The China market

The article ``West's China traders learn to pack patience in their briefcases'' [Dec. 11] requires some balance. As a businessman, lecturer, and consultant in China since 1976, I have witnessed much of what your correspondent says. But Westerners fail to understand the complexity of the China market and the lack of the kind of infrastructure that we tend to take for granted in our business dealings. Communications, distribution networks, raw materials, power supplies, service, and maintenance -- all elements of our daily business system are many times primitive and sometimes nonexistent in many parts of China. Most businessmen arrive in China unprepared. They go to sell on their initial trip, when they should concentrate on marketing on the first go-around. The economy of China is not run from the top, but from the grass-roots level. Thus if one fails to ferret out how the system works, one can never expect to work in the system! Those who spend the necessary time in preparation are well rewarded.

The People's Republic of China maintains trade offices in major Western capitals and commercial centers. These offices, which report back to the various state-owned enterprises (i.e., the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade, with its various trust and investment corporations), are extremely important information sources to the novice China trader. The China Foreign Trade Consultation and Technical Service Corporation (Consultec), with headquarters in Peking and offices in the major provinces (and the United States), can virtually walk the visiting businessman through the business and trading system. Such a two-day briefing is worth weeks of research -- not for free, but then, where in this world of ours do we continue to expect the freebie!

It is important to understand that China is embarked on a critical course. China's move to even a modified form of free enterprise has immense ramifications for the West. The West, particularly the United States, should do everything possible to help China through this transition. We should worry less about the current inconveniences of doing business in China and more about how both Western governments and businesses can formulate policies to bring China into the sphere of the free-market economies around the world.

In the short term, American businessmen should consider the investment of both the Japanese government and business community in the growing economy of the People's Republic of China. The ``patience packed in briefcases,'' a standard ingredient of the Japanese executive's baggage, will pay off handsomely in the long term. If the US businessman intends to be a competitor in the China market, he had better not lose enthusiasm because of poor hotel accommodations and missed flight connections. A great deal is at stake in China's experiment with free enterprise. J. R. Nater Vice-president and executive director World Business Division Stanford Research International Menlo Park, Calif.

The sentiment expressed by Hugh Stubbins (Jan. 14, ``When we take longer to see beauty than to destroy it'') holds an important lesson for all, one that finds special significance in a changing industrial environment. Nonetheless, I found it disingenuous of the Monitor to illustrate Stubbins's capacity for architectural innovation with a photo of Berlin's ``pregnant oyster'' without mentioning that this structure collapsed at the end of 1979. Fortunately, no one was injured -- but insofar as this Congress Hall was constructed as a testimony to a new German-American friendship following World War II, the metaphor was not lost on those of us whose research focuses on relations within the NATO alliance. Joyce Marie Mushaben St. Louis Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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