Business failures in China; an inability to connect at a cultural level


[1] Carlson 2013

[2] Carlson 2013

[3] Carlson 2013


Carlson, B, 2013, Why big American businesses fail in China, in The Global Post, 22 September 2013, accessed online 21 November 2014 at

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Bill Reed says:

    Another great post, Grant. One question: you’re right, of course, to assert that China is too big to be satisfactorily generalised about. But where do you stop with this fragmentation? How small a part of China is it reasonable to generalise about? The coastal areas? The Northern wheat-growing regions? Hong Kong? The island? Stanley? Stanley market? I recently heard a fellow North Londoner explain to a Continental European that “You shouldn’t compare us with those people who come from South of the river. They’re completely different!” Where do you stop? How to segment?


  2. Grant Hall says:

    Hi Bill,

    Where do you stop segmenting? That’s a good question.

    The following was suggested, by a person with decades of experience working in Asia, in a LinkedIn exchange in the Asialink group whilst discussing one of my previous posts:

    “In assessing the importance of culture we also need to be a little careful where the proponents are running businesses providing cultural awareness or training. So yes, an understanding of the local cultures is important, but let’s not over emphasise it and make it seem a complex art. Treating one’s potential business partners with respect and being prepared to listen carefully to understand what they want, are for me the most important universal elements of a successful business relationship.”

    Now I’m not in the business of cultural competence training, but I agree wholeheartedly with the above statement, to which I responded:

    “My personal experience is that if you have strong relationships with the people you are working or negotiating with cultural faux-pas will be politely ignored. Offence is less likely to be taken if there is mutual respect between parties and good intentions are understood. You are never going to get 100% of the cultural aspects of communication right 100% of the time. That’s not to say cultural competency training isn’t valuable – but it’s far from being the only thing businesses need to consider when operating abroad.”

    My business, League Cultural Diplomacy, is all about using corporate cultural diplomacy to foster strong relationships where questions can be asked and where mutual respect over-rides any small cultural based misjudgments.


  3. Grant Hall says:

    You can also join the discussion on LinkedIn


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