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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Navigating web of connections in China

By Meng Jing (China Daily)

11:01, January 29, 2012

As China's Spring Festival gets into full swing, Miroslav Kolesar has a lot on his plate, and it's not just dumplings or some other Chinese New Year fare. Kolesar, chief representative in China of PPF Group, a Czech financial and investment company, has been traveling across the country three days a week paying courtesy visits to local government officials to thank them for their support over the past year and looking for suggestions for his company in the year to come. With PPF Group, communicating with governments is Kolesar's main job, a task fraught with difficulties for a foreigner.

The Czech man, 38, has spent 15 years in China, and in that time says he has met countless government officials from the premier, Wen Jiabao, to village directors in remote mountain areas in the country's west.

His work helped PPF Group's subsidiary, Home Credit, become the only foreign-owned company to be given a license to provide consumer loans in China. Kolesar says success comes in regarding yourself and your business as local, a skill he seems to have in spades.

The fluent Chinese speaker is a sinophile who started to learn the language in the late 1980s.

"At that time there were few people in my hometown who had the opportunity to learn English, let alone Chinese," Kolesar says, believing it was destiny that put him in contact with an English teacher who was an overseas Chinese.

As a teenager in eastern Slovakia, Kolesar urged the teacher to give him private lessons in Chinese. At the root of this wish to learn the language was a desire to learn more about China after being given a taste of its culture through reading.

Kolesar then chose to go to Charles University in Prague, one of the oldest and most famous universities in central Europe, to study sinology, taking in Chinese language, history, culture, philosophy - in short, almost anything related to China.

One of the most important lessons he was taught, he says, was "never say no to Chinese people". The response should be "Yes, but" because of Chinese people's distaste for confrontation.

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