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Prepare yourself for China

Visiting China

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

China Project Supervision

Prepare yourself for a Chinese Airport

Your Arrival at the Airport

The first thing you notice on entering the airport will be the military efficiency of everything. The staff are polite, quiet, very efficient and actually look as if they are being paid to smile. A perfectly turned out uniformed airport officer will guide you in the correct direction through the immaculate terminal building.

Now you need all your documentation present and correct. If you haven't prepared this before landing, you now need to fill in the given forms for customs and immigration before entering the multi-queue area bounded on the exit side by a thick yellow line on the floor. The uniformed officials sitting in their cubicles waving visitors forward one-by-one are your immigration officers, (even if these guys were paid to smile, it is highly unlikely that they are capable of performing such a human expression). These unfriendly officers are super-efficient, and miss NOTHING. An incorrect document, an expired visa, or a vague passport photo are all noticed and will receive the same intense investigation as a curly hair discovered in their wonton soup. These immigration officials take their duties very seriously, and if you ask my advice it would be to stand to attention and present your correct documentation without eye contact, without leaning on their booth, without trying to be friendly – just act like a robot and give the officer what he needs.

By the time you've got through immigration your luggage should be getting dizzy on the carousel. But before you make a quick exit into the sea of oriental faces waiting the other side of customs-control, think – do you need to use the toilets? They may not be the best toilets you have ever used, but believe me, they get much worse and I recommend that you take advantage of these facilities before you begin any onward journey. I'm warning you, do it now, or live to regret not doing it.

Now, get some Chinese Yuan currency. Sometimes you can't get CNY from your home bank before you fly, so now you must find an ATM in the airport and withdraw what you need. USDollars are recognised, but let's face it, you're going to get ripped off if you try using them; just pull out your plastic and get a pocketful of local currency. If one Chinese ATM doesn't work for you, try another because some Chinese banks do not recognise all foreign credit/debit cards. The Airport ATMs are typically in English and Chinese, so don't take this for granted: these may the the only ATMs to offer English menus. (And I must just advise you, or rather warn you, to tell your credit card provider that you are going to China . I had some of my credit cards blocked because my thoughtful card provider decided my cards had been stolen. I could have been completely stuck, penniless and destitute because of the assumption of some tight-laced self-righteous little pen-pusher in Creditcardland. I'm sure he meant well, but it messed up a whole day for me.)

By the time you have stepped out of the airport you will have realised you're not in Kansas anymore. China is a whole new world – different language; different writing system; different culture; different ways of doing just about everything. If you are not prepared for this, prepare to be disappointed by how very limited you will be.

 

 

   

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Prepare yourself for a Chinese Taxi

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Taxis

As with many countries in the world, the humble taxi driver is not the most highly educated person you will ever meet; there are of course notable exceptions, but these are as rare as a real Rolex in China. Often these Chinese men and women do not come from the city where they are working, so they often need your help to find the place you wish to go to. And unless you are going to a well-known location such as a famous hotel, or popular shopping district, you can very easily find yourself lost, lost, lost, and your taxi driver demanding the fare and that you get out of his car.

You can prepare yourself for a taxi journey:

    • First, easiest, and most professional method is that you can simply call your phone-interpreter service, and they will speak for you, and give your instructions to the driver.
    • If you know the address of where you are going, you should also have the telephone number, so try phoning someone at your destination and ask them to give your driver the directions;
    • Another possible solution is to have previously gone to a website describing your destination, (the hotel website, business website, shop website, whatever), and have printed out the information in Chinese, with a picture if there is one available, and simply wave this at your taxi driver.
    • You could also try finding out the GPS coordinates of your destination and hope that the taxi has Sat-Nav, as many now do.
    • A less straightforward method is to locate your destination on a map. This is not such a simple idea because unless the map is in Chinese, it will mean very little to your driver.
    • Or try to find someone who speaks a little English, and ask them to give your instructions to the driver. But I can promise you now, this is very risky: many, many Chinese speak English, but only speak it as good as the typical British schoolchild speaks French, so don't bet on this getting you anywhere but lost.
    • Finally, speak loud and clear English and pray for a miracle (they have many gods in China , however miracles are very few and very far between).

You will use taxis a lot during your stay in China , so you should be aware of a few things:

    • Generally speaking, women taxi drivers are better drivers, more patient with your poor Mandarin, and more polite.
    • Sit in the back of the car: this increases your distance from the crumple zone in the event of a head-on collision. And put on your seatbelt, (if you forget to put on your seatbelt, I can assure you that after a couple of near-misses you will remember).
    • Before you make yourself comfortable check the taxi is legal. It must have a meter, and the driver must be displaying his photographic ID. If you are suspicious, step out – there are thousands of taxis in every city.
    • Prepare for a roller-coaster ride through some horrible traffic. They drive like teenage car-thieves on a caffeine high: this is quite normal.
    • Check you have small notes to pay with; they don't like being handed 100CNY for a 20CNY trip.
    • Don't tip. Generally tipping is an insult; and the expats don't want to start a tipping virus that will increase their cost of a ride.
    • Hang on to your receipt. It identifies your driver. If you leave something in the taxi it is possible to locate the driver and vehicle. Another reason for hanging on to that receipt is to complain about bad driving, (believe me, I've had to do it).

 



   

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Prepare yourself for a Chinese Hotel

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Hotels

Checking-in to a Big hotel should not offer any difficulties. The bell-hops usually greet you with a bright and enthusiastic ‘Hello', (though this may the sum total of their English), and the receptionist will generally have a reasonable grasp of conversation English. However if you have a problem which involves a non-routine check-in, (there is no record of your booking; they are over-booked; you need to inform them of food allergies; you need a non-smoking room/floor; you have lost luggage; etc, etc, etc.), the receptionist's linguistic skills may crash like a cheap computer, leaving you with only a blank smiling face to look at. The same applies if you find yourself in a totally unacceptable room. I can't emphasise it enough, without a phone-interpreter to speak for you, you really are unprepared and could easily ruin your visit for about the same price as a coffee-break.

The very first thing you do when you arrive at your hotel is to GRAB AS MANY HOTEL BUSINESS CARDS AS YOU CAN STUFF INTO YOUR POCKETS. These are your lifeline; without these little pieces of card you may NEVER see your hotel again – don't leave your hotel without double-checking that you have a couple of these cards in your pockets. To get home again all you need to do now is jump in a taxi and give the driver a card. Easy-peasy.

There are thousands of hotels in China . You have a wide choice of quality in every city, (and I've sampled most of these).
Naturally you have the swanky Hyatt, Shangri-La types, the more affordable Hilton, and Holiday Inn types, and then you have the Chinese hotels aimed at Chinese people, and in this sub-category the quality can range from Excellent, to ‘Get Me Out of Here'.

