Jon Huntsman Jr., vice chairman of Huntsman Corp., has lived, worked and traveled in Asia, and served as dep-uty assistant U.S. Secretary of Commerce for East Asian Paci-fic affairs, a trade policy job. In a recent telephone interview, he offered ad-vice to companies considering China as the next place to do business. Closely evaluate both why your firm needs to go there, and the potential return.
``Don't get caught up in the herd mentality,'' he said. ``Think carefully about why you think you have to be there.''
Consult with those who have experience in China.
``I'm aghast at the number of people who go there without any guidance,'' Huntsman said. ``You need to hear both sides of China, both good and bad, particularly if you don't have a lot of resources. Consultation on the front end will save a lot of dyspepsia on the back end.''
Don't get dragged into the marketplace beyond that which is reasonable.
``Realize the Chinese market is a high-maintenance and costly account,'' Huntsman said. ``You must be there often, take time to visit the highest-level person in the company.
``China can deplete your resources, your time and your technology, so at some point draw the line. Too many companies get into this process, then find out there's not much to be gained on the other end.''
Huntsman recommends a careful approach: ``Approach China with certain expectations,'' he said.
``Maybe the time isn't right for you today, but don't make mistake of crossing that Rubicon of going beyond the time and resources that are prudent.''
Huntsman learned the Man-darin language while on a two-year mission in Taiwan for the Mormon church.
In 1984, while he was working at the White House, Huntsman went to China with President Ronald Reagan.
He also lived in Asia while Huntsman built its petrochemical plant there, and served in Asia as the U.S. ambassador to Singapore.
A licensed polystyrene facility in Manchuria in the only project Huntsman Corp. has completed to date.
However, Huntsman said the company is looking at a number of other opportunities in Beijing and Shanghai.
``The China market is a very important one for us, and we plan to keep a close eye on it,'' he said. ``We make frequent visits and maintain a good relationship. When the time is right to strike, we'll be there in a substantial way.''