November 19th 2012

“I do not let Chinese trade delegations into my Canadian plants.”

Chinese wall

During one of our many discussions with Chinese expatriates while we were traveling together in China, this one about trade delegations was most disconcerting and surprising.

One fellow commented , “I do not let Chinese trade delegations into my plants in Canada.”  I asked why.  He had learned from colleagues that Chinese trade delegations to Canada were rarely about  finding new business ventures. Rather it was about getting subsidized to free travel and high living for the participants while traveling, plus they are charged to take pictures/evidence of everything to take back.

One other fellow agreed, ” I saw these guys take pictures of my plant, the equipment, our layout, the supplies area, the power substation outside, right up to the power lines leading to the plant.  After they left, they never responded to any of my emails or calls about any potential for business.  This happened to friends of mine as well.   Later I heard that CSIS is very concerned about how much espionage is being carried out by these trade delegations and that many Canadians, including city Mayors and Councils are unwitting contributors to this”

The first responded, ” I had a mid level employee  retire to China and he was approached to play a role with Chinese companies talking to their local /state governments and banks officials . He would dress up in a good suit and get taken to lunches with these officials . He was held up as a major Canadian investor interested in the projects and often his presence was enough to get the approvals needed for these big projects to go ahead.  The officials gained great face on being visited by dignitaries.

These Chinese companies and local officials will invite foreign trade commissions over to China as show ponies to impress the locals.  The trade commission folks never find out their true purpose is to gain prestige for others, not business.  If the Chinese govt really wanted foreigners to do business locally, they would remove the byzantine rules and barriers that are thrown up, ”

Hearing this I fear that many Canadian govt officials are being lead around by the nose with invitations to come to China. One could even call these boondoggles unless a lot of homework is done.  We are very trusting and innocent in this style of business.  Better that Canadian companies went to India if anywhere . IMHO.

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