 

Beds

It is ironic that China manufactures some of the highest quality mattresses and upholstery in the world. Despite this availability of comfortable mattresses and soft furnishings, not until you sit on that economy airplane seat on your way home again will you have something soft to rest your Western ass upon.

In my work in China I have inspected, (among others), the second biggest mattress manufacturer in the world. They have a special section devoted to the Chinese mattress market which produces what can most easily be described as large pieces of burnt toast.

You can usually request mattress toppers to be fitted to your bed – although, having had this done for me, I recommend that you request TWO mattress toppers be fitted; or request about twenty extra pillows and try sleeping on that.

 

Breakfast

In all the major Western-type hotels, breakfast is, as you'd expect, a buffet. (The only exception to this which I have experienced was when I was staying at the Shangri-La Hotel during the height of the SARS scare, and the hotel guests were outnumbered by staff 50:1. This resulted in about a ton of the finest food being presented for the breakfast buffet to feed almost ten guests. An amazing waste of resources which ultimately resulted in a mandatory a la carte breakfast.)

And what is that stuff they like for breakfast? I think it is like starch jelly which they make from boiling the buggeration out of rice; it's like swallowing your own organs. I'll try anything – ONCE.

 

Room Entertainment

Televisions and Internet connection are standard in almost all rooms of all above-mediocre hotels.

Whether you can receive a TV channel that entertains you is a completely different matter. Big swanky Western-style hotels, no problem, but the smaller hotels may only receive Chinese stations, which I can assure you are about as entertaining to a Westerner as having a thousand screaming infants in your room.

You may be lucky enough to receive something approaching civilisation such as CNN or BBC, however if either of these renowned impartial television station should broadcast any news or articles that might include mention of China, expect your screen to go blank.

The same careful monitoring and censoring applies to Internet Search Engines. Try and search for a subject which is sensitive to the Chinese powers that be, and you will again draw a blank. Subjects not to bother researching on the internet in China include: objective views about Tibet; objective views about Taiwan; anything to do with a certain incident at Tiananmen Square in 1989; anything mentioning the peace-protests of an organisation whose name sounds like ‘fallen gown'; anything to do with gay or lesbian information, and; porn, (or at least, this is what I'm told).

You may even have a radio in your room. These generally broadcast three types of entertainment: talk radio, (which just sounds like Mickey Mouse high on speed); Western Pop music, occasionally interrupted by funny staccato adverts, and; Chinese Opera, (oh, please tell me they're not skinning a live cat).

 

KTV

What's KTV? Stay in a hotel that advertises KTV and you'll know all about it. KTV is huge in China, they love it – you know it better as Karaoke – I know it better as a bunch of semi-sober tone-deaf show-offs accompanying perfectly good music with ear-splitting screams and howls; it sounds like they're giving birth to a small car.

If you are bothered by KTV in your hotel, ask to be moved before the weekend. The weekend is busier and even noisier – you MUST move as far away from the KTV lounge before the weekend. If you have trouble explaining this to the hotel staff, phone your interpreter and have them do it for you; don't think it will be okay, IT WON'T BE.

 

Swimming Pools

These are relatively new to the Chinese. There are one or two public swimming pools in the cities, but they fall far short of any Western standards, (can I just say at this point, in my own personal experience having once been desperate enough to cool down, if you are adventurous enough to use a public swimming pool, take your own flip-flops – the level of spit-slime on the locker-room floor can be ankle-deep. Never again, never again).

More likely than venturing to a public swimming pool, you may be tempted to use the hotel pool. There are two basic types: the swimming pool for swimming in, and; the swimming pool for not swimming in. Swimming pools look great in the brochures, but many are purely decorative, are hardly ever cleaned, and simply act to dissolve the traffic pollution and construction dirt that floats through the atmosphere – if in doubt, just don't. The other type of hotel swimming pool is quite funny. I took an afternoon off work and decided to try the hotel pool which a friendly German expat had recommended to me. I was given flip-flops, a robe, swimwear, and escorted to the locker-room to change. Changed and ready for a dip, I followed the sound of lapping water to the pool, de-robed and threw myself in. Swimming casually up and down I noticed a member of uniformed pool staff walking up and down the length of the pool following me – this was my personal lifeguard.

My only advice regarding Chinese swimming pools is to be aware of the fact that the standards are not Western standards, and this may apply not just to the locker-room, but also the water quality and the chemicals used to keep the water hygienic, (oh, and wear rubber boots if it is a public swimming pool).

 

   

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Prepare yourself for a Chinese Toilet

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Toilets

Speaking from a male perspective, the toilets in China are generally bloody awful.
From a woman's perspective, they can be heart-stopping horrific.

Generally speaking, if you need to find a toilet in China: use your nose. They stink like the bowels of hell. Rubber boots, (although it is unlikely you will be carrying these), are advisable, (in fact in any European country a fully-sealed chemical suit and gas mask would be mandatory, although this would of course make the act of ‘going to the toilet' difficult.)

Being a healthy individual I have always managed to schedule my necessity for the ocassional 'pressing engagement' until I had the facility, privacy and cleanliness of my own hotel bathroom – and for this, dear Lord, I truly am eternally grateful. So my experience in Chinese toilets has been restricted to the act of ‘making water' and washing hands.

Here is what you should prepare yourself for:

    • Plan for the Worst, and Hope for the Best: this advice will arm you well as you enter these frightening facilities. Even a nice restaurant can have a toilet that look horrifically unusable. Spit-Slime floors throughout, misfired pee spills, inaccurately aimed ‘solid deposits' sitting waiting patiently for a gentle push towards the open drain, lady sanitary things in open buckets; and the stench, the acrid vomit-inducing, choking, clinging odour of festering human waste – I need to stop now, but you get the idea. If you experience anything better than this, consider yourself fortunate.
      • A piece of advice regarding the necessity to use a Chinese toilet: Western junk food outlets such as McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, all generally try to maintain Western standards in their washrooms. Most, but not all, smart restaurants and smart hotels offer reasonable facilities; avoid shopping mall toilets, avoid factory toilets, and definitely try to avoid public toilets. Practice your pelvic floor muscle exercises.
      • The floors can be very slimy and slippery due to the excessive spitting that the Chinese enjoy, and the last thing you want is to fall in whatever biological hazard that slime may contain, so take it easy like walking on ice.
      • Gents, standing to pee, have it easy provided your soles are impermeable to moisture; and generally, apart from the slime and stink, the urinals are much the same as in the West.
      • The stalls come in all heights from a standard Western dimension, to down as low as waist-high offering as much privacy as a prostate examination (or sometimes there will be no door at all).
      • The squat toilet, (or hole in the floor type of pan), is the most common in China . And despite the Western dislike of these facilities, a squat does mean that you don't actually need to come in contact with anything – and though I'm loath to elaborate, squatting is perhaps the most efficient method of evacuation, (provided what you are evacuating is not too loose. Oh mummy, so that's what's all over the floor).
      • Washing your hands can sometimes mean a dilemma between the dirt on your hands, and the additional toxic waste that you may be bathing them in. Proceed with caution. General advice is to arm yourself with a small sachet of baby-wipes – not all Chinese chemists carry baby-wipes, (Chinese babies don't wear nappies/diapers, but that's another story), so it is a [very, very] good idea to think ahead and acquire wet-wipes before you think you might need them. Regret is a terrible thing to live with.

