The Intricacies of Doing Business in China

Singapore-based McGill Law graduate Caroline Berube shares her professional perspectives through her new book

As part of McGill’s Bicentennial celebrations in 2021, we’re excited to roll out a whole new series of interview stories featuring McGill alumni in or from Asia.

And as the inaugural story of this new series, we’re delighted to feature Singapore-based McGill Law alumna Caroline Berube.  She’s Managing Partner at HJM Asia Law & Co LLC, the President of the McGill Society of Singapore, and a member of our Faculty of Law’s global alumni advisory board.

Caroline’s profile reads like a modern Renaissance Woman.  Apart from being a mother and running a law firm, Caroline also operates a professional services firm (Procosec Asia), an entrepreneur fund (Young E3 Entrepreneurship Fund), our alumni branch in Singapore, and giving guest and keynote lectures all over the world.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, she somehow managed to publish a book called “Doing Business in China” recently.

Given the relevance of her book to many of our alumni’s interest, we shall take a closer look at what her new title is about.

To begin, the book has been a work in progress for Caroline for many years, and the wisdom that this book imparts has been the result of her work in helping foreign entrepreneurs and companies establish and grow their business presence in China over the past 20 years. 

“It’s been very exciting and a real privilege for me to contribute to China’s growth while assisting foreign clients navigate the market’s ever-changing and complex regulatory and legal landscape.  Given its complexity, however, foreign business executives should be aware that they need to be primed and be familiar with local business practices and nuances from the onset, and that’s precisely because of the Chinese market’s increasing competitiveness and accelerating pace of change, which has been growing for years and will continue to grow,” Caroline explained.

“I wanted to create a resource that business executives could read BEFORE they engaged legal counsel, so they would be better prepared to pursue their strategic initiatives and interests in China.”

Doing Business in China began as a collection of Caroline’s notes from providing counsel to hundreds of entrepreneur clients doing business in China, all of whom Caroline was keen to see succeed.   The premise here is that success in venturing into new markets depends in part on anticipating which business strategy is best suited at a given time, knowing what questions to ask, and proceeding with insightful guidance.  Always, it’s the local market experience that informs the appropriate questions.

In spite of the existence of other similar titles in the market, Doing Business in China is unique in that it has been designed to function as a practical resource by providing answers to concrete questions that entrepreneurs or savvy business people would naturally ask when engaging the China market. This Q&A format is what allows readers to benefit from a collective wealth of experienced China experts, which Caroline has masterfully put together. And to ensure currency of statistics, laws, and regulations, the actual writing and compilation of resources for this first edition was turned around rather quickly – within months.

The net results here are sets of clear, relevant, and to-the-point answers that are crafted to be intuitively accessible and could, therefore, be referenced quickly – something that all busy business decision makers could and would appreciate.

“My ultimate goal here is to have the audience discover that the knowledge they absorb from the book can be easily translated into practical know-how, thus enabling them to seek timely and sophisticated counsel at just the right time. It will prove useful to entrepreneurs across industries – manufacturing, hospitality, technology, etc. – who have a keen interest and strong desire to grow their presence in China profitably.”

As in all things in life, content and form are both important.  Thus beyond its unique format, the book’s contents and scope are also impressively broad and adequate – it spans 13 chapters with relevant appendices, covering everything from market entry strategies and business structures to operational considerations, such as employment and HR, IP issues, litigation, and bankruptcy, etc. 

In each chapter, and again, the reader will find frequently-raised questions on subjects that they would likely ask, with direct and concise answers written to become absorbable knowledge.   For example, in the Tax & Accounting Chapter, the question “I am trying to understand my wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE) accounting books, but they do not look like the books I am used to in my jurisdiction. What are the main differences?”, elicits a memorable answer that is useful and prepares the reader for the issue in advance of legal counsel.

Without giving away too much, one key take-away from this title is that entrepreneurs keen to do business in China are best prepared by understanding first the potential problems they could possibly face before entry and set up.  No matter what types of business challenges you’re facing, solutions are always available and you, as both a business client and business practitioner, need to ask many questions and absorb the answers before taking subsequent steps.  It’s only with foresights such as what this book offers that business folks could move forward strategically, be confident with their acquired knowledge, and feeling resourceful when seeking further local counsel. 

Doing Business in China (ISBN/ISSN: 9780433492818), in its first and original edition, can be purchased from its publisher LexisNexis Canada’s online store at https://store.lexisnexis.ca/en.

Caroline herself would be delighted to receive comments and inquiries from McGill alumni about her book.  She can be reached at cberube@hjmasia.com.

April 2019

Photo Credit: Caroline Berube

All Rights Reserved © 2019 McGill University Asia Office

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