sábado, mayo 12, 2007

Emprendedores y Estado en China

Atando cabos de "viejos" artículos sobre los agentes económicos en China: BBC muestra cuatro testimonios diversos de chinos con estudios universitarios desarrollados en el exterior (publicado en febrero), y los periodistas Richard He Huang y Gordon Orr, de Wharton (septiembre 2006) aconseja a los accionistas extranjeros qué hacer con sus inversiones en empresas estatales gobernadas por el partido comunista. Es decir, individuo y estado, emprendedores y control estatal: cuánto pesará esta dualidad en el crecimiento futuro de China.
De la BBC, los testimonios son contradictorios en cuanto a la "fuga de cerebros" que menciona, porque de los cuatro comentados, su disposición se reparte por mitades: dos no volverían, y dos, con reservas, lo intentan. Cualquiera de ellos refleja que los emprendimientos personales son árduos en China.
Hablan los que no volverán:
Ming Wang, Singapur:
I was one of the first Chinese students to study abroad.
After I graduated in engineering I studied for a PhD and later became a lecturer at Keele University.
I was also looking for a suitable job in China at that time, even though my parents and relatives thought I was crazy.
Then came 4 June 1989. After seeing the painful images of tanks marching into Tiananmen Square, I realised that I won't be able to return to China for a long time.
On the surface China has changed so much, but essentially it still is a coercive society.
It was Deng Xiaoping who had made it possible for people like me to receive education in a foreign country. It was the same Deng Xiaoping who stopped me from returning to China.
I was offered a job at a research institute in Singapore. After a few years I set up my own company, which provides advanced IT solutions to industries in South East Asia.
In 2001, I went back to China for the first time. I was very impressed by the economic development. I decided to start doing business with China. After a few years of experience, I gave up on China completely.
On the surface China has changed so much, but essentially it still is a coercive society. The Maoist ideology has been replaced by "getting rich is glorious" ideology. I discovered that it is almost impossible not to become corrupt. The hypocrisy of the establishment is destroying the morality of Chinese people.
Hometown, family, friends and culture are important to me. But what matters to me most is the freedom of choice. I am deeply depressed to see misery and poverty, and people who don't care about social injustices. It is no wonder that so many are voting with their feet.
Meng Jie, Canada:
I am originally from Shaanxi Province in western China. My parents decided to come to Canada in 2000 when I was 13.
They were lecturers at a small university. They had worked very hard so that they could leave their farming homes.
They felt pressure to work tirelessly so that they can get into university and find a job. They wanted me to have a better future.
A few years before they left, they bought about 20 computers to provide students with a computer lounge for study or leisure use. But soon school officials started to come around to tell them how many rules they had broken. The hassle was simply a hint that they needed to pay them some money to settle things.
The original plan was that they would stay in Canada until I get into a decent university, after which they would return to China. I am now an engineering student at the University of Waterloo.
But now they have changed their mind. They made a few Chinese friends here and decided that life in Canada is a lot easier. In 2004 we went back for a brief visit. The lack of change throughout the country assured us that our decision was correct.
I do not have plans to go back soon, but I don't rule it out. The growth of China cannot be ignored. But the same goes for other things, like bureaucracy and corruption. The wealth gap is so big and it's difficult to tell on which side you will end up.
There are stories of highly paid professors and researchers, while there are those who work for as little as 2000 Yuan ($258, £132) a month. Many of the Chinese students here do not even think about going back. The ones who return are those who have no other choice.
I also feel that my countrymen are still highly nationalistic. I often get attacked on Chinese forums for having a more global perspective.
If China wants its educated people back, it needs to allow critical thinking and entrepreneurial ability, instead of treating its people like machines designed to endure stress and depression.
Los que volverían, o lo han hecho y permanecen:
Feng Li, Reino Unido; Feng viaja tras haber alcanzado con su estudio una posición administrativa en China:
I am from south-east China, not far from Shanghai. I came to the UK to do my Masters in 2004. After graduating a year later I got a job as a planning policy officer at a local district council.
