Occasionally the older planned economy mindset in China really gets in the way of reality

P1010138.JPGOccasionally, here in China, we run into a situation where the older planned economy mindset has not yet matured and aligned itself with the new reality -- and we end up running into all kinds of odd stumbling blocks that seem quite silly when compared to all the other positive or future oriented things that are happening here.

"We are Chinese and this is the way we think it is supposed to work -- and so you have to confirm to our standards -- or you can not import what you want?"

And of course, this time it's personal.  The photo here is a dugout sailing canoe from Bali.  The guy in the picture there is Nyoman, and old guru type guy that ends up winning a lot of the traditional sailing outrigger canoe races down in Bali.  He and some of his friends actually make these things right on the beach.  And so when I was down there recently, I said I wanted to buy one of these and figure out how to bring it back to China. 

Partially for my own amusement, as I really like traditional technology especially in the area of boats and ways to manufacture sea going boats from local traditional materials.  But, also because I have a friend here that is a world-class windsurfer and I wanted to bring this to China for him. I'd put it at his windsurfing business here just outside of Shenzhen to help show Chinese people how other cultures also value older technology and the sea, being outside and all that valuing nature stuff -- that is so important to the way Chinese people look at the world.

But, now the Chinese authorities are telling me that we can not import this boat because we do not have a proper paper trail -- from an authorized shipbuilding company down in Bali.  What XYZ classification and certification does the factory that built this have?  What marine standard is this vessel built to so we can make sure it floats, etc...

Um...it's a dugout canoe people.  It's a big carved out tree trunk.  There is no factory.   There is no shipyard.  It's a tree!!

So, at the moment I have two options.  One is to drop the whole idea.  The other is to lie about it and fill out the paperwork myself, making it all up as I go along.  Now, while I could do that, I am not really going to do that because if I get caught the criminal penalties for customs fraud are pretty serious.

And so we come to the part of this story related to all present or future clients out there. 

Occasionally, we run into a sitauation where the older planned economy mindset that still lives in the hallowed halls of the Chinese administrative organs that you have to deal with.  And every now and then --  not all the time but more that is really necessary -- you bump into an invisible wall.  You tell the truth and it falls flat.

Nobody has ever told the Customs Officials that specific story you are telling them and since there is no readily available pre-packaged answer to what you want to do -- they just say no.  And there is not really a damn thing you can do about it.

Generally, we can get around all this type of stumbling block, but it helps our clients sanity to recognize in advance why we ask them all sorts of apparently weird questions.  "What is your goal and are there other ways to accomplish your goal?"  "Is this specific thing you are asking us to do a central and pivotal part of your business here in China?" 

If so, we'll push through the stumbling block but it has to be recognized that doing so will take a lot longer than you might think.  Not because we like to rack up fees -- for we bill almost everything on a flat-rate -- but because nobody here knows what we are talking about and part of what clients are paying us for is the education process of the people that have the power to approve -- or not approve -- what you are trying to do.

It is a still fluid economy and every now and then you'll bump into an unmarked iceberg.  It's just going to happen.