This article is based on a presentation given by Mr Harvey Yan (senior partner and former managing partner at Zhong Yin Law Firm) at the SCLA’s 2nd Online Global Webinar ‘Cultural Conflict and Trust Construction in Transnational Legal Cooperation’ on 28 February 2020. It was drafted by Mr Carlos Li and Ms Ruijia Wang for the SCLA’s report on the event. For the benefit of our readers, we are now publishing it online for the first time, to help us understand and unite our changing world.
Mr Harvey Yan started by quoting two statements: 1) “Know yourself, know your enemy, and you will not lose in one hundred battles”, and 2) “Know yourself, know your partner, and you will not lose in business or in family”.
He highlighted two aspects of Chinese cultures: 1) A relative view of truth and 2) Synthetic, concrete thinking. Regarding the latter, he used the example of autonomous driving to illustrate how linear thinking and lateral thinking could be applied in practice. He also cited social scores as an example to explain lateral thinking, and noted that this was just one of its possible applications.
Regarding “Business Meetings in China”, Mr Yan noted that a Chinese boss would use indirect manner to surround your questions and put them in the context. He would never answer your questions directly unless otherwise you repeat your questions.
In sum, Mr Yan asked “Does culture impact business?” and used the example of “Lukoil and Conocophillips Merger” to explain the difference between individualist and collectivist and the disparity of decision-making habits between Russian and American. Finally, he ended his presentation by suggesting six ways to construct trust between parties: 1) Respect, 2) Honesty, 3) To be well prepared, 4) to be fair and mutual beneficial, 5) communication and trust and 6) to seek help from experts.
In the Q&A session, Mr Kok Chung Hue suggested that we should use a hybrid approach of both lateral and literal thinking. He pointed out that understanding cultures is important and good communication and mutual understanding could help build better relationships.
Mr Tianze Zhang asked what the difference between state-owned enterprises and private companies is. Mr Yan explained that this depends on who makes the final decision. Comparatively, small and medium-sized enterprises are easier to change to adapt to their environment and this trait is the key to success.
Dr Lucien W. Valloni inquired what the importance of time is in China. Mr Yan replied that, generally speaking, Chinese parties would invite their guests a week before but may change the time just before the meeting. Dr Valloni asked whether Chinese lawyers would use lateral thinking in answering a specific legal question. To this Mr Yan said that Chinese lawyers would give their advice directly.
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