What would Confucius have made of UKTI?

Far be it for me to belabour the UK Trade and Investment quango: I seek only to help.  In that context my attention was drawn to UKTI’s 1st Edition of “Doing Business in China”, their 164 page guide.  It would not have impressed Confucius.

Quite soon (p.24) the novice SME exporter gets to this advice:

Do you know the answers to the following questions before you start venturing into China:

• What are the unique selling points to [sic] your business proposition? • Will there be a market for your product and services? • Are there any legal barriers to your business model? • Where in China would you start? • Do you have sufficient resources (management time, project finance and expenses) to fund your China projects? • Who will be leading the project within your company? • Do you need to work with a partner in China to succeed? • Can you communicate with them effectively? • Have you evaluated business risks (such as protecting your IP) and conducted research and due diligence? • Do you know how to secure payment and get the right quality products? • Would Hong Kong be a safer place to start?

It seems that no British SME should even consider visiting China, soon to be the largest market in the world, without knowing the answers to all those questions. How on earth could a novice exporter answer those questions without visiting China? What world is UKTI living in?

None of the producers of this guide are Chinese and, although the usually admirable China Britain Business Council have had a hand in it, there is no sign the producers have any relevant experience.  There is no bibliography which might point novice exporters to China guides with better foundations.

We should not belabour UKTI but try to help.  And especially try to help them focus their limited resources in the most productive way.  They could begin by burning this book and starting again.

Tim Ambler is a co-author of Doing Business in China, published by Routledge (2010, 3rd edition).