Okay, so you're just going to have to remember this:
Male Toilets have a symbol that looks like a crossed window on top:male
Female Toilets have a symbol that looks like two X's having a fight: female




   

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Prepare yourself for taking Children to China

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Taking Children to China

This is an experience they will never forget. Even my [at the time] three-year-old son remains traumatised many years after the event. I think the issue with my young son was his fair hair, (and he was kind of cuddly, like Winnie the Pooh). He was shouted ‘hello' at, touched, hugged, his hair was pulled, he was photographed more times than crime scene, he was given gifts, and generally pestered for the entire visit.

My teenage son and daughter were not so bothered, although my daughter's creamy complexion and wavy hair were a subject of great interest from the Chinese who would edge their way closer and closer to get a better look.

Make wise preparations when moving about China with kids:

    • Carry wet-wipes for those inevitable toilet stops;
    • Carry your own forks if your kids aren't handy with chopsticks;
    • Stay together because it is likely that if they get lost, even for a moment, they will be frightened by their total inability to communicate, and the well-meaning crowd of Chinese who will surround and stare helplessly at the lost Western child would traumatise anyone already in minor distress;
    • Use permanent marker to write your family name, hotel address and your contact telephone number ON YOUR CHILD, on their arm, or somewhere noticeable;
    • Crossing the road alone is a frightening experience; crossing with kids can be plain reckless. If you need to cross a street and there is a crossing-point, use it with great caution because the traffic will continue to drive through even if pedestrians have right-of-way, and cyclists are as much a hazard to pedestrians as idiot car drivers. My advice is if you must cross a street and you have any doubts about your party's safety, hail a taxi and ask the driver to drive you to the other side – it will cost almost nothing and may save a lot of trouble.
    • And please, please, please, IF YOU LOVE YOUR CHILDREN, for about the same price as a Big Mac sandwich, hire yourself a phone-interpreter service: your kids are too important to compromise their safety without such a valuable travel service. The likelihood of problems multiplies when you have kids with you, don't risk their safety, get a phone-interpreter: you know you could never forgive yourself if you didn't bother but your child needed help.

 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Prepare yourself for Shopping in China

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Shopping

I hope you took the effort to engage a phone-interpreter to speak for you? If not, prepare yourself for a rather disappointing shopping experience. You will easily save many times the cost of a phone-interpreter when you use this service for your shopping sprees. Not only can a good phone-interpreter help you communicate what you're looking for, colours, styles, etc. but they may also be able to help advise on international dress-sizes, and shoe-sizes, as well as offering you the current exchange rates so you can calculate value.

At the very least get yourself a pocket calculator, and when you want to know how much something costs just point at the item and hand them the calculator – they will enter the price, and you can then look shocked, shake your head and offer a price on the calculator which you feel is reasonable. This can go on a bit, but it saves any confusion translating numbers.

And remember that as a Westerner you are liable to be over-charged – BIG TIME. If you are offered a price, expect it to be a special price they keep for people with SUCKER written all over them, (that includes you and me). A useful tip is to simply call your phone-interpreter and ask them what is a reasonable price for whatever it is you are trying to buy – it is common to be offered something for sale in the markets for about 500CNY, and eventually close the sale at about 50CNY, or less.

Discounts are not as they first appear in China, be sure to clarify before you get too interested. An offer of 80% discount does not mean 80% off the original price; it means that you only need to pay 80% of the original price, (so 80% discount on a 100CNY item means the offer price is actually 80CNY; not 20CNY).

The big department stores are much as you might expect to see in the West, the only difference is the way you pay for things. You are expected to choose whatever it is you want, then you are given a piece of paper and directed to go and pay for it at a centralised pay-point, then return with your receipt and hand it to the salesperson who will exchange your chit for your item. It beats me up: it is so inefficient and slow, but this is how it is done.

You must find a large supermarket and explore. Supermarkets say a lot about the people who live in the city, and can be very interesting to the curious Westerner. The first thing you will notice is the smell: a horrid sort of raw chicken / fish / fried-tofu smell which I find difficult to endure. The vegetable department offers a huge and varied range of fabulous fresh fruit and veg. There should be a section selling live fish, live toads, and live turtles all of which wear a sad expression that makes them look as if they are waiting to be taken home and eaten. If it is a fancy supermarket it will have a special section selling shark-fins, dried tropical fish, dried animal bones and dried sea-horses, as well as many other curiously horrible things.

Things to avoid buying in China will include bread, (they really haven't got the hang of making bread yet), and cheese, (in fact you would be lucky to find any cheese outside of a Big Mac). And be choosy if you buy confectionary, try and buy big-name brands, (there have been some cases of Chinese candy-makers using very strange ingredients in an attempt to save money).

If you start to fill your basket prepare to have your choice scrutinised by passers-by curious to see what Westerners buy, if you want to impress them grab several large boxes of condoms, (which you can discard before you get to the check-out).

At the check-out have your money ready. Your total will be displayed on a little screen so you don't need to attempt communicating with the salesperson.

Boutiques are everywhere in city centres, and well worth a look. Many are small outlets for a niche factory which exports most of its fashion to the West. This means that not only can you buy excellent quality fashion, but you can BUY NEXT SEASON'S FASHION, worth remembering if you want to impress your friends back home.

Specialist shopping areas might be a street of dozens of shops all selling what appears to be the same things, for example: a whole block of little shops just selling tea, or silk, or flowers, or pottery, or pets, whatever. It seems silly at first, but it does make it very simple to go and buy tea, (or whatever), because you have all the tea merchants in one place.

Other specialist centres may be like the Computer Market which would be one huge multi-level store filled to bursting with hundreds of little stores all selling something to do with computers – it makes comparison buying so much simpler, and of course you can negotiate great prices because each store competes directly with the next for your business.

You should also try and locate the local fashion market, which will be much the same as the computer market, just hundreds of little clothes stores all in one vast complex. There may also be a shoe market, a flower market, a furniture market, an electrical market, a jewellery market, and the list goes on, and on, and on depending on the size of the city you are visiting.

