Challenges of Doing Business in China: Case studies for SMEs by Patrick Lambe and Edgar Tan

This series of six case studies was published by Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) in November 2003. The research project was conducted as a knowledge transfer exercise, seeking to elicit the complex knowledge of experienced China hands and packaging this knowledge in the form of “decision games” - interactive case studies designed for individual or group use.

Read about the findings here (Part 1) and here (Part 2)

Read about the methodology here

The full report may be purchased at S$20.05/ S$21.92 (SIM members/ Non-members) by contacting

SIM Study on “Challenges of Doing Business in China”
The Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) has concluded and published its research entitled “Challenges of Doing Business in China”. The study sought to help entrepreneurs and managers anticipate and address common, repeated, and damaging but often unacknowledged pitfalls of doing business in China.

The results are depicted in six case studies that reflected the challenges faced by Singapore entrepreneurs and managers in China. The research methodology was based on materials from three main sources.

First, from focus groups involving Singapore entrepreneurs and managers with working experience in China. They were asked to give accounts of their experiences as well as those of other Singaporeans they knew. Their stories and examples were then grouped into six broad themes: Strategy, Environment, People, Culture, Law and Fraud.

Second, the researchers Mr Patrick Lambe and Mr Edgar Tan of Straits Knowledge proceeded to interview the participants, exploring the themes in greater detail. Subjects were asked to display the challenging scenarios using small figures and props that represented the different roles and relationships in each scenario. This method allowed the researchers to explore the situation from a number of different perspectives.

Third, from the raw material of interview transcripts and focus group discussions, the researchers identified six common themes. Each was represented as a dominant theme in at least one of the six case studies. These included:

Partnership issues, including cultural differences, communication, fraud, and intellectual property theft;

Management involvement and control in China enterprises, over-delegation, and the importance of management oversight;

Management of growth strategies, and forming a cohesive team with Chinese managers;

Impact of regulatory change and uncertainty on business prospects;

Importance of building local relationships, and managing relationships with multinational corporations investing in China; and

Understanding the strategic intentions and value perceptions of your partners in relation to your own.

The cases were constructed in the form of learning activities, known as ‘decision games’ – a form of presentation pitched somewhere between a case study and a simulation. They present well-defined initial context and a central dilemma to reflect on; they unfold sequentially and invite response and interpretation; and they closely mirror the complex, uncertain and ambiguous unfolding of events in the real world. Decision games provided a useful way of testing one’s judgement, knowledge, and experience while engaging business challenges safely.

All the cases were validated by known China experts and commentators who were interviewed individually on each case. The responses have been summarised as key learning analyses. Contributors to the analyses included: Dr Ian Weber, Assistant Professor, Division of Public and Promotional Communication, School of Communication & Information, Nanyang Technological University; Mr Steve Haslett, Senior Vice President, Knowledge Platform; Dr Sun Qian, Associate Professor, Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University; Mr Bruce Schulberg, Partner (Business Practice Group), Jones Day; Dr Lim See Yew, Director, Info-comm Technology, ITE West; and Mr Andrew Ng, Chief Executive Officer, Greater China Consult.

The cases have been published in a new research report, Challenges of Doing Business in China: Case Studies for Singapore SMEs. The full report may be purchased at S$20.05/ S$21.92 (SIM members/ Non-members) by contacting .

Posted by Patrick on 20/11/03 at 11:01 AM | Categories: Knowledge Transfer | | Permalink