Chinese firms need to polish up PR skills

Updated: 2011-12-30 08:04

By Qin Zhongwei (China Daily)

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BEIJING - As a growing number of Chinese businesses venture overseas, they need to improve their public relations skills and work harder to safeguard their overseas interests, according to Chinese political scientists and strategists.

Over the past 30 years, China has invested in more than 170 countries and regions, with outbound direct foreign investment topping $170 billion.

In 2010, China's outbound direct investment reached $68.8 billion,up 21.7 percent year-on-year, ranking above developing countries and surpassing Japan and Germany to become the world's fifth-largest source of foreign direct investment outflows, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

As a result, Chinese companies will face more challenges in protecting their overseas interests as well as enhancing their image, according to experts speaking at a recent seminar held by the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

"Chinese companies are still not familiar enough with the political risks they could face when investing in foreign countries," said Shi Yinhong, a professor at Renmin University of China.

Most Chinese enterprises still have very limited knowledge of the policies, culture, and even the language of the countries that they are going to invest in, Shi said.

It is not enough for Chinese companies to deal only with governments.

Chinese companies also need to deal with opposition parties, non-governmental organizations and civil society, in order to run their businesses well, according to Shi.

The growth of non-traditional security threats also poses new challenges for Chinese enterprises, such as the protection of Chinese employees overseas and food safety issues, which call for governments and enterprises to jointly improve overseas emergency response mechanisms.

There is a growing consensus among Chinese enterprises that invest in foreign countries, that they should have more channels to exchange information and join forces in order to deal with overseas risks, according to a report in the International Business Daily.

Companies should bear in mind that they will shoulder more responsibilities in the process of overseas investment, which can help lift the image of Chinese enterprises, according to Cai Tuo, director of the Institute of Globalization and Global Issues at China University of Political Science and Law.

For those running natural resource and manufacturing enterprises, they should also be aware of and realize their commitment to the local environment, he said.

"It is an outdated mode of thinking if we are only concerned with gaining without contributing. We should ensure a good balance between expanding our overseas interests with contributing to the international community," he said.

Good deeds win hearts and minds in local areas.

Sinohydro Corp, which began to sponsor construction projects in Pakistan and Sudan decades ago, pays a lot of attention to familiarizing itself with the local situation and communicating with local communities, which helps it during its investment in these countries, according to Wang Xianguang, vice-director of the company's security department.