Purpose – To date, more than 400 of the Fortune 500 companies have already established their presence in China. Like their larger counterparts, smaller multinationals are also attracted by the huge potential market and cheap resources that China has to offer. Thus, the purpose of this paper to examine key strategies that small internationalizing firms (SIFs) need to focus on for a successful China engagement. Design/methodology/approach – The findings of this study are based on a year-long research of New Zealand firms in China. The study involved a survey of senior managers of New Zealand companies at home as well as a focus group discussion among executives in China. Findings – The study identifies three dimensions of strategy that SIFs need to pay particular attention – the attributes of the China bound manager, the business focus of the enterprise, and the guanxi building capabilities. Originality/value – This paper is based on the premise that the SIF cannot mirror the exact strategies of larger multinationals. Previous literature tends not to distinguish the size of the firm when discussing the China engagement. The paper emphasizes a carefully designed effort to choose the right general to lead the assault on the world's largest market.