China and Feeling For Stones: a Conversation with Zhang Hai Hua


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BlogTalkRadio logoThe other week on my Des Walsh & Friends show on BlogTalkRadio, I had the pleasure of speaking with a woman of great accomplishment and business sagacity, a specialist in cross-cultural communication, especially for business between China and the rest of the world.

ZHANG Haihua (Helen), author of Think Like Chinese, was born in mainland China and holds an MBA and a Master of Business in Finance from the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia and a BA (English Language and Literature) from Peking University. She lived in Australia for 8 years, working in both management consulting and investment banking before relocating back to Beijing in 2002. She is the Managing Director of consulting group ChinaTime Inc.

One of the things I love about chatting with Hai Hua is that she has the ability to explain with great lucidity a range of theoretical frameworks and highly complex issues, as for instance how Chinese think and in what ways that differs from say, prevailing modes of thinking in the West.

I believe part of her gift is to take those theoretical issues and complex frameworks and communicate her perspective and insights not in dry, academic language but through stories, practical illustrations and sayings.

How I misunderstood a famous saying

On the subject of  sayings, early in the conversation with Hai Hua I mentioned the saying attributed to the former paramount leader of China, Deng Xiaoping and included on Hai Hua’s website, the saying “Crossing the river by feeling for stones”, which I took at the time as indicating how foreigners – laowei (don’t ask me to get the tones right) – looking to do business in China could sensibly proceed. Looking it up later I understood that the context was to do with economic liberalization in post-Mao China. The obverse, if you will, of what I was thinking.  But maybe it could in any case be a useful guiding principle for laowei wanting to be effective and successful in China?

Gems of advice for doing business in China

Think Like Chinese bookAs always in such conversations, Hai Hua shared her unique perspective and provided some gems of advice for anyone wanting to do business in China.

The time went much too quickly although we did manage to squeeze in some chat about the recent Google “ultimatum” to the Chinese Government and shared some thoughts about the context of that imbroglio and how it might play out.

At the end of the session I discovered from Hai Hua that the statement on the relevant page in Amazon, that Think Like Chinese is out of print, is incorrect. In fact, you can get the book: you just need to contact Hai Hua’s office – just click on the Contact tab on the website.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Des Walsh
Des Walsh is an executive leadership coach, social media strategist and LinkedIn expert. He is passionate about sharing his understanding of the benefits of social media in a way that makes good sense for business.


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