By Jim Mann
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Extra resources for Beijing Jeep: A Case Study Of Western Business In China
The various barbarians have come to live at peace and in harmony among us," the imperial clansman Chi Ying wrote in 1844. "4 Why were so many of these visiting businessmen willing to Mao Tais and Friendship 53 conduct business on turf, and often on terms, that they would not have been willing to accept elsewhere? The business executives of these early days sounded the themes that would be heard again and again through the mid-1980s—themes that China's Communist regime understood well and, in many cases, exploited.
There were no secretaries, no copying machines, no supplies or aids of any kind. They found some notepaper and borrowed a portable typewriter. And there at the creaky Beijing Hotel, in guest rooms world famous for bugs of both the crawling and electronic varieties, they put together what they called a memo of understanding between AMC and the Beijing government's automobile enterprise. Trimmer, an earnest, bespectacled graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School, did the secretarial work, balancing the borrowed typewriter on a hotel radiator, typing out the draft in a two-fingered hunt-and-peck method.
A business leader was supposed to think about the future, about his or her company's position in the twenty-first century. And what could be more important than gaining a toehold in China at a time when the country seemed eager to modernize? It was certainly worth an exploratory visit. China did nothing to discourage the influx of American businessmen. It was eager, indeed desperate, for Western technology, and the United States was the most technologically advanced country in the world. After World War II, China's neighbor and East Asian rival, fapan, had rebuilt itself as an economic power with the help of American technology, often obtained by first inviting the Americans in for a joint venture and then kicking them out.