The use of time pressure

In chapter 4 of The Wild Wild East I noted in Refkin’s Rule #7 that Chinese businessmen love to use time pressure. This is a common tactic used against foreigners in China. A Chinese businessperson doesn’t want to give you time to think. He needs a specific response from you and, if he gives you too long to think about it, he may not receive the answer he wants. Sometimes there’s a dose of deception also thrown in with the time pressure. Take, for example, a situation that happened to me in Beijing. The CEO of a company wanted to expedite the money he was to receive from a fund. However, in order to receive it he had to meet certain milestones on profitability. If he did, the money would come to his company over a period of a year. However, the CEO wanted the money sooner. Therefore, he told me that the government had changed the rules and that all joint ventures in China now had to be completely funded by a certain date or they would become invalid. To prove his point he produced a thick document in Chinese with a number of official looking stamps on it. But when one of my staff checked the government documentation online, his statement proved to be false. The reason for this deception, as it turned out, was that he knew he wouldn’t meet his profitability milestones and consequently wouldn’t receive the rest of his money. Therefore he hoped that a little deception, along with time pressure, would get him the funds. If you think this unusual, it’s not. Chinese businesspeople know that time pressure is not uncommon in American business culture and that Americans are individualistic in contrast to Chinese collectivism. Therefore, they try to employ time pressure when it suits their objective. When I wrote Refkin’s Rule #7, I had this specific instance in mind, along with the example given in the book. Time pressure is still a tactic used by Chinese companies today. Old habits die hard!

Alan Refkin


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