When it comes to dealing with China, the West has still not understood that the People’s Republic is a state deeply rooted in communist thinking. This is something that sinologist and negotiation scholar Florian W. Mehring observes time and again in his work. In the West, the idea that Chinese culture is primarily shaped by Confucianism or Buddhism is still dominant in people’s minds. “Yet every Chinese has, at least unconsciously, internalized Marxist methods of thinking,” says the 43-year-old. According to his experience, this is especially apparent in business negotiations,
When German mentality meets the Chinese mentality, the difficulties in the different approaches become immediately noticeable. “Germans are process-oriented thinkers. Chinese, on the other hand, are comparatively more results-driven.” Translated to processes, this means that the Chinese like to define a central strategic or tactical goal. Then they set out to creatively search for the most effective way to achieve the goal. On the German side, however, you rarely encounter this approach. In negotiations, the Chinese negatively interpret this. According to Mehring, this can sometimes lead to the Chinese considering their counterparts in negotiations to be either incompetent or even accusing them of having dishonest intentions.
Mehring’s enthusiasm for the Chinese mentality, which is still very foreign to us, began early on. Although his mother is Japanese, he feels closer connected to the Chinese mentality. The Japanese are not that dissimilar to the Germans. The concept of tradition connects both countries. In China, there is little to look back on in terms of traditional structures: “Modern China began in 1979 – shortly after the death of Mao. Many Chinese could not get into the family business or fixed structures because they no longer existed or were run down,” Mehring explains. Subsequently, China became the factory of the world. Since the needs of the market were constantly changing, only the most adaptable could survive economically. That is why Chinese companies are “much more courageous and creative in business terms,” says Mehring.
He has already worked with the Chinese in a wide variety of areas. He is currently heading an education project in Qingdao in cooperation with Chinese partners. In addition to Japanese, German and Chinese, Mehring also speaks Indonesian and French. He was born in Paris. During his school years, he eventually came to Germany, studied and earned his doctorate at the University of Freiburg. In 2017, he caused a sensation with his translation of the book ‘The High Art of War in Business Negotiations‘ (Shāngwù Tánpàn Gāojīe Bīngfǎ) into German, making Chinese negotiation strategies accessible to Western entrepreneurs for the first time.
Mehring now lives in a small village near Lucerne. “I was actually attracted to Switzerland by the romantic idea of grassroots democracy,” says Mehring. “Without catastrophes, it really is a good instrument.” In a pandemic, however, it leads to disastrous results. Covid once again shows in an exemplary way that the Chinese are ahead of us with their goal-oriented mentality. In China, the main priority from the beginning was to defeat the virus. Everything had to be subordinated to that.” In the meantime, this goal has largely been achieved. David Renke