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Country Comercial Guide: China (Country Commercial Guides)

Country Comercial Guide: China (Country Commercial Guides)

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China is rich in contradictions for U.S. firms. The world’s most populous nation, China covers an area larger than the United States. Yet the China market is small and concentrated in a few areas along the eastern seaboard. China is one of the world’s oldest civilizations, with thousands of years of history, literature and culture. Yet the People’s Republic is a mere 50 years old and most of the laws and regulations governing business and trade have been written in the past twenty years. Courtesy toward guests is a virtue in Chinese culture, and Chinese people can be extraordinarily hospitable and kind. Yet everyday discourse in China is rude and confrontational and the China market is full of cheats and swindlers. China is a communist country; the first article of the Chinese constitution states that China is a socialist country under the leadership of the proletariat. Yet, over the past twenty years China has moved from a planned to market economy and is now in many ways more capitalist than communist.

Many of the stunning contradictions in China have been nurtured by the unprecedented changes of the past twenty years. Since the beginning of the policy of “reform and opening-up” in 1979, China’s economy has grown more than tenfold. Previously rationed goods such as bicycles, textiles and grains are now in over-supply. Foreign invested firms, practically non-existent in the 1970s, now number over 300,000 and account for almost 50% of China’s exports. Foreign trade has grown from $38 billion in 1980 to over $361 billion in 1999. Although most Chinese firms remain relatively small, under-capitalized and poorly managed, there are pockets of excellence in Chinese industry. Chinese firms have competed successfully with world leaders in the white goods and home electronics markets. Chinese PC manufacturers have won back market share from such firms as Compaq and IBM.

China is a market with vast potential. The trick is realizing that potential. China’s pending accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) will make it easier for U.S. firms to do this, but it is false to believe that WTO entry provides an end-all solution. Do your due diligence – twice. Opportunities are available in China, but companies must pay heed to the many obstacles. This report can help identify both.