This article is adapted from AQ’s latest issue on China and Latin America
My interest in China began many years ago. I was fascinated by Chinese culture and started studying the language in university. After graduating as a lawyer in Argentina, I started working with clients that exported to China and realized the magnitude of the opportunity for business and trade.
In 2016, I was chosen to join the inaugural class of Schwarzman Scholars to pursue a master’s degree at Tsinghua University in China. After graduating, I realized that if I wanted to start my own company and help others enter this challenging market, I had to commit and stay in China. I serve as an investment advisor at the Argentine embassy in China but am also founder of STOKES, a start-up creating healthy snacks (beef jerky). The project gave me firsthand experience on how to enter the Chinese market, set up a company, protect valuable intellectual property, manufacture, market and distribute.
Even though China has opened up in recent decades, when it comes to doing business as a foreigner, its regulatory environment is extremely complex. Choosing the adequate legal entity, city of registration, registering your trademark, and receiving foreign or Chinese investment are just some of the steps that need to be carefully addressed. Some of the most popular Western apps and web pages are blocked in China and the domestic internet companies form a unique ecosystem that operates unlike the Internet we are used to in the West, and for business it means that goods and services are advertised and purchased in a completely different way.
Culture and language are no less daunting. Even though there are currently more people studying English in China than the total population of Great Britain, most don’t speak English. Everything is done in Chinese and, unless you can read Chinese characters (汉子), you won’t be able to read anything. My hope is that people involved in China affairs can help bridge the gap toward a more integrated and prosperous world.
Fuentes Benítez is a lawyer, business advisor and entrepreneur. He grew up in Necochea, Argentina.