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Friendship friendship, and money apart

Russian with the Chinese brothers forever - but what should I consider in the process of fraternization?

Friendship friendship, and money apart
Photo: Koldunova Anna, shutterstock

Leonid Blyakher

Professor, Head of the Department of Philosophy and Culturology of the Pacific State University, Doctor of Philosophy
Having received a proposal to speculate about the difficulties in the process of friendship between Russian and Chinese business people, I fell into an easy prostration. The reason is simple. All that I know about the interaction with the southern neighbor, knows any or almost any Far East. Moreover, many of my acquaintances, who have been working with counterparts from the Middle Kingdom for many years, know an order of magnitude more. Is it worth it to fence? 

But, in the end, I decided that it was worth it. Firstly, experience shows that the EastRussia site is visited not only by Far Easterners. For people who are "Western", my thoughts may be interesting. Secondly, those who work with Chinese partners rarely talk publicly about the specifics of cooperation in this market. Therefore, my views on this matter have the right to exist. Inspired by these thoughts, I proceeded ...

The first consideration is regional geography. China is a gigantic country, varying greatly from north to south and from east to west. The southern and, especially, southeastern part of China is an industrialized development and quite seriously westernized territory. It is there that the largest shopping centers and logistic gates of China, manufacturing corporations and financial operators, the breadbasket, the forge and the health resort of the country are located. Here, for any foreigner who wants to invest in the economy of the PRC, they will create a regime of maximum favor. Of course, bureaucracy and quite complicated is here. But, if your proposal is interesting, then you simply will not notice it. At least it's still interesting. The western part of the country, like the south-west, is much less developed. On the other hand, it is precisely there that the state investments most actively flow, road construction is underway, new cities and towns are being built. So far, foreign partners are not welcome there and not always. Not too easy there is everything. And if the southeast is quite cosmopolitan in its preferences, then the west is much more conservative.

North China, adjacent to the Far Eastern territories of Russia, - China is very special. It is not just "mastered" by Russians in recent decades so that signs in Russian in the border cities of China have become the norm. Here the level of cultural interaction between the two countries, two peoples and cultures is much deeper. And for the Chinese, and for Russian civilization - this region is a remote periphery. But these peripheries are closing, fused, begin to resemble each other. It is no accident that Russia has become almost the first power with which China enters into an equal trade agreement (see the articles of the Nerchinsk Peace Treaty).

After the accession to Russia of the Amur Region and Primorye in the middle of the 19th century, Russia's influence on this region of China became even denser. Railway construction (CEL) and the construction of cities, numerous concessions in the "Kvantunsky region", as this territory was then called - all this created a special aura of northern China, Zheltorossiya. Even the defeat of Russia in the Russian-Japanese war did not change the situation. The ruble remained the main currency of the territory, and the Russian language was “the language of interethnic communication,” and official clerical work.

After the Bolshevik coup in the Far East in 1922, a huge mass of the population of the Amursky outskirts fled from socialist happiness to North China, where Russian press and educational institutions, trade and production for many decades were preserved. And today tens of thousands of descendants of Russian immigrants continue to live in the north of the Celestial Empire.

In the 50-ies, it was in these provinces that the main investments were made from the USSR. And the higher educational institutions of Harbin, Mudandzian and other large cities of the northern part of the PRC were created, by the way, like the Far Eastern universities, by the "landing" of specialists from Moscow and Leningrad. All this creates a special atmosphere of the northern territories, which, as a tourist brand, chose the image of "Russian China", correct and understandable to Russia, unlike that which is "beyond the river".

This does not mean at all that everything Russian will be accepted here with a bang. But other things being equal, the offer from Russia is more likely to meet interest and understanding than any other. And the Russian language is much more widespread than the same English. The cooperation of adjacent territories here is not determined by the decisions of the “high authorities”, but by the very essence of mutual relations at the frontier, where they prefer to be friends and negotiate, rather than conflict.

The second consideration is friendship, friendship, and money apart. The habit of helping the "fraternal countries", which was formed during the period of the empire and is actively manifested in the era of the USSR, remains in Russia today. On politics, as we know, we do not save. In this case, subconsciously waiting for a partner of a similar approach. But alas, such altruism is not a typical thing, at least in China.

You can note as many as you like the proximity of geopolitical interests, the intention to develop cooperation, etc. But this, in no way, will lead to the imposition of any significant amount in the economy of a fraternal country without guarantees that the investor will receive an understandable and tangible benefit. The Chinese can be anything but "American imperialism". However, understanding that it is the United States, and not at all fraternal Russia, which is the main economic partner of the PRC, will determine its economic behavior.

Unfortunately, this understanding is not always found in the strategists of the domestic economy. As a result, instead of investments and joint projects, protocols of intentions, correct political declarations and the feeling that you have been deceived are obtained. Hence the ongoing discussion of the yellow threat and creeping expansion. But everything is simple. Do you want to be friends? Let's hold festivals and conferences, meet each other at a party and speak good words to the accompaniment of crystal wine glasses.

Want to do business? You can too. Then you should calmly think about what of what your partner needs is interesting to you too? Or vice versa. Does your partner have something that will allow you to do the job better, better, more efficiently? Is there an opportunity to build relationships so that everyone is interested and beneficial? If there is, then you can kiss on the gums later, as well as talk about eternal love and friendship between our fraternal countries. This is also important, but it's about something else. Not about the economy.

The third consideration is a complex law, but simple rules. Indeed, the number of laws in China is great. Here we can quite rejoice for the domestic legislation. There are also more cumbersome. In addition, to the very correct laws of the state level (for the WTO, for foreign partners, etc.) there are provincial laws, decisions of party bodies, traditions that are executed no less tenderly than laws.

For an external observer, this is some impossible bundle of contradictions, conflicts, and uncertainties. But this is for the outside observer. For agents acting inside, all this easily fits into clear and, most importantly, stable rules of the game, perfectly understood by all participants. Depending on the level at which these rules are drawn up, they acquire one or another “legal” form, remaining the same rules.  

By the way, Russian legislation is perceived in the same way. For the Chinese entrepreneur there is no fundamental difference between the formal norm and the informal rule. He sees the rules of the game and plays on them. Here, and there is an urgent need for entrepreneurs of the two countries, and not only entrepreneurs in each other. Both in the first and in the second version you need a "pilot" who will guide the ship of your business through all the Scylls and Charybdis of foreign rules.

How do you interest him, your problems. But without such a "pilot" your path will be much more difficult. Yes, and its successful completion will not be obvious. If you can become such a “pilot” for a Chinese partner, he will also find an opportunity to thank you. That is, you need to agree and supercomplex laws will suddenly become very simple and clear. The main thing is not to measure them with your measure. They are different. They were created for different.

There are also psychological differences. They are not principled, but sometimes they turn communication into a chain of misunderstandings. Informants from among domestic entrepreneurs often noted that it is very difficult for Chinese partners to say "no". For them, it's a loss of face. With a counterparty seeking to "put all the points above and", as a rule, just tearing the relationship. There are many differences. If you just enumerate them, then a small article will expand to a fair volume. But from the words of the same informants, another thing follows: whatever differences in norms and mentality, culture and education there are, if people are interested in each other, in joint activity, then they will agree. Reasonable people will always find an opportunity to agree with each other.
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