 

For die hard shoppers there is nothing on earth to equal the shopping Hell which is YiWu city, Zhejiang . This little city is the biggest small commodities market in the world, truly unbelievable. I hate the place, having spent DAYS there sourcing this and that. Imagine the largest airport terminal building in the world, multiply that times fifty, and fill it with little specialist stores about the size of a small bathroom – people go in and never come out again. You could, (I have), spent days in just the jewellery section of the complex, and you won't even see the entirety of just that section, never mind the unending Aladdin's cave which is EVERYTHING ELSE. You name it, they probably have a thousand stores specialising in it at YiWu. I think you have to be female to appreciate it, and then expect her to experience some sort of shopping orgasm followed closely by physical and mental collapse. Tempted? Don't even think about it without a phone-interpreter to speak for you, or better still hire a by-your-side interpreter who knows YiWu, just for that day; seriously it is V-A-S-T.

 

At the night markets you will have the most fun, and here you can stock up with great little gifts and unique souvenirs

Here are a few of the not-so-genuine articles on sale at markets which you should be aware of:

•  Fakes. The Chinese EXCEL at fakes. They can fake a classic Van Gogh oil painting that will deceive an art expert; they can replicate every detail of a luxury brand wristwatch, the only giveaway being a price of about US$20.; they can recreate perfect 200 year old antiques with believable attention to wear, patina and discolouration. These fakes may have all the appearance of the genuine article, but don't insult your friends and family by passing off fakes as the real deal if you're bring back gifts, (they may decide to get it valued).

•  Illegal goodies. This covers some of the fakes mentioned above, however, more specifically these are usually Music CDs and Movie DVDs and computer software. You may be tempted to buy new release DVDs at about US$1 each, and many Western visitors do, but be warned: these pirate copies are illegal in China and you could find yourself in trouble with the Chinese police; often the copies are very poor quality; often they only play in Mandarin or Russian languages, and; naturally, they may not play on your regional DVD player when you get back home. Also bear in mind that importing pirated goods back home with you is illegal, and acting like a stupid foreigner will not work when your own Customs and Excise officers drag you kicking and screaming through the airport in front of your eagerly waiting wife and children, (or so I'm told).

•  ‘Fell off the back of a lorry' goods. In the markets you will be offered beautiful big-name designer handbags, belts, wallets, purses, coats, sweaters, shirts, underpants, (basically ANYTHING that is manufactured under license in Chinese factories). Often these will be the genuine article. For example take a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt: you will be offered this shirt which was manufactured in a licensed Ralph Lauren factory, using Ralph Lauren specified cloth and thread-count, Ralph Lauren specified thread, Ralph Lauren specified buttons, and Ralph Lauren specified packaging; it is a genuine, (down to the perfect little logo and washing advice label), Ralph Lauren Polo shirt. So why is it selling at US$5 ? The answer is simple: Ralph Lauren placed an order for [say] 20,000 shirts; the licensed Ralph Lauren factory manufactured 30,000 shirts, (all of which Ralph Lauren has paid for); the factory exports the requested 20,000 shirts, and kept the extra 10,000 shirts, (which have cost them NOTHING to produce), and the factory managers will sell these for 100% clear profit.

•  Rejects. You will be offered a multitude of these near-perfect goodies in the markets. Many of these products should of course have been destroyed by the factory under the terms of their manufacturing licensing agreement. Whether it is fashion, leather goods, electronics or tools, be aware that it is selling at US$2 for a reason. You can be lucky and get some real gems, but double-check everything, discover the flaw for yourself, and if you are happy to make this compromise in quality, buy it.

 

 

 

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Prepare yourself for personal Security in China

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Security

My own experience is in the East of China, mainly in the cities, so I can't generalise my advice to all areas of this huge and diverse country.
In my own experience China is a safe place for foreigners to be. There are armies of police officers, as well as the army, and other authoritative personnel such as traffic-marshals, road-crossing marshals, as well as the less conspicuous security you don't see such as plain-clothed police and security cameras. They are everywhere, and if you don't believe me, just create an incident and watch them appear like magic.

The Chinese punish crimes by Chinese against foreigners quickly and severely; it is in their interests to be seen to act this way with criminals, and as a result you will find yourself generally well respected by people.

If you should happen to have an ‘experience' of any kind with security personnel there are one or two tips which might work in your favour:

    • Be humble and respectful. Think of them the same way you think of your local traffic-warden – go softly, softly, because they have the authorityand ability to ruin your day.
    • Do you have a phone-interpreter service to speak for you? I bet you wish you had one now. Do not expect these officials to speak any English, certainly not enough English to have a debate about ‘wasn't my fault, mate'.
    • Do not attempt to bribe an officer, this could compound your grief, (remember that tipping in restaurants is an insult, so how do you think bribing an officer of the law will go down?).
    • You are at a huge cultural and language disadvantage if there is a dispute, (for example if you knocked someone off their bicycle). Expect to be found guilty, and be told to pay compensation, in cash, (which will cover the cost of the aforementioned broken bicycle and any related medical expenses). Keep all documents to claim on your travel insurance, if this is appropriate.
    • If you do not have an interpreter, or phone-interpreter to speak for you, and you really, really need one, it is possible that the police can provide one of theirs for you (the joke's on you); alternatively you should contact the receptionist at your hotel and ask them to send someone; or your friendly Embassy can also help, but your Embassy will not be happy if the problem is a minor one which could have been sorted simply with a local or phone-interpreter.

 

As a foreigner in China you are being 'noticed'.
Your movements are being monitored, your phonecalls may be being monitored, your emails may be being monitored, your web-browsing may be being monitored. When you leave your hotel you can be tracked your entire journey by the comprehensive system of CCTVs.
You can consider this as effective for your own security, or you can consider this a rude imposition of your civil rights and privacy.

If you ignore this advice and make statements that conflict with the official line, you might find your emails take a very long time to come and go. Your phonecalls, texts and images will be recorded. You might have an 'incident' that requires you to leave for home earlier than planned. And you might have difficulties applying for your next visa.

General rule of thumb is to avoid any activities or conversations that might be at odds with the authorities, (namely avoid subjects including: Taiwa; Tibet; a certain Tianenmen Square incident; Human Rights questions; anything wonderful about Japan; or anything slightly derogatory about Chairman Mao - or indeed any presidents past or present).
Just respect the way things are in China. The vast majority of the population are very happy to let sleeping dogs lie, so don't rock the boat unless you're prepared for a little grief.

 

   

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Prepare yourself for a Chinese Restaurant

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Restaurants

My general rule of thumb is eat where the locals eat, even if this means walking past clean and respectable looking premises, and entering something quite grotty.

