Cross-cultural adaptation and management of New Zealand expatriates in China
Seak, Reid (Nareid Charlie)
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The rapid rise of the Chinese economy in the past two decades has led many multinational corporations (MNCs) to enter China or integrate Chinese operations into their global strategies. The investments these MNCs bring to China make it one of the world’s fastest growing economies and a popular destination for expatriates. However, China’s cultural complexities and distinct living conditions create challenges for cross-cultural adaptation and management for expatriates and their families. Yet, the success of many MNCs’ Chinese operations depends much on the performance of expatriates. This research study has four major objectives. It firstly overviews Chinese culture and its influence on business culture and practices in China. Secondly, it identifies and discusses the skills abilities required in managing successfully in China. Thirdly, the analysis seeks expatriates’ input in investigating the key challenges and success factors that New Zealand expatriate managers experience in China. Lastly, the research assesses and discusses how expatriate performance might be enhanced and offer recommendations for employing organisations. This study is based on primary research conducted on 40 New Zealand expatriate managers in China who completed an electronic mail questionnaire. Analysis of responses reveals that cultural factors are influential in all aspects of life in China, including business practice and management. In addition to cross-cultural competencies, it is very important for expatriates in China to possess cross-functional abilities, cross-cultural communication competencies, and training skills. Therefore, the selection of expatriate must focus on the possession of these critical skills and abilities as well as relevant functional or technical experiences and skills. The training, support, care, and provision for expatriates and their families needs to be improved within employing organisations. Pre-departure training and incumbent support offered are seen as inadequate. The personal needs of expatriates are not well supported by the parent organisation, with much of the limited support provided targeting relevant business functions in China. Despites its obvious importance, parent organisations do not appear to place much value on the de-brief process and continuous communication with their expatriate managers. Yet, many parent organisations have a poor understanding of the Chinese business system and culture. Expatriates’ Chinese cultural and business experience, skills, and knowledge have not been recognised as a premium asset by the organisation. As a result many expatriates, with their much sought after Chinese business and cultural experience, will remain overseas.