Building Bridges

Investments between Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and China are on the rise. To ensure deals and transactions aren’t lost in translation, Darren Chong, Director of the China Business Group at PwC Poland & CEE, helps Polish and Chinese businesses work together.

In the business sector, everyone’s talking about China. You must be very busy.

Definitely. A lot of Polish companies now want to be in China. On their side there’s an interest in CEE where there are a lot of infrastructure, engineering and construction investments, and the Chinese can run these projects. In this part of the world, we’re improving our infrastructure and the funding is coming in.

What is the number one difficulty the Chinese run into when conducting business in Poland?

Understanding the rules and regulations of the law in Poland in business. The legal system is different so people need to understand business law. Very simple things like setting up a company, having member meetings or acquiring Polish entities, and all the legal framework is complicated. My Ph.D. research shows that understanding the law and regulations of the CEE country is the first thing Chinese investors need to overcome.

Are there any challenges with language barriers?

To communicate effectively with Polish business counterparts, colleagues and employees, Chinese people realise it’s not necessary for them to learn Polish. If they can speak Polish it’s a plus, but a lot of business professionals speak English. One of the challenges, however, is understanding how we convey messages in direct and indirect ways.

How is Chinese business etiquette different?

The formal business protocol stems from five thousand years of civilisation and Confucian values. For example, you are expected to stand to welcome a high-ranking leader when they enter the room and, when meeting a Chinese person, you probably need to hand them your business card with two hands. In Poland, you can hand it any way you like so, when I first came here, I thought Polish people were rude. However, Chinese businesspeople are becoming internationalised and they’re exposed to other business practices.

What are key things to remember before going into a meeting with a Chinese company?

Be prepared for the meeting – know about the company’s background, what they’re offering, why they’re here and be patient. Patience is the key. Don’t be in a rush to sign a contract. Take your time to build the personal relationship. Take your time to understand your Chinese business counterpart. If needed, bring along your interpreter to ease the communication.

What’s the best way to approach Chinese people in a networking setting?

Start with small talk like the weather or Chinese tea, pretty much the same way you would approach non-Chinese people. The meeting will be much more effective if you’re being introduced by a Chinese person. During the initial meeting, you might not talk too much about business – you should get to know each other first.

How has globalisation changed the modern business world?

It’s making my job more difficult because a lot of business professionals tend to forget the small details. A lot of people think that with globalisation everything is the same and they can copy and paste the same model, whether in America, Poland and China – but it’s not like that. You can go global, but you also need to localise. That’s why cultural sensitivity plays an important role. Some consultants work well with German or American clients – they’re more direct, talk about facts and figures and close the business deal; however, Asian clients tend to spend time to build a personal relationship first before talking about business. That’s why we have a China Business Group within the PwC network. Our group is dedicated to serving our Chinese clients in order to bridge the cultural gap. We understand their business needs and we want to make sure we can gain their trust because that’s what business is all about.

In line with One Belt One Road initiative, China and Poland are looking for a win-win partnership. Is it possible?

It depends on how you define win-win. A real win-win between China and Poland would mean we’re doing business together, growing together, supporting each other and creating opportunities for each other. This, I think, is the definition of win-win here. Of course, if you look at trade volumes, it’s not a win-win because Poland imports more goods from China – but I think the win-win here should be equality and support.

Darren Chong is the Director and Head of the China Business Group at PwC Poland & CEE, with a network of 29 countries across the region. He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Malaysia, MBA in India, and MSc from the Lancaster University in the UK. Chong has a Ph.D. in Economics and HR Management from the SGH Warsaw School of Economics and has worked and lived in China, India, Malaysia, Philippines and UK.

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