Facebook Twitter

U.S. FIRMS RETURNING INTO CHINA
BEIJING MOBILIZES URGENT `BACK-TO-NORMAL’ CAMPAIGN

SHARE U.S. FIRMS RETURNING INTO CHINA
BEIJING MOBILIZES URGENT `BACK-TO-NORMAL’ CAMPAIGN

American businessmen are trickling back into Beijing, two weeks after packing up and fleeing China after the government massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators began in Tiananmen Square June 3 and 4.

Occidental Petroleum's staff of five is back in Beijing. Dependents of the company's 75 U.S. mine workers in China, who also were evacuated, "are now being told that they can or may go back at their convenience," said a spokesman for the Los Angeles company.One returnee is James Spear, 33, manager of an international subsidiary of Unison Group, a San Bruno, Calif., company that advises foreign firms about doing business in China.

Spear, his wife Liang and their two children took off Monday morning for Beijing.

"He felt the Japanese hadn't pulled out many of their businessmen," said his father, James Spear Sr. "He felt for the long term he should be there." The decision has his parents worried.

The return of some U.S. personnel is occurring amid a strong, coordinated effort by the Chinese government to lure foreign businesses back with assurances that things are back to normal.

"A few companies are either contemplating going back or possibly sending one person back as a scout," said Richard Brecher, investment manager at U.S.-China Business Council in Washington. "Just about everyone has been contacted by the Chinese, primarily by their Chinese partners. They are all echoing the similar `all is well, business is normal, what are you waiting for? Just come on back.' "

Despite such assurances, most U.S. companies are proceeding cautiously, mindful of the State Department advisory against travel to China and the warning from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing that the Chinese government may use returning businessmen as fodder for propaganda purposes to show that business has not been disrupted. State-run television has featured interviews with Japanese and European businessmen who either stayed or have recently returned.

"We don't believe business is normal or could be normal," Brecher said. "We are suggesting people train a critical eye on these statements coming out of China. It takes more than good words to make a good healthy investment environment in China; it always has, now more so."

Many U.S. companies are taking such a cautious attitude. Chrysler, for example, has tentative plans to send its Beijing Jeep staff back no earlier than July. The eight American employees and their families are scattered in Hong Kong, Australia and the United States.

"We're businessmen, not politicians, and (we) don't appreciate being used for propaganda or anything else," said Richard H. Ott, vice president for Chrysler's Beijing Jeep joint venture. "We have a business in China, it has done quite well, we have many friends in the business community."

Ott said in a telephone interview from his home in Michigan: "Nothing is firmed up yet. We've been invited by phone, by letter and by fax. We're taking a slow and deliberate entry. We're observing how things go first, to assure safety first."

Arco's staff of five Americans is still in Hong Kong after evacuating Beijing. "We have no plans to send them in yet," a spokesman for the Los Angeles-based company said.

"As far as we know, they have no communications with our people in China asking us to come back at this time. We just want to see what develops. We don't want to expose people to any danger. We're just being cautious," he said.

Hewlett-Packard Co. in Palo Alto, Calif., said it has no immediate plans to return the 20 employees that it removed from Beijing and Shanghai. "They have not returned and right now we have no plans for them returning," said Joan Tharp, a spokesman for the computer and electronics giant.