In efforts to gain a physical presence in China, many U.S. businesses open representative offices on the ground. This is a relatively low-cost and low-hassle way to gain a physical presence in China for foreign businesses. However, a representative office requires a chief representative to run it, and most times U.S. businesses will seek a Chinese national to fill that position.
Unfortunately, Chinese national chief representatives are often caught between playing by U.S. rules (i.e. acting within the legal bounds imposed by the U.S. headquarters) and Chinese rules. Despite being illegal, bribes and other forms of coercion are all too common in China, and U.S. businesses need to be sure that their China office conforms to U.S. legal and ethical standards.
Regardless of the “when in Rome” mindset that a China-based representative office manager may have, the U.S. headquarters will most certainly be judged by U.S. standards.