Chua Knows China
Closed Circuit TV in the Guangzhou Express Train, 1980I am particularly proud of financing and arranging the first closed circuit TV to people travelling by train between Hong Kong and Guangzhou. It caused quite a sensation at the time because people just did not expect to find entertainment or infotainment when they travelled in China. The investment was recouped from advertising sold with the programs shown.
In 1981 I arranged and distributed China’s first hospitality magazine produced outside the country. It featured hotels and other tourism facilities in Shanghai and was published in cooperation with the Hong Kong’s main English language newspaper, the South China Morning Post.
Some of the China projects I have been involved with were outside the media business altogether. For example, my company became exclusive exporter from China for black silk, a product made from treating natural silk with traditional techniques. We rebranded this product Black Glazed Silk and it found a ready market around the world.
The Chuas with a Fujian TV Official,1980Everyone who has done business in China knows the difficulties and frustrations it can involve. I have personally been involved in many deals, including joint ventures over the years where we thought we had an agreement, only to see the deal evaporate for one reason or another. The most recent example is when I thought I had secured funding for CETV from a consortium of five Chinese companies which agreed to take an 80 per cent shareholding. Ultimately, these companies did not fulfil their financial commitments. I think this shows that anyone can be caught out in China, even someone like myself with years of experience of doing business there.
I believe the nature of the Chinese business scene has changed somewhat over the past 10 years. Connections, or Guanxi still count for a lot but often money politics can become mixed up in the equation.
In any case, the experience of CETV has added another feather to my cap in terms of China experience. There is nothing more memorable than a business deal which comes unstuck and I believe I have learned enough never to be caught out in a similar situation again. It was a very expensive experience and having survived it made me stronger.
The Chuas with CCTV officials in Beijing,1980Whenever I work as a consultant on China projects, I tell the prospective client what I think their real chances of success are right from the start, before accepting the job. I think this is far better for the client than offering false hope just to gain a monthly fee.
My wife Peggy has been a vital partner in my dealings with China. She helps me out a lot with language and a feminine touch can work wonders in negotiations.
She often reminds me of the seemingly little things which have turned out to be subtly important during the intricate moves and counter-moves involved in the Chinese negotiating process.