Restaurants can be very posh with uniformed staff whose sole purpose in life is to open the front doors, and a waiter for each individual guest, or; they can be someone's kitchen table by the roadside and the menu is whatever they can catch in the yard.
I know where my food comes from, but I couldn't help feeling sorry for ordering chicken at one of these humble eateries, and then having to watch as the poor fowl was chased and captured before disappearing noisily into my host's kitchen.

Similar situations may arise in a more respectable restaurant which at first appears to be a pet shop, however those lovely fish and crabs and toads and snakes are all on the menu and you are supposed to choose which one you want to sacrifice to satisfy your belly. (I can't recommend dog, I've never knowingly eaten dog, however I'm told it makes you sweat and is generally a winter dish.)

And something you maybe haven't considered: how are you going to order your meal if you can't speak Chinese?
You should be okay in posh restaurants in major cities, but otherwise you may begin to get hungry. A simple solution is to hire a phone-interpreter whom you can call and ask to order a meal for you, (I do it all the time).

Here are a few useful points to remember when in a restaurant:

    • Chopsticks don't have a set method of use. At a table of twenty Chinese stuffing their faces, you will be hard pushed to find two of them using the same finger technique. Just get the food from the bowl and into your cake-hole, even if this means lifting your bowl to your lips and shoveling the food in: no one will notice how you hold your chopsticks.
    • If you order fish, you get the whole fish. Only the squidgy gut bits are removed; everything else, scales, fins, head, eyes, and all the bones are presented cooked for your meal. You should eat the fish cheeks and fish eyes, apparently these are delicacies – apparently. Fish bones are everywhere – you are supposed to kind of suck the meat off them and spit the bones on your plate (or table, or floor, depending on how swanky your restaurant is).
    • If you order chicken you might get it one of two ways: either the whole fowl will appear inclusive of feet, head and squinting little eyes looking at you, or; you will have your chicken served in pieces. In any case the bird will have been sliced for you. How helpful, you think. NOT. The Chinese chop their chicken like frenzied mercenaries, bones and all. BEWARE OF THE BONES they could totally ruin your day – I've seen it happen, so be warned.
    • Drinks: even if you don't really enjoy green tea it is safe and refreshing. Bottled water is always available, but check that it has not been opened; the usual fizzy drinks are available, but if drinking out of a can use a straw to avoid contact with the tin, and avoid using a glass unless it really is clean; lager is freely available and the Chinese brand Qingdao (say ‘Ching-Dough') is very good – (in fact I believe that the port of Qingdao was at one time a German protectorate, and it was the Germans who established that brewery and taught the secrets of a good brew to the Chinese there). Generally, avoid ice in your drinks, it may be tap-water and full of nasties waiting to reek merryhell on your underpants.
    • The atmosphere of a typical Chinese restaurant is very noisy, or should I say, VERY NOISY. Meal times are very social occasions and there can be very loud laughter and argument, people up and down from their seats, shouting for service, and the traditional play-fight over who pays the bill. You, the strange, tall, fair, big-nosed visitor from the West may even be the butt of their jokes, just lap it up and smile back as if you understand them.
    • Spitting of bones and gristle and the like is not mandatory, but it certainly won't be noticed – you are there to eat, not be polite and choke on the bones: just spit.
    • Menus are often in Mandarin only, however many will be illustrated with helpful and often misleading little photographs of the dishes. If in doubt, have your phone-interpreter order for you – simply tell your interpreter what you like and they will order something to suit your tastes - easy-peasy. If you don't have access to an interpreter, good luck; try pointing at dishes on another table that you like the look of, or; take your chances and just point at the menu and hope what arrives is to your taste. But the phone-interpreter is the simplest solution, and will save you the money spent buying something you simply can't eat.
    • Tipping is generally not done. Tips, (from the expression ‘to insure prompt service'), are not required when prompt service is guaranteed. In fact a tip may well be taken as an insult.

 

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Business Meetings

Doing business in China has many advantages, and many pitfalls.

A complete guide to doing business in China would be several volumes long: in a nutshell, without expert guidance expect MAJOR problems.
You're not in Kansas any more.

Business meetings are important, and frequent. And there are several cultural differences that you should familiarise yourself with.

Preparation:

    • You must have a by-your-side interpreter of your own, not a biased interpreting employee of your Chinese counterpart.
    • Dress in a manner that reflects how your Chinese counterparts are dressed – if you dress like you're on holiday, that's how you'll be treated.
    • Leave plenty of time to get there, punctuality is good business manners that reflects respect and professionalism - in fact we often phone the manager's office just as we get to the factory gate, just to let him know we have arrived.

The introduction

    • First and foremost: Respect the big boss.
      Everything else you do wrong can be excused as Western ignorance, but you will not be excused for insulting the boss by ignoring him in a conversation, or not acknowledging him and referring to him with due respect throughout your meetings.
      You might be thinking to yourself that you'd never show disrespect to the boss: but think about it: who are you going to chat with at lunch, who are you going to gravitate towards in every conversation??? (Of course: the pretty little interpreter with whom you can easily converse/flirt.) It is common for the boss to be lacking in his English language, but DO NOT let this distract your ultimate respect and attention from him.
    • Begin your introduction with an exchange of business cards   – they love these things and you should show the same enthusiasm: offer yours with TWO HANDS, and accept theirs with TWO HANDS; then study the thing, even if it is all Mandarin squiggles, study it as if you have been handed a picture of their recently departed mother; and don't put it away, keep their card in front of you throughout the meeting, (do not put it in your pocket ESPECIALLY NOT YOUR BACK TROUSER POCKET this is an insult you will regret – meetings have ended abruptly after an innocent faux pas like this).
    • Begin with praise, praise, praise. What a beautiful business card, what a fine office, lovely factory, wonderful manufactured goods – treat the situation like you are trying to impress your girlfriend's mother. DO NOT PRAISE THEIR BEAUTIFUL RECEPTIONIST; they will think that you are asking to have sex with her. The same applies if you are introduced to their wife – just don't go there, smile and say hello, no personal compliments, please.
    • You may be ushered into a very elaborately decorated waiting room and offered copious amounts of tea by smiling girls. Whether you like tea or not, (I don't particularly), just say thank you and accept it, don't refuse it, just let it sit there if you don't want it.
    • The same applies to cigarettes; expect to be offered enough to kill you – either smoke very slowly to avoid the next one, or very politely thank them and explain that you don't smoke. If you are a smoker and have a packet of your favourite brand in your pocket, be sure to share in return – they are smoking connoisseurs and will greatly appreciate a Western brand.
    • If you have brought a gift for the owner or manager, realise that if they do not have to opportunity to return the gesture they will be embarrassed, this is ‘loss of face' – don't go there. The same applies if you want to reward some of their employees with gifts, it is rude to by-pass the management hierarchy, so make sure you have permission from the top first.

