When Matt Tsien first came to China in 1995 as part of the negotiating team for General Motors’ (GM’s) first passenger car joint venture in China, the country was still a "bicycle kingdom." Visitors then were impressed not by the roar of vehicle engines, but by the buzzing sound of thousands of bike tires on pavement and the tinkling of handlebar bells.
“Craft breweries create a lot of jobs in addition to just the brewers themselves—there are countless other local business such as construction, food trucks, tax and legal advisory, distribution warehouses, ingredients that benefit from this ecosystem. These are mostly local jobs, and they wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have a competitive product and were able to offer high value systems at a reasonable cost to breweries around the country and the world.”
This is the story of how a couple of high school courses, taken back when America was indisputably number one and China was but a blip of an economy, led to a $5 billion a year business selling engines to Chinese buyers. “What were the courses?” you might ask. Success was more complicated than that, though the main components are replicable.
Control Risks has been working in China since 1998, and incorporated there in 2003. During this time, its business in China has grown and changed dramatically, initially serving international clients operating in the China market and then expanding to help Chinese private and state-owned enterprises. Staff members have gone from 30 to 120, working out of offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Beijing. The China offices are directed by Yifei Zhang, who describes himself as a “Tianjin boy who...