Hong Kong shows several business faces – depending on which Hong Kong is being dealt with.
On the surface is the Hong Kong peopled by large multi-nationals sprung from the area’s colonial past, with massive corporations such as Jardine Matheson, the Swire Group and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank dominating the region. This Hong Kong certainly does exist and exerts a tremendous influence over the business life of the region.
However, balancing out these massive, managerial style organisations are the tens of thousands of small businesses run along very paternalistic lines and epitomising the entrepreneurial spirit of Chinese traders. There are in fact more than 470,000 small to medium-sized businesses operating in Hong Kong – compared with a population of around only 7 million people. This figure alone proves the health, vitality and hunger of the mainly ethnic Chinese business community.
Thus, almost more than in any other business environment, it is vital to know exactly which type of organisation you will be dealing with – because attitudes to such things as management style, decision-making and attitudes to long-term relationship-building could vary enormously.
Having pointed out the anomalies to be found when doing business in Hong Kong, it is also necessary to point out that certain endemic Chinese cultural traits will permeate virtually all Hong Kong business life. Issues surrounding loss of face, communication styles and attitude to family ties will remain constant regardless of company type or even, to a large extent, educational background. (See later sections.)
Relationships (Guanxi) are very important in the Hong Kong Chinese business world, but possibly play a less prominent role than on the mainland or in Taiwan.
Hong Kong has played a significant role in the global economy in such areas as electrical goods, telecoms equipment and clothing.