Working in our own interest

The story that China is likely to be involved in developing Britain’s nuclear power capacity has been around for some time. It is an interesting thought, given that Home Secretary, Theressa May, recently expressed national security concerns over Chinese nationals. According to the Guardian,

In May, the energy minister Charles Hendry told the Energy and Climate Change select committee that he had no objection to Chinese firms being involved in the UK.

So what is going on? One thing that definitely isn’t going on is joined up government. For all the criticism that the Chinese government gets, there’s no doubting that there is some consistency in its approach, and a sense, at least, that it is working to some strategic plan. Deng Xiaoping’s metaphor of crossing a river by feeling the stones suggests that there was no clear strategy to China’s reform programme. Yet some thirty-plus years on we’re talking about China’s possible involvement in building nuclear power stations in the UK.

Undoubtedly the world is complex. There will be a difference of opinion in government. But some issues are of national strategic importance. I would suggest that the relationship with China is one such issue. As we explain in may of our training courses, trust lies at the heart of relationships in China, whether between individuals, companies or indeed governments. Understanding how relationships work in Chinese culture is not difficut, but something which few people take the time to acquire properly. But for those who really want to get the most out of working, trading, living or dealing with the Chinese, acquiring that understanding should be high up on their agenda, and that includes within government.

The criticism may be levied that this is just pandering to the Chinese. I’m not going to split hairs, in many ways, yes it is. But there’s a bigger picture to see. It is about working in our own interest, be that national, corporate or personal. And what’s the alternative? Demanding that the Chinese adopt our cultural norms or we don’t engage? Not only is that incredibly short sighted, but ultimately is a misreading of the way the world is today. And if that thought is foolhardy for today, then it is sheer madness for tomorrow.

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