This special issue on Asia is a result of two major trips I took in the past quarter. The first was twenty-five days in Southeast Asia, with a team of eight including several MBA students. For our research in conjunction with Eagles Communications in Singapore, we interviewed 54 business leaders in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok, exploring with them their approach to handling difficult personnel situations.
John Terrill (the director of graduate and professional ministries with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) and I selected two from these interviews for follow-up conversations for Ethix. George Ting* is CEO of a company that managed the growth of Pizza Hut and KFC in Malaysia, and talked with us about dealing with bribery, representing an American brand, the ethics of fast-food and the like. This conversation starts on p. 6. T.N. Loy is CEO of MBf Corporation, a company founded by his father, a Malaysian entrepreneur. MBf is a conglomerate including financial services, travel, and education. He offers his perspective starting on p. 10. The two leaders offer contrasting, creative, and determined approaches to dealing with the reality of bribery, for example.
Three weeks after returning from Southeast Asia, I returned to Asia for eleven days in China, giving a series of business ethics lectures to universities and a government-sponsored event. There I met Jimin Zhu, the chairman of The Shougang Corporation, the third largest steel producer in China. With the help of translators (because of my nonexistent Chinese language skills), I met with him over lunch to discuss ethics, the environment, and social responsibility at a large Beijing-based manufacturing company. This discussion starts on p. 14.
Because of the opportunity to share multiple views from Asia, we have had to eliminate three popular features from this issue: the Forum, Asian Perspective, and Ethics for Business. They will be back in the next issue.
A few other observations from these trips. I had been told to watch for rampant Americanization in Asia. There were a number of American brands, along with IKEA (Sweden), Nokia (Finland), Honda (Japan), Bayer (Germany), and the like. And I came home to eat at Chinese, Thai, and Indian restaurants. Globalization, with its upsides and downsides, is alive and thriving in the world, but it is definitely more than Americanization.
Outsourcing came into sharp focus. Low wages and high skills make Chinese labor attractive for many businesses, and also drive their use of technology (see p. 4).
And in Thailand I learned a valuable lesson in pricing. My wife had to go to a hospital to deal with an infection, and the visit was arranged through a friend. Our twenty-minute taxi ride to the hospital cost US$1.25. The bill from the hospital (the doctor waived his fee because of his friendship with our friend, so we only paid for the office visit, the nurse, and the prescription) came to US$1.55. The single scoop of Haeagen-Dazs ice cream after the visit cost US$3.00. A Thai visitor to the U.S. would be in for a rude awakening!
Even if your business is focused in the U.S. or in Europe, I believe the perspectives from Asia will be of value. Let us know what you think about this special issue.
* We have used the Western form of the name “Given Name” followed by “Family Name.” In Asia, the representation is more typically “Family Name” followed by “Given Name.”