chinese-german enterprise

A Chinese-German




avoid complaint it doesn’t matter
pitch in shift (2) considerable
staff (2) logistics stainless steel
boss sheet (2) take for granted
ordinary subsidiary keep a close eye on
analysis be able to to clear (2)
discuss decision cost-benefit
matter booking suggestion
soar check (2) headquarters
opinion controller apart from that
strict top-down get used to
scope express hart time
fuel account brainstorm
gruff mentality diplomatic (2)
blunt cautious straight out
division break (2) shop floor
exclude issue (2) cooperation
brief (2) shut off workshop (2)
flow upstairs atmosphere









It’s the early shift at Minmetals near Bremen. In this Chinese-owned company, everybody pitches in when necessary.

Germans and Chinese work together.

The staff of twenty-one makes sheets of stainless steel, which are used for example, for commercial kitchens.

The production manager is from Germany. And the logistics manager is from China.

People talk openly and directly at this firm. This can’t be taken for granted as management style in China is very different from that in Germany.

Ma Guo, Minmetals Germany Chief of Logistics: “In China, the boss is king. And when the boss says something, the staff does exactly that. But here in Germany, ordinary staff members make lots of good suggestions.

Still the parent company in China keeps a close eye on its German subsidiary.

Heinrich Buhring, Minmetals Germany Production Manager: “When I was purchasing manager at other companies, I used to be able to make my own decisions, within the constraints of my budget. I’d clear it with my boss, and that was that.

Here it’s different.

I make cost-benefit analysis. Then I go to my boss who is German. Then he goes to the Chinese director. And they discuss it.”

Upstairs in the booking department, the controller, Xia Chengyi and the director go through the accounts together every month.

Headquarters in Beijing check the figures, in quite some detail too.

But apart from that, says Xia, who was born in Germany, the European subsidiaries have considerable freedom.

She would have a hard time dealing with the traditional Chinese management style.

Xia Chengyi, Minmetals Germany Controller: “It’s very strictly top-down management. It takes some getting used to.

I can’t say the decisions are wrong. But I’m not sure how much scope there is to express opinions.”

On the shop floor, it’s time for a break.

The workers, Germans and Chinese, chat over breakfast about everyday matters, such as the price of fuel, which is soaring.

If somebody new comes to work here, they have to get used to either the German or the Chinese mentality.

Heinrich Buhring, Minmetals Germany Production Manager: “We Germans tend to be gruff and direct. The Chinese mentality is much more cautious and careful: they’re more diplomatic and less blunt.

We say things straight out — no matter what the cost.

Ma Guo, Minmetals Germany Chief of Logistics: “If I have a problem, I now go straight to my German colleague, and complain. Or we look for a solution together, instead of avoiding issues.

I call that cooperation.

I like it. Really.

It’s not a problem for me anymore.”

There is a division of labor at the German subsidiary that works well: German staff deals with customers in the region, while Chinese staff deals with headquarters.

That would not be possible without trust.

Heinrich Buhring, Minmetals Germany Production Manager: “When they get together and talk in Chinese about who knows what, then we’re excluded. They could shut themselves off from us completely if they wanted to.”

But they don’t.

The boss regularly holds workshops with the entire team. They’re briefed on how the company is doing. And they discuss problems and brainstorm about possible solutions to keep the communication flowing and maintain a good and open atmosphere at the company.


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1. Chinese and German employees cooperate in the company. True or false?

2. What kind of company is this? Describe the company.

3. Are the management styles the same, are they similar or are they different? How are they different? Give an example.

4. The headquarters in Beijing have strict control over its subsidiary’s operations. Is this right or wrong? What are they mainly concerned about?

5. Have the German workers adapted to the Chinese way of doing business or vice versa? Which way is “better”?

6. Do the Chinese operate in secrecy? Is there transparency in company activities?


A. I work in a foreign-owned company. Yes or no? If yes, do they operate differently? Is there a difference in business culture?

B. Do you work with foreign or international colleagues? Are there any cultural differences?

C. Does your company have branches and subsidiaries in other countries or around the world? Do they have (a lot of) autonomy or is there standardization?

D. Are business practices becoming more universal and standard?

E. What will happen in the future?






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