I didn't leave China to find a better life abroad. To be honest, the life quality I had in China was much better than here. The reason for me to be here is to get knowledge and experience in a developed country.
Universities in China produce loads of graduates each year, the competition is very strong and it is very difficult to get a good job straight after university. You have to offer something more than the other graduates and it's all about wider experience.
China's growing integration with the rest of the world means that the need of multi-culturalism is more important than ever. Once equipped with experience and knowledge I plan to go back.
Many of those who started leaving from the 1980s until the late 1990s have chosen to stay abroad. The reason is that China used to be poor, whereas a foreign country could provide them with better career opportunities or at least a better life style.
Many people in China became rich in the last decade and unlike during previous decades, many can afford to go abroad now. Studying and working abroad is no longer just about fortune hunting, it's about life style.
If you read some reports on this, you will find that more and more overseas Chinese are continuously going back to contribute to the rapid economic development. China has never been so hungry for educated people and has started a movement to bring them back.
I think most of the Chinese people who live abroad would like to go back, at some point. The reason they keep on staying is perhaps of a more human nature - for fear of change, fear of losing what they've already got, fear of failure.
Life in the UK is very different from China. It's peaceful and there are fewer pressures. But there is a barrier - mostly because of cultural differences. It's difficult to make friends and belong to a community and I would find it difficult to make it a home.
Wang Li, retornado:
I came back to China in 2005 after 17 years studying and lecturing abroad. My major field is international studies.
From the very beginning, even as a undergraduate student in China, I had realised that China's future statesmen and scholars must learn the rules of the wold's politics and economics.
In its recent history, China has suffered at the hands of western powers because of a lack of understanding of the outside world.
I went to Harvard equipped with a Masters' degree from a Chinese university and confidence that I was good. The list of books to read gave me a shock - I hadn't heard of any of them and I quickly felt out of my depth.
I decided to come back after all these years - I am an old dog who needs a home to settle down. But more importantly, I wanted to pass on the knowledge I gained abroad.
My teaching is far better than colleagues who never left China. I use modern methods and I am open to new ideas. My students at Nankai University read the same books as American and British students.
Coming back after so long does come at a cost: while I've been away, the made-in-China professionals have filled nearly all the attractive positions of political and economic power. I am an outsider and I cannot compete with long-established local academics.
I am unlikely to benefit from the money the government provides to universities, for example. In addition, in 2002 the government stopped providing accommodation for returned university lecturers, so I had to rent or buy a place to live.
Young people are leaving, but I don't think it's a problem for China in the short term. Let's be realistic: China is still a developing country and it cannot offer fantastic opportunities to all its young intelligent people.
Those who stay abroad will be China's windows: to draw more investment, know-how and new ideas that will help China in the years to come.
La contracara de los proyectos y emprendimientos personales lo representa la actividad predominante de las empresas estatales. Herederas del sistema económico comunista, suman nuevas características (apertura al inversor privado) pero con dificultades evolucionan a la gestión y composición capitalista. Wharton aconseja a los inversores extranjeros cómo manejarse en tal contexto:
As more and more major Chinese state-owned enterprises list in Hong Kong and on international exchanges, the governance of those companies has become an increasingly important issue. This trend has been reinforced by the fact that foreign strategic investors are now allowed—for the first time—to acquire a significant shareholding in state-owned enterprises listed on China’s renminbi-denominated A-share exchanges, in Shanghai and Shenzhen.
Too often, however, investors and independent international directors remain unsure how governance really works in China’s state-owned enterprises and how it is changing. Outside directors on boards may be frustrated or simply puzzled by the seemingly invisible forces that make important decisions about, for example, appointments of chief executives or major acquisitions. In China’s state-owned enterprises, the board of directors often seems to have no more than the ability to rubber stamp the big decisions.
Investors are rightly concerned about how key decisions are made in companies in which the majority shareholder is still the government and the Communist Party plays a powerful if shifting role. By better understanding that role in the governance of state-owned enterprises, foreign companies can learn to deal with them more effectively.
