Chinese oil chiefs gather in Houston to talk shop, learn about US laws

Updated: 2014-02-13 10:52

By May Zhou in Houston (China Daily USA)

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Companies with 80 % local hires in US face cross-cultural challenges

The Energy and Chemical Industry Committee of China General Chamber of Commerce USA (CGCC) held its first annual conference in Houston on Wednesday.

Around 70 US operational heads from major Chinese state-owned energy and related service companies gathered together to present to each other the state of their businesses in the US and also learn about US policy, taxation, accounting, and the current trade trend in the oil and gas industry.

Leaders from the major energy companies gave a snapshot of their operations in the US to help to learn each other better. The speakers included Li Shaolin, president of PetroChina International America; Jiang Qing, president of OOGC USA; Chen Yu, president of Sinochem American Holding; Wang Zhiwei, US chief representative of State Grid Corporation of China; Yang Changxing, administration manager of State Nuclear Power Technology Corp; He Sujuan, chief representative of Sinopec; and Zhu Xian Huai, chairman of the Chinese American Petroleum Association.

According to Richard Huang, secretary general of CGCC, the organization was established in 2005 to provide various services to the Chinese companies in the US and currently there are over 1,800 company members nationwide. The Energy and Chemical Industry Committee was established in 2008.

He Sujuan, chair for the Energy and Chemical Industry Committee, said that the committee finally decided to hold its first nationwide conference because "more and more energy companies are coming to the US. Many of them are developing very fast".

"We also want to use this opportunity to let the society know about Chinese energy companies here in the US," she added. "We are not here just to grab energy resources, we are here to improve energy supply and service to the society in general. It benefits the whole world. We are also serious about our social responsibilities."

Expanding local energy trade and market and running an effective operation in the US were the main concerns discussed by the major Chinese oil and gas companies. Since most of these companies employ a signification proportion of local people, bridging cultural differences has been another important issue.

PetroChina's Li Shaolin said that as a Chinese funded US company, 80 percent of PetroChina's employees were local, and the biggest challenge is the intangible cultural difference among the employees. "It's something you can't see and hard to define, but it's around us every day. How to achieve mutual respect, mutual understanding, learning about each other's different way of communication, this is a never ending challenge," he said.

Sinopec's He Sujuan said it was challenging to retain talent. She and Li said both companies periodically hold pot luck gatherings, parties for both Chinese and American traditional holydays, weekend picnics and lectures on Chinese culture to help employees better understand and communicate with each other.

While PetroChina developed a loyalty program to reward employees who continue to work there, Sinopec provides Chinese classes for its interested employees.

Representatives from the world's fourth largest accounting firm Ernst and Young's Houston office gave talks on business law in the US. Zhang Xiaoqing, a partner at E&Y, said that its China Inbound Team specialized in helping Chinese companies learn how to legally and professionally run businesses here.

"We help them become a US company, a part of this society," Zhang said. "We provide platforms and resources to help them quickly achieve the ability to compete with other companies here."

Chinese Consul General Xu Erwen and Commerce Consul Cao Derong also attended the conference. Xu said that last year's presidential summit between Xi Jinping and Obama had reached consensus on cooperation in energy between the two countries, and her office will do whatever it can to help companies promote cooperation.

Chinese oil chiefs gather in Houston to talk shop, learn about US laws

Sinopec US Chief Representative He Sujuan (right) talks to Chinese Consul General Xu Erwen at the first annual conference of Energy and Chemical Industry Committee of China General Chamber of Commerce USA in Houston on Wednesday. May Zhou / China Daily

(China Daily USA 02/13/2014 page1)