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Chinas focus of local forum

Marylhurst will be hosting business forum on Oct. 27

When Merrill Watts went to China last April he intended only to be a 'sherpa.'

That means the only thing he had in mind was being a baggage carrier for his 80-year-old father, who was making his last trip abroad.

But Watts came back with much more baggage than he carried. In fact, he was so transformed by what he saw in that nation that the result is 'China: The Future is Now,' at Marylhurst University on Saturday, Oct. 27.

Watts intends for this forum to be a giant wakeup call for area business people on how to do business in China.

'I went there with no interest,' said Watts, acting chairman of the Business and Leadership Department at Marylhurst. 'I hadn't studied a word of Chinese, I had no knowledge of Chinese culture.

'The second day I was blown away by the economic activity. Most important is the fire in the belly of the Chinese people. After two weeks I knew my life would be deeply connected to China.'

What Watts saw was a central government that sees thousands of its rules ignored, yet can turn on a dime and make monumental decisions.

He saw huge, modern cities being built that have no parallel in the USA.

He saw a middle class that is rising so fast that it is shocking to eyes that have seen so many images of Chinese poverty.

Watts saw something else, too. American businessmen losing their shirts because they do not know Chinese culture or business tactics.

'Losing money is not necessary if you know the rules of the game,' Watts said. 'But frankly, the situation is so complex and fraught with landmines. Unless you get the best advice, it's not worth going there.'

Watts has lined up some good advice, indeed, for the Oct. 27 forum in Peter Young and John Lorenz.

The owner and CEO of Chemcentral, Inc., Young's topic is 'Why Most United States Companies Lose Money in China.' Young doesn't. He has successfully done business there for the past 30 years by navigating the Chinese governmental maze and gaining a superb understanding of East/West knowledge and leadership.

John Lorenz owns a merchant bank and for the past 15 years has done business with China's wealthiest individual. He has raised more than $350 million as a CEO of four companies. Conveniently enough, he is also on the faculty of Marylhurst University. His topic is titled, 'Why Understanding Chinese Culture and History Matters in Business.'

'We are going to make it possible to ask the right questions and read the right materials,' Watts said, 'so business people can avoid the mistakes that hundreds have made.'

One of the biggest problems American businesses face in China is 'there is no rule of law. It doesn't exist as we know it.'

This often results in Americans having their intellectual property stolen, then not only losing the Chinese market they were seeking but also their market back home in the USA.

'The scale and the competition we're up against is incredible,' Watts said. 'We can't see it without having our perspective changed.'

How big are the coming changes from China?

Watts said, 'If you don't speak Mandarin in 30 years, it will be like trying to do business today without speaking English.'

To register for 'China: The Future is Now' go to www.marylhurst.edu/business/seminar/ and download a registration form. There are several options:

n Option A: $25 for breakfast and keynote by Peter Young.

n Option B: $90 for keynote and seminar (breakfast, box lunch included).

n Option C: $45 for keynote and seminar.

n Earn one college credit for attending.

Registration deadline is Wednesday, Oct. 24.

For more information, call 503-636-8141.

Marylhurst University is located on Highway 43 between Lake Oswego and West Linn.