Who Hijacked Our Country

Friday, December 17, 2004

Wal-Mart in China

The world’s most dynamic company (and most American, in every way possible) is opening its first stores in a police state with over a billion people and a booming free-market economy. Let us count the culture clashes…

For one thing, Wal-Mart buys so many Chinese-made products that if it were a country it would be China’s 6th largest export market.

Last October at an open mike event, there was a poem about the first Wal-Mart opening in China, and on opening day all the locals were excited to see their first Wal-Mart store. Then when they went in, they were disappointed; everything in the store was just the same old schlock they’d already been making in China for years.

There have already been some bizarre East vs. West, modern vs. primitive juxtapositions as Wal-Mart executives are meeting the clogged, narrow streets and provincial bureaucracies of China’s outlying areas. Meetings between Wal-Mart buyers and local suppliers and entrepreneurs are a clash of all the East/West stereotypes: local suppliers come into the store all ready for that time-honored Asian tradition of bargaining and haggling, and are quickly told by Wal-Mart personnel to get to the point, cut to the chase.

There should be years of interaction and tug-of-war between a Chinese business culture built on personal relationships, and the Western approach of having a modern efficient supply network, built on the latest information technology.

We’ll see who bends and flexes more.


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