00AM Wednesday June 20, 2007By Adam Bennett
It is difficult to imagine anywhere in China where the country's soaring economic growth is more apparent than in Guangdong province in the south.
The province is just across the border from Hong Kong, and the scale of its industry and the speed of its development has merged several cities, including the capital, Guangjhou, into a heavily industrialised and populated smoky megalopolis.
Guangdong has perhaps the longest and deepest history of trade with the rest of the world, something its government takes pride in, and is anxious to develop further.
Most of New Zealand's first Chinese immigrants came from Guangdong, and its government regards Chinese New Zealanders and other overseas Chinese who have their roots in the area as a valuable resource.
Like other provinces, it has an Overseas Chinese Affairs Office to maintain and develop and develop emigrants' links with the area.
Many people who have left in recent years and established themselves in other countries have returned. They have resources in the form of business contacts, knowledge of overseas markets and capital.
Those Chinese who have spent time in New Zealand, often gaining citizenship, before returning to China, can also benefit New Zealand's economy by providing a bridge between two cultures that are often divided by a lack of understanding, says NZ Trade and Enterprise's North Asia regional director, Merv Stark.
For New Zealand companies wanting to do business with Chinese partners, developing that understanding, particularly in the initial stages, can be difficult.
The Chinese language, although not easy for Westerners to learn, is not even the biggest hurdle in developing trust and co-operation.
At best, it is second to the cultural differences.
"In China when people want something, they want it now," says Stark. "As Kiwis, we don't have that sense of urgency about things, but we need to learn to work with that."
Adding to potential pitfalls is what some commentators have called China's "crisis of trust", which is manifested in widespread corruption and is most obviously visible to the casual visitor in the form of spray painted phone numbers on walls in poor neighbourhoods advertising contacts for false documents such as academic qualifications.
That makes the building of strong relationships with Chinese partners all the more crucial, and New Zealand businesses wanting to do business in China would do well to develop a working knowledge of "guanxi".
Guanxi is the dynamic involved in personalised networks of influence. In practical terms, it can mean building mutual respect and trust through a seemingly interminable series of meetings and banquets.
Rising incomes generated by China's booming economy mean the potential market for New Zealand businesses, especially those selling premium products, is huge.
Recent food safety scares have lifted awareness of New Zealand as a "green" producer.
Because New Zealand's business is dominated by small and medium sized companies, Stark says, it makes sense to tackle the Chinese market by banding together to form "clusters".
The 4th China International Small and Medium Enterprise Fair in Guangjhou in September this year gives New Zealand businesses a chance to make initial contact with potential partners in Guangdong.
Applications for exhibitors and buyers will close at the end of next month.