During your meeting

    • If you ask a question to which you want an affirmative answer, and you get a boardroom table full of nodding smiling heads in response, this may just mean that they understand your argument, NOT that they agree with your proposal. Clarify everything.
    • Face is very important to the Chinese. NEVER insult, or belittle, or make fun of, or scoff at your Chinese counterpart, especially not in front of his colleagues. If you do cause him to ‘lose face' consider your business relationship terminated. I once had a meeting with a businessman who was pirating my designs – the meeting ended with both sides agreeing to disagree; my partner gave the pirate a very cool handshake, but I refused to shake hands altogether and ignored his outstretched hand. This, in front of the owner of another factory and attending interpreters was a HUGE insult to the man, (more effective, and less exhausting, than beating seven bloody bells out of the crook).
    • This may sound extreme, but it works for what I do:  write notes of everything that is discussed and agreed or disagreed during the course of your meeting; then pass your notes to your personal interpreter, (never theirs), and have it translated, (help your interpreter with this to ensure it is correct, draw pictures if it helps illustrate your changes, points, etc.); then have your Chinese counterpart read the translation; and both parties sign it, photocopy it, give them the copy and keep the original for yourself – I learned to do this the hard way, save yourself a lot of grief and make the time to do it, otherwise expect to age considerably by the frustration of wasted time.
    • Don't forget to insist on deadlines. Remember that Chinese civilisation has remained unbroken for over five thousand years, if a relative time-scale is applied to your project you could be in for a long wait. Verbal guarantees are worthless; insist on financial penalties for late delivery.
    • It pays to write Wethern's Law of Suspended Judgment across the top of your Filofax: Assumption is the mother of all Screw-Ups This law applies particularly to any assumptions you may have before, during, and after your Chinese boardroom meeting.

 

Lunch

One of the best things about doing business in China are the sumptuous   luncheon   banquets which they insist spoiling you with.

They will order all the food and drink, so don't worry about having to make menu decisions.
The table will be filled to overflowing with the most expensive local cuisine, and the drink will flow like the rain in Donegal.
Your host may raise a toast to you every three minutes, so go easy on how much you slurp; and if he raises his glass and says something that sounds like 'Gom-Buy' you are expected to empty your glass in one, followed by a satisfied gasp, (this may happen several times, so it may be wise to keep your glass less than half full if you can).
Much as these meals are a real treat, they can become tiresome if you are keen to get on with business, and often we will try to make appointments timed to avoid the necessity to join them for lunch. And even though you are the invited guest, attempt to pay the bill - they will refuse to allow you this honour, but your offer will be noted and appreciated.

Warning:

    • Many successful or aspiring Chinese businessmen have two women: a respectable and presentable well-maintained wife at home, and one he keeps for having fun with. My personal rule of thumb on this matter is that if they are happy to cheat on their wife, you can bet your bottom dollar they'll have no hesitation cheating you in business.
    • Beware of SHORT-SIGHTED Chinese business relationships. In my line of work, time and time [and time and time and time] again we come across this make a fast buck attitude. By this I mean that they will produce excellent samples, make wonderful promises, and dispatch a load of crap. In the West we expect to build on business, grow with our suppliers, and prosper symbiotically, but beware of the Chinese business owner who does not want your repeat business and only wants to take your money and run. Always use a reputable and experienced QC and sourcing agency, preferably one with Western partners so that Western standards are consistently applied and met.
    • Quality Fade is a major problem, and one which you can only control by staying on top of your manufacturer constantly. We try to show our face every day that our client's production is happening at a factory – take a walk through the production line, check the back rooms for surplus stock, make sure that the highest standards are maintained, and ruthlessly reject everything that does not meet your highest standards of quality.
    • Surplus stock is a very easy way for a factory to make a little extra pocket money. It's a genuine product, made to all the highest production standards, it even has authentic labeling, QC approval labels and genuine packaging – but the only connection with you is that you've paid for it. You order 5,000 items, and the factory manufactures 6,000 items – you receive your 5,000 items, and the factory sell the other 1,000 genuine items out the back door. The night markets are full of this stuff (you can get some great bargains). But the only way to prevent this dishonesty is to expect it, look for it, and enforce stringent spot-checks on your production. And when you do discover it happening, make merry hell – I promise you it will all have been a huge 'misunderstanding': "have another cigarette; lunch perhaps; what about a massage parlour?"

Tips to avoid potentially disastrous situations:
Use a reputable and experienced business management agency:

-one with Western partners who understand your expected standards
-one that can smell B.S. at a hundred paces
-one that is intolerant of compromised quality
-one that has a proven track record of stamping out illegal activities by unscrupulous factory managers




 

 

China Project Supervision

A crash-course in basic Mandarin

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Language

Grammatically, Chinese is really quite a simple language.
Its numbering system, dates and tenses are much simpler than European languages. But the spoken word is tonal, so that a slight variation of a vowel accent or an incorrect emphasis will completely change the meaning of a spoken word. To compound this difficulty in pronunciation there are wide regional variations in speech. Even an experienced linguist can find themselves unable to make themselves understood: only a local can negotiate the language with confidence.
It would be easy to rely 100% on a phone-interpreter to speak for you, but you should try some Mandarin – after all the Chinese try [when they can] to speak English.

You can buy many great little pocket books with translated phrases, (my favourite is The Rough Guide version), but you can't keep taking a book out every time you want to communicate with someone, so here is the list of words which I use most often, (I know this because they are the only words I have written in my little pocketbook).
My phonetic translation is not like any other; I try and use common English words to formulate the Mandarin to try and get the sound right, so you might find this a little unusual:

Everywhere, all the time:

Hi – ‘Way' said very quickly
Hello/How are you? – ‘Knee-How'
Thank you – ‘She-She' will do, but you can elaborate to ‘She-She Neen'
Water – ‘Sh-Way'
Lager – ‘Pin-Joe'

Shopping:

How much money (does this cost) – Dow [sounds like cow] Sa Chien [end sounds like the name Ian], ‘Dow Sa Chien'
Too Expensive – ‘Tie Go'way La'
This (thing) – ‘T'suka'
That (thing) – ‘Naga'
I am lost – ‘Wow Me Low-La'

In a taxi:

Go Right – ‘Yo G'why'
Go Left – ‘Zo G'why'
Go Straight – ‘Eejit So'
Careful – ‘Shaow-Shing'
Wait here – ‘Deng Sha'
This will do – ‘Daow-La'

 

Numbers .

