Jon Geldart sits as the only Western advisor on a Chinese Government sponsored committee looking into the branding of the accounting profession in China. Here he describes the recent Workimg party meeting in Beijing.
It is a nearly 3 hour meeting, conducted entirely in Chinese with, at times, passionate and heated debate. Presided over by the leadership of the Chinese Institute of Certified Public Accountants (CICPA), the group consists of representatives of the largest Chinese accounting firms. Foreign firms are not invited! It is a team which has been working together for the last 2.5 years and as such we know each other well.
The topic is a significant one, and drives to the heart of the realisation of The China Dream (see elsewhere for papers on this from WPP). The accounting profession in China consists of over 8,000 firms so there is plenty of scope for specialists, localised, regional, national and even international firms and ‘brands’. However, the fact that this group exists at all is down to the vision of one man. Dr Yugui Chen is the Director General of the CICPA and as passionate about brands as any one of the leaders at the top of their game and business in the West. It is he who has, almost single handedly, pushed for reforms, awareness and training of senior leadership in the profession. It has been a privilage to work with him on this journey over the past 4 years since we met and found we shared a common passion for brands and the opportunity for Chinese accounting brands in the world. However, the simple fact at it has taken 4 years to get to the draft principles and guidelines discussed this week is a testimony to how long things can take in a country which can turn on a sixpence when it so chooses, or so it seems.
Outside the few people in that room, and a number of others around China, I doubt if more than 500 people know, even in a limited way, of the initiative, how important it is, or how far reaching it could be. But it is 500 and not 15. The profession has 100s of thousands of employees so the percentage of those involved, or are aware, is small but in any where else in the world no one would talk of ‘closed doors’. So it is in China. The discussions and debates are only held ‘behind closed doors’ because we in the West fail to knock on them to see if they can be opened. Most debates and discussions are held in remarkable openness, if my experience is a common one. No doubt some things at senior government level are correctly closed to the few, but for much of the changes currently being discussed in China the lnly real barrier is that they are in Chinese. Our group is wide and varied, discussion is open and sometimes passionate and loud. Consultation and input is requested and receievd widely across many outside the core team.
So what about the Chinese Dream? The debate focused on how accounting brands could genuinely contribute to the wider improvements of brand China, which suffers from negative perceptions of quality amongst other things. Stong accounting brands will bring with them developed brand reputation which should safeguard the interests of investors and public alike. This confidence will filter through to the market as stong endorsement of Chinese brands and businesses so helping the overall confidence in Brand China. The accounting profession is but one part of the picture but the developments here will help shape and influence those elsewhere and it is a privilage to have a part to play.