Monday, July 25, 2005

In this first installment of the China Business podcast, Kent Kedl explains how developing a successful strategy for conducting business in China is like - as former Chinese Premier Deng Xiao-ping said - "crossing a river by feeling for stones."

Picture yourself standing on the bank of a river - not a lazily flowing creek, but a rushing monster, filled with melted spring snows from the mountains many miles upstream - and you need to get across. The water is cold and loud and you would give nearly anything for a bridge; but you don’t have one. You can barely see, among the rapids, the tops of rocks peeking out of the froth. Many look slippery with water and accumulated algae, but some look pretty solid, too, having withstood the water pressure for many years.

You look out ahead of you and begin to map a strategy to cross the river: “I can step on that black one with my right foot and then on that beige one with my left...” you mutter to yourself. And so you begin to cross, reaching your foot out and gingerly placing it atop the first stone. You apply slight pressure, moving your foot around to test stability. If it passes the test, you step out on it — and then you are committed to finding other stones to get you across.

Deng was explicitly telling us that it would not be easy, that there is no bridge, only stones.


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