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China

The threat of being kidnapped to any western executive in your charge is very small. The threat that any western executive will suffer from any other harm is very low, unless of course that executive arrives on a pretext and starts spouting free Tibet rhetoric, or advocating other items of social unrest. If this is the case you can consider your charge dropkicked out of the country. Bad guests are bad guest no matter where they are.

The real challenges will come from the difference in cultures and information gathering styles.

Food

The Chinese eat a wide variety of foods. We have had deep fried baby shrimp and fish, squid egg soup, 1,000-year-old eggs (actually only about 90 days), donkey (it tastes like horse), eel, chicken intestines, and fish gelatin. We like to eat different foods, and all of these dishes – and many more – were very tasty. We are beholden to our hosts for opening the many different facets of Chinese high cuisine to us. Now, when we discussed this with our office staff, a few of them choked and nearly gagged. If you do not like this variety of foods, tell your host in advance, but do not insult them by refusing something. One globetrotting executive is a vegetarian. On her many trips to China she has explained this in advance and has had no problems. Thus, she has not had to refuse food and embarrass herself or her hosts. Even better, because her hosts understood this in advance, they took the effort to introducer to some very fine and rare desert melons, which she would not otherwise have encountered.

Liquor

Some like to drink alcohol, others do not. If you don’t like to drink, tell them that and take tea or soft drinks. If you like to have a drink, steel yourself for Chinese Rice Liquor. It is about 60-proof. If you wish to try it in advance you can find it at most Chinese grocery stores around the globe. The rice liquor is milder in flavor than Japanese sake, but with a powerful kick. It is taken neat at room temperature in small glasses. Part of what your hosts are looking for is how you conduct yourself when drunk: Are you a braggart? Are you an angry drunk? Are you the same person after the liquor as you were before the liquor?

Ladies

It is not uncommon to offer the male executive female companionship. Make your mind up in advance if you will accept the offer. If not, be prepared with a polite “thank you, but I must not.” Don’t be rude or shocked: It is an offer of some significance.

Information

The Chinese gather information the old fashion way: They listen, watch, and digest what you do and say. You will find opportunities at bars and social clubs to discuss the day’s events and future strategies. But odds are that if you are a person of significance, someone saying. If you are at one of the social clubs in the hotels that cater to western visitors, you can be sure of it. This is done in most countries. It is done in the US and Europe, especially France, all the time. In fact, competitive intelligence is the US is sometimes harvested by hanging out at “company” bars. The Chinese are just better at it and more organized than most.

Equipment

The importation of technical equipment into China can be difficult and perilous. If the inspector does not know what it is, it may not get in. If someone does know what it is, it still may not get in. If it looks valuable, it may just disappear, just like in the San Juan airport. As always, airlines disavow losses of bags or damage to fragile items unless declared and insured in advance. There are many different ways to clear this equipment, but what needs to be done can be very specific to the equipment. One company was importing livestock embryos for implantation. While the embryos were permitted, the container that held them was not, and was opened to see what was inside. End of embryos.

Always clear what technical equipment you are going to bring into the country, and do it well ahead of arrival.

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