THE elder is a wholesaler-cum-business academician. The younger is a retailer of Walt Disney products. The two Taiwanese brothers share one common interest: China. Robert Wang, the elder, conducts business courses for chief executives of Shanghai's state-owned retail businesses while Wang Lu-yen holds a licence to sell a range of Disney goods in China. They personify Taiwanese businessmen's faith and keen participation in China's retail sector, despite the political misgivings between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Mr Wang Lu-yen, said no official had given him a hard time because he was Taiwanese, not even when the relationship between the two sides was at a low. He pointed out that Taiwanese investors had an advantage over other foreign businessmen in China because they understood mainlanders better. 'Culturally, Taiwanese are more like the mainlanders,' he said. However, do mainland business contacts tend to be jealous of their richer comrades who have come from across the strait to do business? 'You keep a low profile,' was the advice from the retailer who has been selling Disney products in China for two years. He was recently elected chairman of the 200-member Taiwan Businessmen's Association in Hong Kong and Asia, a trade organisation, set up in November 1992. Its members include leading Taiwanese business concerns such as the President Corp. His company, the Hong Kong-based Vigor International, is one of 40 Walt Disney licensees in China. It sells more than 1,000 Disney products to consumers at its 36 Disney specialty shops and distributes them to 70 other retailers on the mainland. Mr Wang Lu-yen said major difficulties in retailing in China included slow cash flow and the difficulty in securing good locations which were often held by the state. He takes an interesting approach to counterfeiting of Disney goods in China, which forced Walt Disney to withdraw from the country in 1990 before improved conditions prompted it to go back to China. 'I take them [counterfeiters] as promoters,' he said, smiling. 'It means they respect you and honour you. It's a compliment.' His brother agreed. 'It is a mentality problem rather than legal problem,' he said. Mr Wang Lu-yen said the most difficult thing had been to get mainland department stores to allow him to sell all kinds of Disney goods at one counter because they were used to having different kinds of merchandise placed in different sections. 'It is good to have all kinds of products of the same brand put together so as to create a strong statement for the brand, whose image wouldn't be so clear-cut if the products were put in different sections,' he noted. Despite China's austerity programme, the Disney licensee plans to open between 20 and 30 stores next year. 'It is the right time for expansion because consumption is growing,' he said, adding that mainlanders liked Disney products. Mr Robert Wang is equally confident about advancement in the mainland's retail sector. After conducting a two-week course for chief executives of Shanghai's state-owned retail businesses last month, he is convinced the retail sector is in for a boom with the pool of intelligent and driven retail executives. 'They are the smartest business people I have met anywhere in the world,' he said of the executives of the 19 participating companies of which four are listed. 'They are no less than any Hong Kong or Shanghai executives. They are tough. They are commanders,' he said. 'They went to the United States, observed the shopping centres and their customers. And they would give a summary right away. They could even make recommendations. 'They are qualified to run a billion-dollar business. They work in Shanghai and it's not easy [for them to be able to have performed so well]. It was amazing. I was impressed with some of them. 'They asked so many questions. The professors' comment was these people were so hungry [for knowledge].' Mr Robert Wang said their problems were mainly to do with mentality because they were used to a planned economy. 'They measure performance by the amount of merchandise left in the warehouse instead of profit as in a market economy,' he said. The training course, run at the Robert Wang Centre for International Business at Memphis State University which claims to be one of the top promoting centres for international business in the US, is said to be the first American market distribution course specially designed for Shanghai high-level executives. Mr Robert Wang plans to continue to run such courses, which involves case studies under the guidance of American businessmen. The US experience could be applied to China, too, since the two countries shared similarities, he said. 'We're bringing the Memphis experience to Shanghai,' he said. Memphis is the biggest inland port in the US where all major distribution of the country takes place, according to Mr Robert Wang. He said Shanghai had the potential to regain its position as China's commercial centre. The self-made entrepreneur chairs a Memphis-based company, Wang's International Inc, which markets and distributes home decor-related consumer products. Born in China, Mr Robert Wang was brought up and educated in Taiwan before he attended Memphis State University.