Once you learn 0 to 10 you can easily count to 99. This is how I memorise 0 to 10:

0 – Ling (rhymes with ‘nothing')
1 – E
2 – R (like an Irish ‘R', not a polite English one, R as in ‘arse'), (just think of the first two numbers as an emergency: ER. Or the 1st British Royal: ER)
3 – San
4 – Sir (said very quickly and don't emphasise the r. Again think of 3,4 together, San, Sir, sounds like ‘censor')
5 – Wu (sounds like 'poo' or 'you'. Wow, you're half-way there)
6 – LeO (think of Leo the lion, think of a pride of six lions: the lion head is the round part of the 6, and their tails are the top part of the 6)
7 – Chee (sounds like the first part of the word 'cheese', so visualise a circle of cheese sliced into segments shaped like 7)
8 – Ba (think of a sheep shaped like 8, the top circle is the head and the bottom circle is the body, the sheep says ‘baa')
9 – GeO (sound like 'Joe' accentuating the 'J', but I think of geography, ninth period at school)
10 – Sure [said very quick] (sure, this is 10)

11 to 19 are spoken as above as: 10-1, 10-2, 10-3, etc, so that 13 sounds like ‘Sure-San'

20 to 29 are spoken as above as 2-10, 2-10-1, 2-10-2, 2-10-3, etc, so that 25 sounds like ‘R-Sure-Wu'

30 to 99 are the same format as the 20 to 29 formula, just prefix the 10 to make the 30, 40, 50, etc, and suffix that with the last digit to make 31, 42, 53, etc.
So 99 is 9-10-9 and sounds like ‘GeO-Sure-GeO'

100 is ‘E-Buy' [1-100], and you start all over again so that:
247 becomes ‘R-Buy - Sir-Sure – Chee' (2-00 – 4-10 – 7) Get it? Good; I'm going to stop now. I still have to work these larger numbers out in my head like algebra equations, but once you get the basics it really is so simple, (especially compared to something like French).
HOWEVER, for communicating large sequential numbers such as your hotel room number, which might be 2303, this is given in separate digits 2-3-0-3, so if you already know 0 - 10 you're fine.

You can also communicate numbers with your fingers, but I'm keeping this image-free so you'll need to research that system yourself.

Other Mandarin systems which are easier than European languages are:
Days of the week – day 1, day 2, day 3, etc.
Months of the year – month 1, month 2, you get the idea,…

And where we have a wine glass, beer mug, milk jug, tea pot, scrap bucket, etc, etc, the Mandarin says: container for wine, container for beer, container for tea, container for milk, container for scrap; which means that once you know the word for ‘container' you're half way there.

Having said all that, and now that you know a smigeon of Chinese, when someone speaks to you, or replies to you, you're snookered. So arrange a phone-interpreter before you arrive in China.

 

   

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Interpreters

I can't emphasise it enough, China is not just another foreign country, it is a whole new planet to us Westerners. Not until you get there will you realise just how alienated you really are; and without interpreters I promise you that you will be seriously restricted.

There are two types of reliable interpreting systems: by-your-side, and over-the-phone.

By-your-side interpreters are great, there is nothing to beat having your own personal guide to follow, however the cost is significant from about US$100 per eight-hour day. I would recommend this if you are planning a special day away somewhere like a specialised shopping trip or a business meeting: in fact I would demand that you acquire your own independent by-your-side interpreter for any business meetings or factory inspections if this is what you're visiting for.

One drawback of by-your-side interpreters is that they are ‘by your side' all day long, invading your privacy, wanting fed, listening to everything, knowing almost everything about you. If you enjoy your own privacy, this system can be irritating.

Over-the-phone interpreters are indispensable, available to speak for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year. They are always available on your mobile-phone, ready to answer your call when you need them.
Over-the-phone interpreting is such a simple system for confidently surviving in China, and it is a system which is used by Westerners who live and work in China, (I know several American and European ex-pats who have lived in China since the 1980's, and they still depend on phone interpreters for just getting about, even though their Mandarin is reasonably good; situations arise daily when only a natural-born Chinese linguist can help).
The system is child-simple: when you have a communication problem, simply speed-dial your service and your call is answered by a professional interpreter. You simply explain to the phone-interpreter what you want to communicate to the Chinese person you are with, then either pass your phone to that person or activate the phone speaker, and your phone-interpreter will speak for you and to you, sorting everything out for you.
Most of the time you will use your interpreter for simple questions and advice such as: telling your taxi driver where you want to go to; telling a shop assistant what size you wear; ordering your meal; finding your way about town; negotiating better bargains at the market; finding a bank or ATM; the list really is endless......

There are two ways phone-interpreter services are priced: by the second, or by the day.

The by-the-second system is just like using your phone at home, except you pay a subscription in advance, and each time you call the interpreters you are charged about GB£0.80 (about US$1.20) per minute. When you use up all your credit you need to pay them more money to continue the service.

The by-the-day system is also paid in advance, but the big advantage for you is that you pay a flat-rate per day which will not vary, so that once you pay for it you can forget about additional demands for payment because there aren't any – it's a fixed budget which you know before you go. This system works out at about US$9.00 per day, regardless of how often you use the service.

If you know enough Mandarin to do whatever you are going to China to do, then the by-the-second system will possibly be the more cost-effective option.
If your Mandarin, (like mine), is basic, (or less than basic, or non-existent), then I recommend the by-the-day flat-rate system.

 

 

 

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Outsource Manufacturing

Outsourcing your manufacturing is a big leap for any size of business.
It can be a bit like having a stranger drive your favourite car while you sit in the back seat.

Any business can contract their manufacturing to a foreign manufacturer.
And any business who tries this alone is risking their product reputation, their business reputation, and a bunch of money.
But when managed correctly outsource manufacturing is the proven recipe for:
- small-budget start-ups
- low-risk diversification
- inexpensive expansion

Outsourcing Benefits:

  • Save on your labour costs
  • Save on your component supply costs
  • Save on your utilities costs
  • Save on your insurance costs
  • Free up OR liquidate your plant & equipment
  • Free up OR liquidate your factory floor space

Outsourcing Dangers:

  • You need uncompromising and comprehensive specifications for Quality Control management
  • Will your product meet importing country's product laws and regulations?
  • Delays in shipping to import destination
  • Delays caused by manufacturing country's public holidays & festivals
  • Product quality may be unseen until final delivery
  • Risk of manufacturer increasing production costs during manufacture
  • Intellectual Property Rights infringement
  • Back-door sales of your product by manufacturer
  • Quality Fade (this is the killer that burns most people)

Hiring an outsourcing agent should be like hiring an employee, yet many companies go about selecting an outsourcing agent as if it is a purchasing process, seeking the lowest price possible for the service.

Think of the outsourcing team as your own team, one that you must carefully choose, and build a relationship with to get excellent results .

You must have good communication with your agents. Just because they are working as a virtual partner doesn't mean they should be out of sight and out of mind. You need to have transparency & regular contact. And you need to set firm deadlines and clear criteria.

