China desk

Review of China desk seminar: overcoming cultural differences

Jin Chen Jin Chen
China desk seminar 2018

On 31 May 2018, Grant Thornton organised a Dutch China desk seminar in Amsterdam. Several speakers discussed about the differences in corporate cultures and legal frameworks in China and the Netherlands, the challenges that comes along with them and provide tips on how to overcome cultural differences. The seminar was attended by more than 50 guests, including representatives from Vivat, Stryker, Activision, Carrefour, Damen Shipyards, Bank of China, Arcadis and Huawei. There were also representatives from law firms, government organisations, the Chinese government, consultants and marine companies.

The (international) speakers

Frank Ponsioen, chairman of the board of directors of Grant Thornton opened the seminar and gave an introduction about Grant Thornton. After that he gave the floor to Jin Chen, director of the 'Dutch China desk' at Grant Thornton. She explained how this desk can support entrepreneurs in both the Netherlands and China in doing business between these countries.

The guest speakers were Wilfred Chiu (Tax Partner Grant Thornton in Beijing, China), Wilbert Hartmann (CEO of Keytec) and Martin de Graaf (Tax and Customs Administration/Ministry of Finance).

An interactive quiz about the cultural differences between China and the Netherlands showed that it is very important to understand them in order to do business successfully between both countries. An interesting panel discussion between Martin de Graaf, Wilfred Chiu and Theo Ostermann (Tax Partner Grant Thornton), in which the audience participated actively, was a great highlight of the seminar.

Wilfred van der Lee (Lead Partner Dutch China desk) looked back at the seminar and concluded that doing business in and with Chinese partners requires patience, but certainly pays off in the long run. He then opened the buffet with Chinese specialties.

Main points of the presentations

Wilfred Chiu

Wilfred Chiu talked about doing business in China. As an expert in this field, he told the guests how Grant Thornton China helps entrepreneurs undertake business in the Far East in terms of both inbound and outbound investments. His lesson to the guests was: "There are great opportunities in China. Set your own goals & strategy. Learn with open mind and seek proper advice''.

Wilbert Hartmann

Wilbert Hartmann told the guests how he has been successful with his business in China since they started there in 2000. He also shared his experiences with us about doing business in China and the difficulties involved, such as dependencies on local and national government bodies. Keytec now employs 1,000 people worldwide. One advice from Wilbert: "Find a niche and a business model, where you can defend yourself. Stick to your plan and create friends. Also, invest time and presence.

Martin de Graaf

Martin de Graaf of the Tax and Customs Administration/Ministry of Finance told guests about the advantages of the Dutch tax system, such as transparency and why it is beneficial to invest in the Netherlands or to establish a European head office. He informed the guests of the following: "The Dutch tax authorities are open for a constructive dialogue plus realistic approach, and they are strict where appropriate.

All in all it was a successful first Dutch China desk seminar, where guests had the opportunity to network, share experiences with each other, get inspiration, receive tips for doing business from the Netherlands in China. On the other hand, Chinese companies that are considering establishing themselves or doing business in the Netherlands also received valuable insights.