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Come, Give Us Taste of Your Quality: the Interaction Process Between Swedish Buyers and Chinese Suppliers

China as country and phenomenon is a topic of great impact to the entire world society. As many as 154 Swedish companies have established business activities either within manufacturing, sourcing or sales in China since the beginning of 2003. The small and medium sized companies are now following the larger MNEs to China.

The purpose of this thesis is to study and analyse which criteria are used in the selection of suppliers or partners in China. The purpose is further to study the interaction process in between the Swedish buyer and the Chinese supplier regarding quality issues and -problems related to the manufacturing process and product as well as the delivery of the products.

Defining quality is not easy as quality no longer relies only on objective and functional statistics, but should be incorporated into the business processes. More subjective parameters related to the perceptions of the customers and their needs and expectations are involved and of importance. Such perceptions and needs can be difficult to transfer in between the buyer and the supplier. The interaction in between is far from a straightforward process and as such it depends and relies a lot on the people involved in the process.

Representing a total of five different cases a number of companies and respondents directly involved in the interaction process with the Chinese suppliers were purposefully selected and interviewed. The sampling aimed at companies representing heterogeneity regarding the three factors of products, experience of deal-ing with China and size of the company.

From the analysis of the empirical findings it is clear that it is all a question about communication. There is no evidence of any low or bad quality in any of the cases. The buyer will be delivered what he asks the supplier to deliver. The cultural web including communication and language differs between Sweden and China. In order to develop good relations with the suppliers the presence is of great importance.

It is important for the Swedish company to continuously repeat their specifications, demands and needs over and over again in order to maintain a high level of quality on their products. What is taken for granted by Swedish buyers is not taken for granted by the Chinese suppliers and it is important for the buyer to be very clear in both communication and specification, though without risking the Chinese supplier to loose face. Adapting an ability to read between the lines is necessary for the buyer as Chinese suppliers are referred to as not being as outspoken as Swedish suppliers.
Source: Jönköping University
Authors: Almedal, Carina | Zheng, Yong

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