China is full of opportunities – this sentence has almost become a cliche. People from the Western countries flock to the Middle Kingdom to establish businesses in the hope of grasping the new wealth from the Chinese, be it a trading, manufacturing, luxury, wine trading, or the recently-emerging art dealing. Yet, the way Chinese people do business is completely different than what one could every imagine. Except for the usual practice of emphasizing the “guan xi” (it means relationship in Chinese), the hierarchy, the below-the-table transactions etc., there is one thing I would like to share with you.
I’m talking about the trust test a French friend of mine experienced from a Chinese client.
The Frenchman is a wine dealer, trading company as well as restaurant owner. He deals with different Chinese clients who operates restaurants, bars, night clubs, hotels and hospitality premises that need wine. As the Frenchman is selling original high-quality French wine, he get approached by many Chinese clients who show great interest in his wine.
There is one time, he is invited to by Chinese client’s birthday party at the client’s night club. The French wine dealer goes to the night club, not feeling surprised by the excessive cigarette-smelling air at the spacious bar. There are plenty of private rooms at the club (as the Chinese like to book a room for private party that only people who are closely connected with can get invited).
The Chinese client (the night club owner) invites the Frenchman to his suite inside the night club. As usual, the French wine trader pitches the Chinese client for his wine collection. The client is impressed, as the wine collections are really exclusive and original from the vineyards in a foreign country that is far far away. The Chinese client is well assured of the quality of the wine he’s probably going to purchase, as he’s convinced by the quality of the leather handbags and perfumes produced in the same country where the wine comes from.
However, this Chinese client is picky. He gives a trust test just to see whether the French man is reliable and that he wouldn’t rip him off. The Chinese then calls up ten women to the suite, undressed. Completely undressed, maybe only with high-heels. The Chinese asks the French to pick one of the ten to take home with.
The Frenchman says, “no, I don’t want any of them. They look nice, but I really don’t want any. Thanks”.
The Chinese client is surprised and says in his hard-to-understand English, “really? You’re French, you guys are romantic. If you like them, take one!”
The Frenchman insists, “no, I come here for business, not for this”.
The Chinese client smiles and replies, “you’re someone I can definitely trust. Prepare three containers of the complete red wine collection you showed me just now to be shipped in two months”.
The Frenchman is happy, “thank you Mr. Hung! I will prepare everything and will ask my secretary to inform you of the status. Just curious, why I pass your test so easily?”
The Chinese client laughs, “because last time I gave out the same test to another French wine trader, he took away three women with him”.