Do your due diligence. This involves checking with other clients of the outsourcing agents, and possibly a visit to the manufacturing source. The visit needs to provide an understanding of production, quality control, suppliers and manufacturing conditions. You need to know if your product was produced in a safe manner, and if child labour was used.

Don't think that just because the sample is okay that the shipment will be okay. Your outsourcing agent must oversee ALL manufacturing to enforce your Quality Control specifications during all production. Order your outsourcing agent to send sealed samples from the production run before they complete and ship the whole order; ask for the 10th item and maybe the 500th item from the run.

The facts are:

  • Thousands of big name brands and leading retailers outsource their product manufacturing
  • Outsourcing makes your business more flexible and more profitable
  • Outsourcing allows you to concentrate on your core business and focus on marketing
  • Outsourcing means that you can have a great idea for a product and bring it to market without the hassle and expense of building, equipping, or staffing a factory.

How can you make outsourcing work for your business?

  1. Is your product or product idea protected against copying? If not, seek advice or at the very least have the people you are contracting manufacturing to sign a confidentiality agreement. [see: DUH? Guide to Protecting your Designs]
  2. Engage a reputable outsourcing agency with a successful track record who will:
  • Act as an extension of your business
  • Source the best manufacturing options for your product
  • Oversee the production of your prototypes and get these delivered to you for quick approval/disapproval
  • Negotiate prices and deadlines in your best interests
  • Ruthlessly enforce your Quality Control specifications
  • Enforce Confidentiality Agreements and Intellectual Property Protection on your behalf
  • Advise you immediately of any issues or potential delays
  • Keep in regular contact with your office
  • Ensure packing and shipping meet your required specifications
  • Check that all shipping paperwork is correct and documents dispatched in good time

 

There are hundreds of outsourcing agencies to choose from; so how do you choose the right one for you?
Remember that there is a big difference between getting the cheapest service, and getting the best value service.

Checking through their company website will tell you everything they want to tell you, forget self-praise, you must do your research:

  • Do they have any previous customers willing to recommend them, and are these previous customers authentic?
  • Do they have any experience in the type of products you wish to have manufactured?
  • Do they work to the same high standards that you work to?
  • Is their first language also your first language?
  • If you engage them to act on your behalf what priority will your business be given?

We see other agents with pockets bulging with MBAs and business diplomas, but no practical working knowledge of how to get things done in China :

  • They are unaware of the thousand ways a factory will try to screw you over, (screwing over the Western businessman is a game to many Chinese managers).
  • They will use translators who do not understand the terms and technicalities specific to manufacturing your product.
  • They are in business with the sole purpose to make money.

 

We at DUH have learned this business the hard way.

  • The partners at DUHSourcingSolutions are two American and one British, naturally bringing first-hand Western standards to every aspect of our business.
  • We bring our clients a combined 40 years experience living in, and working within Chinese industry.
  • 40 years experience has taught us just about every dodge and sneaky scheme that unscrupulous factory managers will try in an effort to cheat us – at their ultimate cost.
  • Between us we are available to our clients ANYTIME by telephone, email or Skype.
  • We pride ourselves on the long-term and personal relationships we have with our clients.
  • We are in business because we love what we do.
    We love seeing a concept progressing from rough sketch through to the finished article, and the satisfaction that we have delivered a job well done when we receive the repeat orders.
   
   

 

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Protecting your Designs/Patents in China

 

If you're manufacturing a designed product it is likely that you are already aware of all the ways you can legally protect your designs. But do you know if you are protected when you outsource your manufacturing?

In a nutshell if your patent, industrial design right or copyright is registered in any of the 173 countries contracted to the Paris Convention, you're covered. China is contracted to the Paris Convention and a member of the World Trade Organisation.

The Paris Convention was one of the first international intellectual property protection agreements, a predecessor of the World Intellectual Property Organisation under the control of the United Nations, and subsequently included in the more recent Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights administered by the World Trade Organisation.

So what does this mean?

NOTHING, unless you are financially prepared to pursue any pirates for yourself, by which time the pirate may have made their money, ruined your product reputation, and disappeared in a blizzard of fake documentation.

Intellectual Property protection is very important to protect your rights to the profits of your product. And this protection works reasonably well within the law. But Pirates do not work within the law. Pirates can have come - made their money - and gone again before you have half a chance of enforcing your rights.

The best protection again piracy of your property is to work closely with people who have a successful track record of enforcing your rights, who know the dirty little schemes unscrupulous managers will try to make a quick buck out of other peoples' work.
We could write a book about this just from our personal experiences.
IP protection is a worthwhile investment, of course it is; however it can be likened to installing a burglar alarm on the side of your house, implying that you have something worth stealing.

In my professional opinion (as a Member of the Chartered Society of Designers, professional member of the American Society of Furniture Designers, member of Anti Copying in Design, etc), IP law largely exists to allow lawyers to buy large yachts and keep expensive girlfriends. The aforementioned British organisation, ACID, offers

We at DUH have seen IP piracy time and time again. DUH partner Robert Carson can sniff out an untrustworthy factory manager at 1000 paces, a talent that can only be learnt through experience.
We have suffered piracy directly with our own DUH product designs where we have investigated and subsequently discovered the pirates, and put a dead stop to their business.

We have been there and done it; we know the sneaky schemes unscrupulous factory managers will use to profit from others' hard work; we know that IP protection can be worth about as much as the paper it is printed on.

If you want to protect your intellectual property:

    • Start by engaging reputable outsourcing agents for whom your interests are their priority
    • Agree and sign non-disclosure/confidentiality agreement with your outsourcing agent before you disclose any confidential information about your business or your products
    • Make certain that your agent does the same with any manufacturer who is asked to quote for your products

    Pirates only exist to make a fast buck, so if your product has wide market distribution, and is manufactured and distributed at a price which does not allow a pirate a reasonable mark-up, then what is the profit for the pirate?

The most effective way of achieving the most competitive price for your product is to engage a sourcing agency with a successful reputation and solid track record in your product field.

    Company Websites and email messages can be deceptively wonderful - before committing always make the effort to speak with your agent by phone to get a good feel for the people in whom you will be entrusting your product reputation, your business reputation, and your money.

In favour of manufacturing in China is that piracy is taken seriously when a complaint is made and intellectual property rights are proven. Chinese authorities are keen to be seen as vigilant and proactive against piracy, especially when there is the risk of legitimate Chinese manufacturing jobs being lost as a direct result of piracy.
A typical jail term for IP piracy in China is seven years.
However the Chinese have this eternal love affair with bureaucracy, form filling and chains of responsibility - if you have a dispute, expect to grow old very quickly.

 

 
 
 

BEIGUO ZHICHUN, BLDG 5-1-301, 105 QUZHOU ROAD, HANGZHOU, ZHEJIANG, CHINA, 310015