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The Future of the Region: Merchants or missionaries

Posted by Matti Miranda on November 19, 2014 at 1:03 AM

A look at the relationship between China and the U.S., as published in The Economist printed edition, Nov 15, 2014. 

CURIOUSLY ENOUGH, AN American company called Atlantic has spent the past 30 years doing thriving business across the Pacific. Based in California, it sends orders to Chinese factories to produce small items of furniture. Its founder and CEO, Leo Dardashti, is sticking with China as a manufacturing base despite rising costs because of the mutual trust between him and his factory owners there. But he also believes China and America make a unique fit: “There is no country in the world that has the buying power of the United States and no country that has the production power of China.” If he needs 400,000 items within a few months to sell in stores across America, only China has the scale to provide them, he says.

He travels to China frequently, sometimes as often as once a month. The friendships he has established with the people who make his goods are the foundations of his business, he says. It is not just eye contact and smiles. “As I sit in their factory, I’m a relatively big buyer, but I have to be careful how I play that game. I have to make them like me, tell them what my values and goals are, offer them a good deal. It’s all about negotiation.” Negotiation is an art he believes the leaders in Washington and Beijing should develop in their dealings with each other, too.

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