Influencing Government Policy in China: The Basics

I write about influencing government policy with a healthy degree of trepidation. The idea of circumventing the will of the people to induce a government to do the bidding of a private corporation never sits well with those of us with a Jeffersonian pedigree.

But in nearly three decades doing business in and with China, there have been many instances in which regulators and policy makers in China have either sought or gratefully received the counsel of companies who had points of view that would otherwise have been overlooked in the creation of law or regulation. In one instance, the government would have created a law that would have made e-commerce illegal in China; in another, the government would have outlawed any workable form of cellular telephone.

In both cases and many others like them, it was commercial entities – primarily foreign – who stepped in to provide information and insights that avoided what would have been major setbacks for the Chinese economy and the lives of its people.

Fearing the specter of corruption, beginning with Jiang Zemin successive administrations in China have promulgated policies that have made it increasingly difficult for international companies to make their voices heard in the halls of government in Beijing. That’s a pity. While there is no shortage of self-interested, self-dealing companies seeking an ear at court, there is a role for foreign voices seeking to offer essential insight to China’s leaders.

In “Four Ways to Influence Government Policy in China,” published in the Allison+Partners blog, I explain the three most important channels international companies can use to deliver their viewpoints to China’s leaders. Have a look and let me know your thoughts.