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It’s time for CFOs to spark relationships in China

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If anyone was hoping for a quick thaw in relations with China under President Joe Biden’s leadership, they’ve already been disappointed.

The first rhetoric about China from the White House has remained harsh. The Biden administration is in no rush to ease Trump’s tariffs and investment restrictions that have escalated trade and political tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

Lou Longo

In his first call Along with President Xi Jinping, Biden highlighted his concerns about China’s coercive and unfair economic practices and told him to expect extreme competition from the United States.

So, is there a reason America’s leaders are optimistic about re-engaging with China? Yes, although domestic relations with China are likely to remain strained and highly competitive.

Despite the harsh rhetoric, the new administration is determined to lead a fundamentally different approach to China, rooted in a rule-based order and one that eschews the confrontation and zero-sum mentality of the past four years.

The focus was likely to be more on accessing Chinese markets than on new tariffs. In many ways, the tariffs have backfired. Rate increases cost the average U.S. household a estimated $ 1,277 last year by deleting a approximately 245,000 jobs in the United States.

Meanwhile, the US trade deficit hits 14-year high in November 2020, as importers simply moved from China to countries like Mexico and Vietnam.

In this political context, C-suite executives in the United States, and in particular CFOs, should now revitalize their company’s strategy and relations with China. This will ensure the strongest possible head start when the restrictions on the pandemic ease.

Worthy of attention

Many American companies have had their heads down in survival mode over the past year. Now is the time to explore their opportunities for global expansion and assess China’s place in this strategy.

China, and Asia more broadly, deserves the attention and commitment of American companies. The Chinese economy is strongly emerging from the pandemic, rebounding 6.5% in the last quarter. This made it the only major economy to avoid a contraction in 2020. Despite US tariffs and restrictions, it has expanded its markets and grown its national economy in impressive ways.

Big decisions don’t happen in the boardrooms of Chinese companies; they are prepared during dinners and drinks afterwards.

China is also a big market for innovative technologies as it is often underestimated in the United States. A large part of Bidens’ environment-focused infrastructure plan will be to modernize the old roads, pipelines and fossil fuel-intensive systems of the Americas.

In contrast, China and much of Asia are starting from scratch, with much less resistance to green technologies like electric cars and solar panels. The region is well positioned to overtake the United States in these growing markets, just as it has in other technology markets.

Hungry relationships

To take advantage of the opportunities mentioned above, CFOs need to develop re-engagement strategies with China on two fronts with suppliers and customers and organizational team members on the ground.

Were emerging from a period when Chinese business relations were deprived of face-to-face meetings and social events that are their cornerstone. Big decisions don’t happen in the boardrooms of Chinese companies; they are prepared during dinners and drinks afterwards.

On top of that, the recent surge of anti-Asian hate crimes headlines in the United States risks widening a trust gap in China over American intentions, which the Chinese state-controlled media will not hesitate to do. not to be exploited.

Even though physical international travel is not yet possible, C-suite executives should have a strategy to re-activate social interactions with their Chinese suppliers and customers. They should work with their teams to create social calendars with approved meeting goals.

These meetings should not be about selling the next widget; they should focus on re-engagement, share stories about the difficult time of the pandemic, and discuss how to move the partnership forward. If the organization does not have boots on the ground, investments must be made creatively to engage virtually with Chinese partners.

Planning for the next physical trip to China should be underway, and it’s critical that senior members of the C-suite, not just the sales team, are on the plane.

It is no less important to engage the home team. Senior executives should demonstrate their commitment to local employees by holding regular meetings and emphasizing the critical importance of these employees to the business.

The point is, if America’s C-suite executives don’t invest a lot of time and resources in doing business with China, they will lose out to companies in Europe and elsewhere that have a more global mindset.

Lou Longo is a partner and leader of the international consulting practice at Plante Moran.

China, China-US business relations, contributor, strategy

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