Chinese Company Coming to America: A Mostly True Horror Story

A few weeks ago I got a fascinating email from someone in response to my post, Top Ten Reasons Chinese Companies Fail in America. But before you read this email, let me make clear that there are Chinese companies that do a good job operating in the United States and my publishing this email is NOT intended to stand for the proposition that all Chinese companies act in these ways.

I am publishing this email to show how operating in a foreign country without being mindful of the legal and cultural differences between your home country and the foreign country can lead to disastrous results. And just as American, European and Australasian companies so often stumble when doing business in China, so too do Chinese companies stumble when doing business overseas. With all these provisos, here then is the email [modified to protect the person who sent it to me and those who still work at this company].


I’m writing to you in response to the blog post, Top Ten Reasons Chinese Companies Fail in America. I want to describe my experience working for a Chinese company. I had a senior level position at a U.S. company and after working there for 10+ years,. it was purchased by a Chinese company. About a year later, the China home office brought in a a new plant manager from China to run things in the United States. This person’s English was poor and this caused problems as the employees spoke only English or Spanish.

Almost immediately, he began to complain about the work ethic of the Hispanic workers, which had never been a problem.

Then the company began to enact draconian measures, such as firing workers for minor mistakes — like being a few minutes late or taking too long in the bathroom. They then began replacing the office staff with people who spoke Mandarin. This did not work well because whenever one of the recent Chinese hires would ask about their visa sponsorship, they would be told that they would not be sponsored and they either fired or left.

People from the HR department would walk the factory floor with cameras, telling employees that any infraction would lead to termination. When any of us “management leftovers” would try to explain that they could not operate a company in the United States like they did in China, we were glared at and ignored. We were often told that the workers “were lazy and ten times worse than those in China who knew their place.” They even took away the water coolers to save money. When one of us “management leftovers” said something about this we were told not to “worry about it because these people are used to drinking water like this from where they come from.”

Not surprisingly, production levels plummeted as skilled and unskilled workers either quit or were fired in an effort to intimidate the others into working faster. The blame for this began to fall on us “management leftovers.” Turnover by this point has reached triple digits among our production workers. New employees often quit the next day complaining that they felt like they were working in a prison. I am working 12 hours at the office and working another 4-6 hours at home and yet constantly having to explain to the home office why production goals are not being met. .

Management too is now dropping like flies and because word has already spread widely about our company, finding replacements is difficult/impossible.

The company is spiraling down. The China home office finally sent people from China to find out “the truth,” only to be told that all of the trouble had been caused by the “management leftovers” who did not know how to run the place. One manager was physically threatened not to reveal things to the home office. The lawsuits are coming next.

So yes, when I read your post I knew exactly what you were talking about.

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