Americans doing Business in China – Part 5/16

Note from Blog host — another example of East meets West through business and trade: Baizhu Chen, writing for Forbes, says,In 2009, iPhones contributed about $2 billion, equivalent to 0.8% of the Sino-U.S. bilateral trade deficit. One iPhone 3GS was sold for about $600. These phones were exclusively manufactured by Foxconn, a factory in a Southern Chinese city called Shenzhen. To produce them, Foxconn had to import $10.75 worth of parts from American companies. The rest of its $172.46 components came from Korea, Japan, Germany, and elsewhere. Out of a $600 iPhone, how much does China get? A puny $6.50, or 1% of the value.”


Guest Post by Bob Grant — publisher/editor for Speak Without Interruption, an international online magazine.

When I first traveled to China, I was warned about the food from many well-meaning people—some who had traveled to China and some who had not. I was told that I would starve if I did not take food in my suitcase, so I did. I took trail mix and hard candy nearly overloading my suitcase. It was just one of the stereotypes of China that I had heard and believed before I experienced true Chinese food for myself. For that first trip, I ended up throwing away most of the food that I had brought because I did not want to lug it back to the U.S.

I will admit that the food is different from what I normally eat—to be honest, it is definitely healthier. I found there to be a lot of vegetables, fish, and chicken—I never ate Dog or Cat at least to my knowledge. I ate at restaurants and I ate in factories. I ate what was put in front of me, and I stayed in places where my associates stayed. I had customers who went to China on their own for other products. They would not stay in anything but “Western Style” hotels and would not eat anything but “Western Style” food, and there are places in the larger cities, which have both. Some of them would even go as far as to not eat during the day with their hosts—rather waiting until they returned to their hotels for their “Western Style” food. I always felt that was rather rude to say the least and a bit disrespectful.

As for the food itself, I found it to be, for the most part, rather tasty. I took my hosts advice and did not drink the tap water. I drank bottled water, their very excellent hot tea, and a lot of their extremely appealing Chinese beer. The food was normally brought out as it was prepared and put on a Lazy Susan. Everyone turned it until the food they wanted was in front of them and then put it on their plates or ate it over, or on, a bowl of steamed white rice. We ate a lot in restaurants in private rooms, which I truly enjoyed. There was no outside noise, and the atmosphere was more personal. When I ate in factories, it was what the employees ate and in their dining area—each experience was unique and enjoyable. I learned to use Chopsticks at least enough to get food from the plate to my mouth. Although people keep bringing me utensils, I stuck with the Chopsticks while in the country. I “never” got sick from anything that I ate or drank in China, which is more than I can say for my normal diet.

The food is just one of the misconceptions of China and its people. I believed what I was told until I experienced it myself—not unlike other things in my life that I have been told by others only to be dispelled once I experienced it personally.

Note from Blog host – If you plan to do business in China, I recommend visiting the China Law Blog first.

Continued February 26, 2012 in Americans doing Business in China – Part 6 (a guest post) or return to Part 4


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Note: This guest post first appeared on February 19, 2010

8 Responses to Americans doing Business in China – Part 5/16

  1. Betty Tredennick says:

    Don’t know what happened to my last post Loyd. I think I got bounced out of your site!

    Doesn’t food sharing in many East Asian countries lead to Hep A or B? Like in the photo above I see there are no tongs or spoons for communal use. Do people eat from their chopsticks and then “double dip”?

    I’ve never been but I wonder if Chinese food is really healthier than Western food. In her book Red China Blues Jan Wong says that’s a misconception. Or was it Jung Chang who said that? One of them. I would imagine you would find healthy food and fried stuff in both parts of the world or everywhere for that matter would you not?

    I laughed at the part about stocking up on hard candy. Yes I think I would take some chocolate. But I’m too sure about saying I didn’t see something to imply it doesn’t exist. I’ve never seen anyone shot in my life, if you see where I’m going with this. I mean re eating dog and cat. People do eat dog and cat in China don’t they? I mean you always read that they do. And don’t people eat insects like scorpions? I saw a show about a British traveler who went to a market in Beijing and people were eating creepy crawlies. I think a suitcase of hard candies is a good idea!

    Food for though – ha ha

    mother B

    • Betty,

      If you sent another comment recently, I didn’t see it. It must have gotten lost on the World Wide Web.

      When we travel to China, I take boxes of LARA Bars and several pounds of almonds and walnuts, which serve as meal replacements when needed. I carry a supply of dark chocolate too since I don’t care much for the chocolate bars I’ve bought in China–they seem to have less of a chocolate taste to them.

      However, I eat real Chinese food when in China—at our flat in Shanghai, at hotels, as a guest in people’s homes and in restaurants. I’ve never been sick from any of that food. In 2006, we took friends on a tour of China and the only time they got sick is when they couldn’t resist eating a donut from a Western style donut shop. They never got sick from the Chinese food. My wife was careful when she selected places to eat. If it appears dirty and she cannot see the kitchen or the smell is off, we go elsewhere.

      I don’t know about the Hep A & B. My wife lived in China for 28 years and visits once or twice a year and she doesn’t have it. Our daughter has been visiting China annually since about age three, and she doesn’t have it. When they travel to China, they often stay for ten to twelve weeks each time. Yes, people do use their chopsticks to “double dip”. I still have trouble getting used to that outside the family. In fact, we do it at home all the times in the US and in China at our flat but at least we are keeping the bacteria we share within the family.

