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American biotech companies are racing to do business with China, and for good reasons: It offers a new market for their drugs. It’s a new source of investment for nascent companies. And it’s a new place to conduct clinical trials.

But to operate in China, you need to build relationships — an exercise that can be far different than what companies experience in the United States. In interviews, experts who have actually worked in the country told STAT that they could not overestimate the importance of face-to-face meetings, how they use emails, as well as an awareness that dealmaking in China can be happen at a different pace — some things are often slower, some faster — than in the United States.


“You need a China partner, in general, to commercialize your drugs in China,” said Asher Rubin, a partner at the law firm Hogan Lovells. “It is not what we’d see with a U.S. company that decides to put feet on the street in Europe and build their own commercial organization.”

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