Chris Cooper is a partner at Deloitte & Touche and the National Leader of the U.S. Chinese Services Group. He has extensive experience in business and consulting and was one among the first in the Big Four to relocate to China. He talked with us about his journey and how China has influenced him.
When and why did you first come to China?
I first came to China in 1993 as a young CPA and auditor to help open up and establish offices for my firm in Shanghai and Beijing.
When I first came to China, there were more bicycles than cars in all of the major roads. More seriously, the people have changed. To me, the biggest change is not the buildings or infrastructure or cars, it’s the people. For example, young people coming out of universities are so much more worldly and more focused on international business, and have a much broader view of the world. I think the biggest impact has been the cultural shift in people.
What projects have you worked on in China?
My professional focus is mergers and acquisitions and I worked on a lot of foreign investment deals into China ranging from 60 to 100 million dollars. As my career progressed, I also grew into a key player and senior leader while developing my firm’s China practice. Through these experiences, I was fortunate enough to experience, first hand, the upward growth trajectory of the Chinese economy. While living in China, I also worked on various intercultural projects in both the public and private sectors.
Currently, I am a partner with Deloitte & Touche. I lead our firm’s China strategy practice in the United States.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
The biggest challenge, as I think it is with any business, is HR and the HR policy changes in a high-growth organization in a fast- changing economy. It forced us to become very focused on things like retention, healthcare, and home ownership, and forced us to be more creative and have more of a global view of our China employees.
Any advice for Americans who want to do business in China?
Take small steps and enjoy the experience. Have fun by drinking in the culture and have a good sense of humor.
How has living in China influenced your work/study?
Coming and living in China has been a life-changing experience. It has influenced, in a positive way, how I conduct business and choose to grow as a person. This experience has enabled me to expand my personal thinking beyond the boundaries of my upbringing and stimulated a true love towards Chinese culture. I have raised my son in China through the majority of his childhood. My China experience has been a source of influence and opportunity for my entire family, my son, my parents… It has opened many doors for me.
You also talk about how China has influenced you and your family, what have you’ve learned?
The importance of the family unit—it’s made me value my family even more.
Based on your own experiences, what do you think is the biggest misunderstanding about China?
The biggest misunderstanding comes from people focusing on how China is different from us. That combined with a general lack of knowledge about China causes a lot of misunderstanding about Chinese culture, business, and economy. I firmly believe if people could gain a firsthand experience with China, it will not only increase the understanding, but also create lasting and effective bilateral relationships and alliances. This is why a program like the 100,000 Strong Initiative is so important.
What is one of your favorite or most memorable China experiences?
A couple of things stand out for me. One is visiting China with my families and exploring the country together. Another is the early days when all the expats were new to the country and all the bonds and friendships that we formed with our Chinese friends who had been so gracious and welcoming.