Why Do We Need to Know about China?

Asian Century driven by China’s rise, and what it means for us

The Australian government’s white paper on the Asian Century (Oct 2012) plans for the inevitable shift in the global balance of power – economically, politically and socially. Supported by media and literature, it is hard to argue against a diminishing influence of the West, and more significantly, a re-writing of the rules of global transactions and engagements.

Unsurprisingly, China is at the vanguard and will dominate the 21st Century landscape. A staggering illustration is the doubling of an already vast Chinese economy every 7-8 years in the last 25 years, and a similar doubling every 9-10 years in the next 25.  So whether you have current dealings or not, and Australia’s geo-socio-economic position suggests a high likelihood, this must surely provoke change in how we view and deal with Chinese entities.

White paper rhetoric spruiks a workforce “literate” and “capable” of dealing with the region.

The Chinese language is already the most spoken language of the world, outnumbering English speakers 2 to 1. As Chinese spheres of influence expands, it is conceivable Chinese will at least join English as an interlocutor language of the region, especially with the rate of Chinese language education in East Asia.

Literacy aside, an effective China-capable workforce holds more profound implications as it should start from a change in perspective and attitudes, before a behavioral change in culture, the latter being the more common starting point.

No longer should Australia, hitherto aligned with western thinking, feel it holds a stranglehold on values, belief systems, or economic, capitalist or corporate idealism – the events of 2007-8 reinforces this. Instead, and before learning to deal with the Chinese, we need to exercise introspection with a desire to learn about, and learn from China, without underlying superiority or the belief it knows best. This approach, I’d suggest, not only improves the ability to effectively transact, but enhances the enjoyment of engagements with the Middle Kingdom.

Tim Lai

Tim is the founder and managing director of DaLu Venture Solutions and works with clients to optimize value in their Chinese Foreign partnerships across the lifecycle phases of Joint Venture (JV) development and management.