China Factor

Business strategy books seem to come in one of two camps. There’s the micro level book, focusing on manners and negotiations and contracts. Then there are books at the macro level, looking at the China effect on government, markets and the global economy, and how to adapt your business accordingly. Both have their uses, but for the general reader, the latter category is usually the better to read. The issues are deeper, the outlook broader, and the connection of individual businesses to the macro-environment more intriguing, for in that we see their connection to the broader historical sweep of our time.

The China Factor, then, is a book definitely in the macro level. It aims to show how Chinese business and government operate together to great success in world business, how this has left Western (especially US) business trailing, and suggests remedies and strategies to compete successfully. The book opens with a brief but sweeping historical overview of Western economic dominance and then of China’s resurgence as a major power. Then we come to the meat of the book, where Karam analyses the traditional “Four Ps” of marketing (price, product, placement and promotion), adding a fifth P – politics, for the Chinese government is an active participant, persuading, financing and cajoling as necessary. Karam then explicates how these are performed by China, and then how these should be implemented by Western businesses striving to compete.

The material is well organized, like a series of lectures (perhaps from which it was developed), with bite-sized chapters, outlines, take-aways, and case studies. The convergence of business and government is a good insight, and we may be seeing the roots of a new economic methodology in that – with the state no longer content to establish open markets and essentially leaving businesses to operate within that. However, the macro perspective can occasionally be frustrating, as the reader wants to hear about specific, concrete examples, rather than the generalized overview.

This book may be one of the first American attempts to react strategically to the Chinese economic challenge, and is worth reading for that alone.

Published in Business Tianjin

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