In June, North Head Executive Director Robert Magyar’s work was published in Public Affairs: A Global Perspective, a new book by the UK’s Urbane Publications. His chapter, titled “Public Affairs in China: At a Crossroads?” deals with the complexities of government relations work in a country where the overlapping activities of the government mean that it is often simultaneously a regulator, supplier, and competitor.
Robert outlines the three key factors shaping the development of GR in China today, namely the Chinese government’s control over society and the market, the speed and varying degrees of reform, and the recent development of the communications industry. GR, he notes, is rapidly professionalizing, and bringing with it a change in emphasis from older patterns of guanxi—the personal relations that lubricated dealings with the government in the past—and towards more thorough knowledge of the needs and goals of various government agencies.
He also counters the belief that GR in China is highly centralized. For many issues, companies will find that they need to cooperate with stakeholders from dozens of provinces, hundreds of prefectures, and thousands of lower-level units, not to mention the ubiquitous Communist Party.
Looking forward, Robert predicts that the sector will continue to flourish as a new generation of younger, skilled, and culturally attuned GR professionals emerges. Demand for GR expertise will remain strong in the foreseeable future as companies grapple with a Chinese bureaucracy still reeling from anti-corruption investigations and shifting reform priorities which mean that no sector is guaranteed to be free from government intervention.