      Chinese food in China is seldom like Chinese food in the US, which has been westernized to fit the American appetite. Since I’ve never gone on an organized tour of China, I have no idea what type of food is offered to those tourists. When we are on the road, we eat in out of the way places that usually only cater to Chinese and since I’m a fairly strict vegan most of the time stay away from fried foods, I don’t touch a lot of the unhealthy food. I’ve seen my wife eat a bowl of duck blood soup. I won’t touch it.

      Most American and Chinese would probably go crazy eating what we eat. I understand that scorpions are available in China but most of the people don’t eat that. It’s more of a novelty food. I’ve never seen it on any of the menus where we eat. My wife says never eat from the street venders.

      One of my favorites is fresh, hot soy juice early in the morning. I used to get up at 5:00 AM and go to the nearest open air market and buy is fresh from the pot and I make sure I get the unsweetened soy juice. Even better, is hot unsweetened soy juice with fresh squares of tofu floating in it.

      In fact, I understand that restaurants in China are licensed to serve foreigners and tourists and restaurants that do not have that clearance are only allowed to serve Chinese. However, that does not mean all Chinese obey the laws.

      • Aussie in China says:

        Zillions of almonds and walnuts in China and Dove and Leconte Chocolate among myriads of other dark and milk chocolates some imported from Russia.
        Never heard of restaurants licensed to serve foreigners other than a business stunt to get customers in the door. However all accomodation venues must be licensed for foreigners.
        The Cantonese eat some weird and wonderful things but I don’t know any Han who has eaten cat knowingly. Dog is a winter food and part of the Chinese medicine cuisine. It’s eaten for health beliefs.
        There is an ‘ant’ restaurant in Urumqi but again a Chinese medicine cuisine.
        Spoons are used with a few dishes and will be provided if requested but in general, double dipping with chopsticks is the norm.
        No-one I know would ever drink tap water unless boiled.
        Bottled water is the norm for those with access.
        I’ve never lived anywhere in the world without washing fruit and vegetables. Here they even wash the meat.
        Eating out is a hazard anywhere in the world while home-cooking is the safest.
        Whether Chinese food is healthier is hard to figure but people here eat more and a wider range of fresh vegetables every day. They are also large consumers of dairy products (except cheese and butter), fruits and a wide range of nuts and dried fruit.
        I maybe have an upset stomach (Laduzi) once a year from too many fruits but I eat mainly home-cooking. I had Hep A and B shots when I first came here 10 years ago and haven’t had any since. Most liver damage here is from too much white wine or Baijiu.

  2. I’ve had food poisoning more times than I can count here – but I guess this chap’s just been luckier than me.

    I agree not eating with your hosts is rude, but I’ve been in the situation where everything on the table makes me feel queasy too – so I understand why people duck meals here, I have a friend who’s been here nearly 40 years and even he get nervous when it comes to a Chinese lunch with people we don’t know so well…

    • Shads of China,

      I’ve never had this experience in China but I’m a vegan and don’t eat meat, dairy, and most seafood, which I eat occasionally, unless I know it is wild caught (and never in China). When in a situation where we eat with a large group at one of those big round feasting tables, I make it clear that I’m a vegan and eat like a peasant. The Chinese have always respected and accepted that.

      At our flat in Shanghai where we use the kitchen, my wife is careful to wash and peel the skin of fruits we eat raw. Everything else is cooked. My wife was the one that told me to only drink boiled or bottled water while in China and to check the seal of the bottle to make sure it is still intact.

      However, I did get sick on one trip to China — eating the food on the United Airlines flight over. I was sick before the flight landed in Shanghai and I spent a week getting over it. After that flight, I don’t eat the airline food.

      • I think I’m an anti-vegan in dietary terms, I don’t like many Western standard vegetables but I’m yet to meet a local vegetable I enjoyed, I end up buying carrots and eating them raw at home – or tinned beans, sweetcorn, and peas. And sneaking into HK for pickled beetroot and pickled onions.

        I also really don’t like seafood – so I spend most of my time telling people I’m allergic to it, so I don’t hurt their feelings when they order it and want me to try it.

        I completely agree with your wife, I use bottled water for cooking and for the kettle too – it’s not so much the impurities in the water but the heavy metal poisioning that I’m trying to avoid…

        I don’t mind airline food – one of the better meals I’ve had in China was on a China Southern Plane… but then I’m just odd. 🙂

      • Shards of China,

        I enjoy the airline food served on China Eastern but cannot stand the food on United Airlines.

        Usually, when in Shanghai, I shop at a local market near our flat and buy distilled water by the gallon.

        I wanted to add, when in China, I carry this product from Jarrow Formulas. In case of diarrhea caused by contaminated food, this helps repopulate the friendly bacteria in the gut while taking medications to deal with the bad bacteria invasion.

      • Aussie in China says:

        Today is a normal working day and lunch is rice and four dishes.

        1. Eggplant with green peppers and garlic
        2. Rice noodles (fen tiao) with mushrooms and green peppers
        2. Garlic plant stalks and sichuan sausage
        4. Rape plant (you cai)
        5. bowl of rice
        plus a side dish of chopped white onions in vinegar.
        Supper is usually leftovers.

        This is a normal lunchtime meal for us of rice and 4 dishes for most of the week.
        In most rural areas people come home for lunch. My wife works and I cook.

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