In search of macro-fauna
I have said this in other fora, and as my book Public Relations in China goes to bookstores I am getting questions from media and others that have caused me to lay out the following disclaimer:
- I am not a “China expert.”
There is no such thing as a “China expert.”
Anyone who comes to you claiming to be a “China expert” is either deluded (and thus to be pitied), lying (and thus suspect), or out to separate you from your money (and thus to be avoided.)
You don’t have to believe me. Dr. Fan Gang, the head of China’s National Economic Research Institute and the Secretary-General of the China Reform Foundation (among many other titles), once said as much to a reporter when she asked Dr. Fan and I whether, “as China experts,” we saw China’s economy improving or in decline in coming years. He denied being a China expert, told the reporter that he knew I agreed, and questioned the very existence of anyone who could claim the title of a China experts.
China is too large, too old, and too complex to be sufficiently understood by a single individual. At the very most, we can be “specialists.” We can never be “experts.”
When doing business in China, you thus cannot rely on the counsel of a single individual, regardless of how experienced, well-connected or erudite. Instead, seek and genuinely consider the advice of a range of people of different backgrounds, and in so doing form your own view based on a synthesis of their views.
China “experts” will only get you into trouble.