Keeping Good Company in China...

I started out designing and developing flash websites in London, worked my way up through a media agency until escaping in 2003. Freelancing paid for my travels until curiosity eventually lead me to China. In 2006 I co-founded Thread Design, now one of the best known independent foreign agencies in Shanghai. I get asked a lot what’s it’s like to create and run a design firm in China, the answer changes every week.

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They Didn’t Invent Paper for Contracts

About 2000 years ago paper was invented in China, this has turned out to be pretty important. Without paper there would be no surprise with Christmas presents, buying more than one cheese burger would be hazardous and we’d have had to wait for the kindle to read books. One thing I wouldn’t have missed out on is time wasted printing contracts.

For a contract to be legally binding, it should be in Chinese, but with all our business is conducted in English this is just a headache. Even dealing with MNC’s contracts are in English (I sometimes wonder if they do it on purpose). We’ve been pretty lucky, but imagine agreeing to four 25% payments at mile stones only to be told at half way through that finance will only pay at the end of the project, that you must pay the tax in advance, oh and it’s 120 days now.

Another common scenario is that the clients big new project is cancelled due to government regulations (may as well be considered force majeure) an excuse you have little come back on, crying termination clause isn’t going to get you anywhere. I’ve not been to a Chinese business claims court, but if it’s any more complicated than a post office, i’m not going.

Our solution is chess like project management and payment terms that would be unacceptable anywhere else.

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