Home / Understanding big issues

Global since 1985, firm offers advice

By Zhang Zhouxiang and Shi Baoyin (China Daily)

Updated: 2016-03-14 08:05:09


Some companies didn't need encouragement from the government's Go Global strategy. They were already doing it.

"Going overseas has always been our strategy," Lu Guiqing, chief economist at China State Construction Engineering Corp and a National People's Congress deputy, said. "Our branch in the United States was founded early in 1985."

For more than 30 years, CSCEC branches worldwide have been prospering. Four main overseas headquarters formed gradually - in the US, Middle East, Singapore and Algeria. Now its US subsidiary ranks 32nd among the country's construction businesses. It not only constructs buildings but provides property management and other services to local companies and individuals.

It started with construction projects overseas, and the results of its work can be seen all over the world. Among the more famous are the African Union Conference Center and Office Complex in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital. Since construction was completed in December 2012, the building has served as the headquarters of the AU.

Echoing the top leadership's grand vision for China's Belt and Road Initiative, CSCEC has been paying more attention to a number of economies since late 2013. It has undertaken projects in Egypt and Pakistan, two countries of key importance to the new Silk Road Economic Belt.

It has also been shifting its focus from building and engineering to infrastructure. In the Republic of the Congo, it built a 500-kilometer road linking the capital, Brazzaville, with northern cities, a program the French abandoned after a 10-year effort. In Algeria, it built a road across the Sahara, as well as a number of airports, hotels, schools and hospitals.

"We expect our buildings to serve the local people," Lu told China Daily. "Infrastructure construction will help us meet that demand."

On the path of global outreach, there have been successes as well as difficulties, Lu said.

"The customs and business habits of some economies vary hugely from us and deserve our attention," Lu said, "especially in some countries that have special eating and living habits and people might be offended when our staff behave carelessly. That's why we emphasize education of staff before we send them abroad."

Lu's first piece of advice to Chinese enterprises going overseas is to do ample homework, which includes not only studying economic and business conditions but also evaluating political risks.

"Do not overlook any detail," he said, "Any carelessness might lead to failure."

Cherishing the spirit of a contract is another principle he hopes Chinese enterprises will follow.

"In societies with the rule of law, they do everything in strict accordance with the contract, so enterprises need very professional legal advisory teams," he said. "Domestically, some enterprises do not read contracts carefully before signing them, and that habit must be changed."

He also called for staff members from domestic companies to learn the local language.

"Many domestic firms think it is OK as long as they speak English. We need to win the hearts of locals and speak their languages. That's more important than most people expect."