There’s undeniable mutual respect when Māori and Chinese enterprises do business together.

I’ve felt it myself when working over in Shanghai.

There is just something special between the two cultures that cultivate a bond and trust which can be channeled into building strong business partnerships.

With the value of the Māori economy increasing to an estimated $50 billion, more business opportunities are arising than ever before and they will only continue to grow.

These opportunities pave the way for mutually beneficial partnerships between Māori and Chinese in business that generally seem to be fair and prosperous for both.

But what is it that brings the two cultures together?

They aren’t similar in size at all, with China being 36 times bigger than New Zealand…

There is quite a difference in populations, with China boasting a population of 1.386 billion while the Maori population is… smaller than that.

And they are miles away from each other geographically…

Is it the fact that Maori could have originally migrated from China, making the long voyage via Taiwan, through the South Pacific, and on to Aotearoa, as many historians believe?

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. What I have found though is that we have far more in common than people might expect.

The similarities that bring us together

Kanohi ki te kanohi means face to face and it’s something both Māori and Chinese cultures believe in – where you create respect before conducting business.

Honoring the other’s culture, heritage, and traditions are what help Chinese and Māori see eye to eye when securing business partnerships.

Each culture has its own distinct languages with heaps of different dialects, iwi to iwi or province to province.

We both have a traditional performance culture as well as customs, myths, and legends that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Both groups hold wairua as extremely important and have a unique take on spirituality, considering it to be interconnected with all aspects of life and vital to our overall well-being or hauora.

But the key similarity is in values that are shared between Māori and Chinese cultures.

I love Chinese culture because it’s very whanau-oriented. Family orientation is how I grew up.

I was raised by my grandparents in Masterton so seeing the way each generation looks after those who came before them really resonated with me and made me value their culture and traditions.

They understand what it means to take care of your iwi.

There’s also the shared understanding that both cultures are the caretakers of their land, the kaitiakitanga, which means that the Chinese respect our natural resources and the importance of protecting them, a hugely important factor when dealing with our natural assets.

How has this made business accessible across both sides?

I’ve found that sharing these values helps to establish trust from the get-go. There are major differences in the way Chinese and western businesses coordinate and conduct themselves.

If any westerner were to come in and try to present a business deal or market a product or service to a new group of Chinese business people, they may find more barriers to break down in order to build a solid working partnership.

With the shared cultural values between our two cultures, developing closer relations is more seamless and paves the way for easier opportunities in business.

I’ve experienced this first hand when working for Chinese organizations and this mutual respect helped me to fit in with my past marketing roles when living in Shanghai and working for China Southern Airlines in New Zealand.

Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to help many Kiwis build relationships in China and I’ve learned that for any business entering China, it’s critical you understand the cultural differences, and adapt your approach accordingly.

With this cultural understanding, Māori businesses are in a great position to explore Chinese markets, representing themselves authentically in a way that will be embraced with respect.

The future for Māori and Chinese in business

The Māori economy is considered pretty new, with assets being built up over time. In the past Māori relied on the government professional sector to manage assets.

But what we have seen in recent years is less Māori are working with government agencies to invest their assets, embracing the direct opportunity to work with Chinese organizations.

These have been initiated from both ends in my experience.

Today, Māori are creating opportunities for themselves.

Just this year, a group of small to medium Māori businesses have secured a spot on one of China’s main e-commerce sites, Alibaba Group’s Tmall Global platform.

13 Māori businesses now have a marketplace to sell premium food products to an estimated audience of 307 million Chinese consumers.

And there are plenty of other ways to enter the Chinese market, as we looked at in this blog.

It’s an all-new world out there for Māori in the business sector.

Over the last decade, we have seen iwi-controlled post-settlement assets grow, and they are now worth around $7 billion, a total that is expected to double over the next decade.

China is a hugely lucrative market to tap into, and long-term opportunities are now available to iwi which will sustain their communities for generations to come, and benefit the country as a whole.

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