General Electric distanced itself from comments critical of the business environment in China made this week by its chairman and chief executive Jeffrey Immelt.
But it turns out that this isn't exactly the first time. Almost a month ago, Immelt expressed similar frustration during a speech in Shanghai, where he suggested American companies face a tough time getting a favorable outcome in negotiations in China.
'I look at my American colleagues, the hardest thing to do in China is get a win-win relationship,' Immelt said on June 2. 'You know. The negotiating, the ability to find a space where both people make money, that is something that we always have to continue to, not just think about, but insist on in terms of the dealings we have.'
While it's not exactly news that negotiating is difficult in China, the Shanghai comments take on added significance considering the pointed remarks Immelt made in Rome this week about tough business conditions in China. In a video of the Shanghai event held on the grounds of an ongoing World Expo, where GE is a U.S. sponsor, Immelt doesn't appear angry. Instead, for the head of one of the world's most international businesses, he comes across as flustered by the challenges in China. (See the video on the website of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai) 'As a matter of fact, every time I'm here I'm quite humbled by how fast China moves, how much it's grown, how fast it changes, and so whenever I leave here I just have a headache because I'm confused, I don't know exactly what to do,' Immelt said in the 20-minute speech. 'It's like riding a wild horse or something like that.'
GE's motto is 'Imagination at Work' and Immelt said GE is determined to sink deeper roots in China. Yet, one of his key roles is to bat back ideas from China team that he thinks are preordained to fail in the unique market. 'There's a few places where we just can't participate,' he said. 'We can't be competitive. The market is stacked against us to a certain extent. But the local team wants to do it anyhow,' he said. 'So my job is to say no, that's not what we're going to do here because we can't be competitive.'
In Shanghai, Immelt had sharp words for Washington too, though he stopped short of criticizing the Obama administration for its attitude toward business, as he reportedly did during the Rome event.
He told his Shanghai audience that Washington isn't helping. Globalization is deeply unpopular among the American people, but is even more so in the U.S. Congress, he said, estimating that perhaps 90% of members oppose it. 'Politicians don't like globalization,' Immelt said, adding that for businesses, 'the odds are stacked against us' in resisting trade protectionism.
Immelt said GE is looking to deepen its roots in China, not pull back.
GE, Immelt said, hopes to build joint ventures with more Chinese state-owned groups in the country, like its avionics business it has already announced with China Aviation Industry Corp. He said the scale of China heralds the need for 'reverse innovation,' or adopting Chinese business models and introducing them the West, suggesting he hopes to strike a joint venture deal on high-speed rail with the Ministry of Railways.
'So I think about localization, capability building, partnership, reverse innovation, those kinds of things,' he said.
通用电气(General Electric)董事长兼首席执行长杰弗里•伊梅尔特(Jeffrey Immelt)上周就中国的经商环境发表了一些批评言论，而他的公司则与这些言论撇清关系。
通用电气的口号是“梦想启动未来”(Imagination at Work)，伊梅尔特也说通用电气决心进一步扎根中国。但他的关键职责之一，是驳回中国团队那些他认为在这个特殊市场注定会失败的想法。他说，有几个地方我们根本没法参与，我们不可能有竞争力，市场在一定程度上对我们不利，但当地团队还是要做，所以我的工作就是说不，说那不是我们要在这里做的事情，因为我们不可能有竞争力。