

I understand that these issues are serious, but if “that” were to happen to “me,” my first objective would be to get me and my family on the first plane out of China.

Yeah, right. China has a very effective passport and border control system and if it has made the decision to detain a foreigner, there is a good chance that foreigner is not going to be able to leave.

So what should your contingency plan be?  The obvious solution is to follow the law and do whatever you can to make sure that your employees/company does as well.  Otherwise, you tell me.  No seriously, you tell me; let us know of your contingency plans.