Three guiding principles have accompanied Jürgen Kracht since he arrived in Hong Kong almost 50 years ago: “Seek common ground, build personal relationships, and trust your counterpart – but verify.” In the 1980s, former American President Ronald Reagan made the verify part a catchphrase during disarmament negotiations with the Soviet Union. In China, it’s good to trust your business partner and employees, says Kracht. “But Chinese negotiators are proven masters at saying ‘yes.’ Then later you realize that this was actually a ‘no’.” But by then, they’ve already implemented their original plan: “C’est la Vie.”
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