First Confucius Institute lecture outlines challenges of China's international business

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 | 8:22 p.m. CDT; updated 4:30 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 19, 2011

COLUMBIA — The Confucius Institute hosted the first of a series of lectures at Cornell Hall on Wednesday.

Guohui Sun outlined the current situation and challenges of China’s outward foreign direct investment, also known as OFDI.

The Confucius Institute

The Confucius Institute, a nonprofit educational organization funded by the Chinese Ministry of Education, offers a variety of services including:

  • Chinese language education
  • Holding the Chinese Proficiency Test
  • Providing information about China’s culture, economy and trade
  • Promoting business relationships between the U.S and China
  • Managing and advocating additional cultural and educational activities between China and other countries

Sun is a professor and the dean of the School of Business at Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing and is a Fulbright Scholar at the Trulaske College of Business at MU.

Sun’s lecture was delivered in Chinese and later translated by Wen Ou Yang, a communications specialist at the Office of the Vice Provost for International Programs.

China’s OFDI is highly ranked among developing countries, but Sun suggested that the emphasis on investments instead of operations is sacrificing China’s brand image.

“Although GDP is going up, the country’s image needs to be improved," Sun said in his presentation. "It will be the biggest challenge for Chinese government if they want to be a successful international business."

Sun explained that a country’s political image, geographical location and international interaction all contribute to the way consumers buy products. He cited an example in which an American wants to buy a car but contemplates the decision because he or she feels reluctant to buy a car from a communist country.

Sun also addressed the difference between the consumers in each country.

“Western consumers focus more on quality and experience, while Chinese consumers are much more emotional,” he said. This emotional focus means that if a customer is satisfied, friends and family members will most likely make the same purchase.

When asked if China will continue to invest in other countries, specifically South Africa, Sun said it would be tough because they would be faced with a new culture and would have to adapt to the local government’s needs.

“Compared to developed countries, South Africa has much lower technology levels, making it more difficult for them to adapt to our products," he said.

MU Vice Provost for International Programs Handy Williamson explained that we need to understand China and its culture if we are to be competitive in the future.

“As these relationships emerge, the impact of globalization will happen whether we like it or not, and we will benefit from being informed," he said.

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