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Duke of York: British business must embrace China

/ 6 November 2014

Prince Andrew has said that British business needs to be less polite, more competitive and embrace the Chinese market. He said companies needed to be “more bullish” in their dealings with China. Speaking to BBC 5 Live the Duke of York said: “We have a large amount of economic activity with the United States so we should not be afraid of having a large amount of activity with China. We need to be more competitive and fight for what we have and what we’ve got, rather than being happy with being second best.”

Source: BBC News

It’s impossible not to be reminded of the idiom about “bullish” behaviour in the presence of China. In the BBC’s article, Ewan Cameron Watt of the BlackRock Investment Institute suggests that the Duke of York’s remarks will infuriate business owners who are already working their hardest: a red rag to a bull, one might say.

It’s all very well to suggest UK entrepreneurs need to be more competitive in the Chinese market – but the number one reason for failing at an overseas business venture is lack of proper planning and research. So don’t plough on in. Research your target market. Understand local customs, and ways of doing business. Work with UK representatives in these markets who understand the differences between the UK and Far Eastern worlds of business.

We’d also like to mention the news, reported by us in June, of deals worth £18bn between China and the UK, suggesting much less trepidation than Prince Andrew perceives. An esoteric reference to “British phlegm” (is he comparing so-called British reserve to not clearing our throats?) might further lead cynics to denounce the Duke’s opinions as a load of b… as failing to hit the bullseye.

There’s no denying, though, that the Duke of York’s comments are those of a man who is well-travelled (even more so than his hill-walking nursery rhyme forebear). After all, some areas of the press awarded him the nickname Air Miles Andy. If one is going to dispense advice to entrepreneurs, though, it needs to derive from thinking more widely around an issue, beyond personal experience that may (in Prince Andrew’s case) owe something to privilege. While bullishness may get results for some who do business internationally, better to be a thoughtful tourist than an impetuous ‘taurus’.