Gilbert Van Kerckhove, Owner & President of Beijing Global Strategy Consulting, has worked in China for more than 30 years and is often asked to talk about lobbying in China given his experience working with Government and state-owned enterprises.
Here are two case studies which seemed 'mission impossible' but worked out thanks to his understanding of the system and how to achieve results.
Is Lobbying Different in China?
"I think lobbying in China is like lobbying in Brussels, where we have thousands and thousands lobbyists trying to steer the European Commission in a certain direction, or even Washington D.C., with the lobbyists sitting there."
"When I look to the term lobbying in China I would say it is very simple. How do you get your message across and how do you reach your goal to realize what you want to do? For example execute a project."
"To make it simple, I come with two real cases I’ve done. Two projects that you could consider mission impossible."
Starting Shanghai's Subway in the 1990s
"One was when I was sent in 1995-96 to re-open the Alstom office in Shanghai. Shanghai and Alstom were extremely interested to re-start a subway line. At that time it was virtually impossible because there was a law from the Central Government prohibiting the construction of any subway line within China. Full stop."
"In this case I explain how we looked into the matter and had to make sure the law was canceled - which we did in the end. But I explain how we dealt with these issues. This is not an ‘under the table’ issue."
"First of all, put yourself in the shoes of the people in front of you. Why, in this case, was there such a law from the Central Government? We found out that the Central Government had pretty good arguments about that. That was the starting point, trying to understand why are we in this situation, then slowly trying to solve."
Placing A Sculpture In The Olympic Park
The second example is ‘’when a Belgian artist approached me and said he wants to donate a huge sculpture to be put in the Olympic Park. Mission impossible again, because the Beijing Government had said to all the big countries - France, Germany, Japan, United States - that they would not accept any gift or piece of art to be put in the Park. Full stop."
"We solved it. It’s a very long story. Along the way you have to be very flexible and adapt your strategy. You start with a certain assumption, a certain angle, and then you have to be flexible enough to say that didn’t work, we should do it in different way."
"This is how today the sculpture is in the Olympic Green."
Image: the signing ceremony for metro line 3 in Shanghai with French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin (25 September, 1998)