China & Israel business relations: A love upgrade
Israel and China have a relationship, and just like in every love story, what excited you at first is exactly what bothers you the most further down the line.
In the beginning, the Chinese loved the Israeli entrepreneurial spirit that sprouted startups like mushrooms after a good rain. But the typical Israeli rush to immediately manufacture every idea is the polar opposite of conservative Chinese culture, which advocates precision, respect and hierarchy, and calls for forging a personal connection and trust before doing business together, which, of course, takes time. In the world of Israeli innovation there is no time to lose—nor hierarchy, nor polite distance. Attention to detail often comes through trial and error, with a lot of other risk-taking along the way.
Asia Times has published many articles concerning business interests between China and Israel: “China and Israel’s tale of love and high-tech”; “Building relations: Israel plans to hire 20,000 Chinese construction workers”; “How Shimon Peres built the China-Israel relationship” and others. However, do Israelis have any idea how their business behavior is perceived by the Chinese? And, conversely, are the Chinese are aware of the main Israeli traits in business and the most effective way of working with Israelis?
As an Israeli organizational consultant who specializes in cross-cultural communication, I asked more than 100 business people around the world to share their experience in conducting business with Israelis. These interviews and my extensive research into the subject led to my original model of Israeli business culture and eventually to my book, Israeli Business Culture. The model uses the word ISRAELI as an easily-remembered acronym of Israeli business characteristics:
The two countries have synergistic relations. Chinese customers are interested in Israel, and Israeli customers would like to work in China.
Although China is huge and Israel is tiny, Israel has vast knowledge in research and development, particularly in medicine, water purification, agriculture and other key realms. Many Chinese are keen to learn from this know-how and cooperate with Israelis, while the Israelis obviously understand the massive potential of the market in China. (It wasn’t just by chance or on a whim that I had my book translated into Chinese as the only other language besides English, so far.)
It’s important to remember that Israeli impatience and spontaneity are part of the same innovative culture that generated the country’s hyper-developed hi-tech industry, and part of the same rough, informal culture that put many Chinese people off Israelis. Chinese want to slowly build up trust relations with their colleagues and customers, and Israelis are in a constant hurry to conquer the world. In Israel every employee feels and acts like a know-it-all manager, loudly and bluntly offering their professional opinion to one and all.
It’s acceptable in Israel to say you don’t understand something, and also considered okay when a manager stretches and tests your limits to the very end. It’s also fine to fail, since you learn from every failure and subsequently improve. In China, if you push your employee beyond his capabilities and he fails, you may have insulted his honor and caused him to lose his motivation to do the project. Perhaps he will also lose his faith in you as a manager.
Israel and China are most definitely in a relationship. Being in love and getting the most out of each other is hard work. The Chinese and the Israelis need to learn more about each other’s business cultures. Understanding leads to empathy (and flexibility, even forgiveness), which in turn brings about mutual business success, which translates into almost “boundless” love.
Anyone interested in better understanding Israeli business culture, its roots and characteristics, is invited to order the English version of the book Israeli Business Culture on Amazon; or to contact Osnat at firstname.lastname@example.org regarding purchase of the Chinese version.
For lectures and consulting services by OLM Consulting, please visit www.olm-consulting.com.