Cómo pesa el partido en la empresa:
China has 70 million party members, and a typical state-owned enterprise may have hundreds if not thousands of them on staff. Consequently, as long as a company remains a state-owned enterprise, the Communist Party committee plays a pivotal role in key decisions—for example, the nomination of top executives, executive evaluation and compensation, asset acquisitions and disposals, and annual budgets. Sometimes the party committee may even get involved in operational decisions, such as whether to take on a specific major supplier or to purchase housing for key employees.
Huang y Orr afirman que el partido está preocupado por asegurar menor influencia en las decisiones, para evitar el "descuento por intervención gubernamental" (the “governance discount” that foreign investors apply) que aplican los inversores extranjeros, pero las prácticas establecidas pesan más:
This is easier said than done, however. Although most academics, government and party officials, and company executives accept broad best-practice principles, few are putting much effort into designing the details necessary to implement good governance, because of the apparent domestic sensitivities and complexities involved. Foreign investors, in other words, shouldn’t expect China’s state-owned enterprises to reach world-class standards of corporate governance anytime soon.
(...) By following the current debate and trying to understand where the party committee draws the line, foreign investors will be able to focus their efforts more successfully. On some issues they’ll have little leverage: for instance, on appointments of top personnel, at least for the foreseeable future, outside directors can express their views, but the party committee will make the final decision.
Los periodistas aconsejan influír en las decisiones de estrategia, de largo alcance, no en la gestión:
On issues concerning company strategy or major deals, however, the party values the views of strategic investors more highly. A seat on the strategy committee can be crucial because it exposes outside directors to issues and their associated data before they come before the full board.
(...) Strategic investors should thus strive to ensure that the directors they appoint join the strategy committees of the companies in which they invest. The best time to put this arrangement in place is during the negotiations over the initial strategic investment, when investors have maximum leverage. Too often they let this moment slip by. Any agreement should specify which committees the outside board members will serve on and whether they will chair those committees. A more assertive stance would have investors spelling out key items that should appear regularly on the agenda of the strategy committee. Once on it, strategic investors should endeavor to encourage meaningful and challenging debates during meetings. Given the greater experience of a multinational in drafting market- and investor-oriented strategies, it has a powerful rationale for asserting a leadership role.
El consejo, acercarse, conocer, e influír sobre el partido:
Investors wanting to affect decision making in broader areas will need to recognize the influence of the party committee and to devise a plan for communicating with it. Even if the goal is merely to create a partnership with a major state-owned enterprise, lobbying and presale communications should target both senior executives and members of the party committee.
(...) Best practice is to obtain the state-owned enterprise’s organization chart showing both party committee members and senior executives. Then investors must ask themselves whether they have covered most of the real decision makers (including those who don’t speak the investors’ home language) and whether their influence is broad enough to get the party committee’s attention.
(...) [Los inversores] should actively participate in the ongoing governance debate in China, the better to safeguard their own investments and to help state-owned enterprises move closer to international best practice. While a confrontational push for a major change of direction will achieve little, constructive input on how to move forward step by step can create real momentum for change.
En una época de transiciones, el forcejeo entre la vieja estructura y la creciente presencia de la clase media con proyectos propios, tiene una ruta probable que ya vimos en Europa del este.
Otro artículo de Wharton, lateralmente, toma este aspecto, comparando los estilos de emprendedores en Estados Unidos y China:
The Chinese have a very different approach. Chinese entrepreneurs, (...), are every bit the risk-takers their American counterparts are, but they act from within a well-defined social framework. Chinese entrepreneurship stresses “creative construction,” which entails accepting degrees of government control and lack of democratic self expression that Americans would find hard to swallow. With China accounting for 40% of global economic growth in the early years of the 21st century, these differences may indeed be no bar to profit making, but they are culturally significant and need to be understood, if American firms are to compete -- and cooperate -- with China.
(Wharton, Opportunity Missed: A Brief Look at Entrepreneurship in the U.S. and China, comentando el libro de Reed Hundt In China’s Shadow)

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