Guest post by Krishnan Ananthanarayanan, Class of 2012
Media as a whole is undergoing a large transformation due to social media. The number of print media is between 7000and 10,000 (depending on whom you ask) and will be squeezed into a niche corner of the market. Television in China is a $2.25B industry and the government regulates the content. For instance, there are bans on reality shows, shows that pertain to time travel and crime related programs.
Websites in China on the other hand allow many of these banned contents primarily because a forward-looking board of the government regulates them. There are websites such as the micro-blogging website Sina Weibo, which are very popular amongst the Chinese, and these websites can be used for effective marketing. The Chinese investigative media is also very strong. It is okay to criticize policy but it is NOT okay to criticize the top leaders of the party. The Chinese government does a good job at keeping international crimes alive in the minds of the Chinese and uses this as propaganda and as an effective control mechanism. Cultural awareness is key to running a successful business in China. Due to the history of attacks, Chinese sentiment can easily turn against foreigners in China. It is also critical to be sensitive of cultural issues not just within China but also across the world. For instance, Japan an advertisement showing the imperial lions bowing to a Toyota. This advertisement was never screened in China, but Toyota got a lot of heat after Chines bloggers found this advertisement on international websites. The history of wars with Japan only added to the heat.
It is also critical to realize the role of media in the Chinese government. In the United States and in other democratic countries, the media represents an independent voice and its role is to question government policy. China however follows the Leninist movement in which the Party is all-powerful and the role of the media is to serve the government and not to question it. It is critical for a foreign national to realize this key difference. Once this difference is understood, it is easier to understand all the other aspects such as censorship, control over the programs, bureaucracies for obtaining a license to host a website etc.
China places a great deal of importance on the consumer more than that of other western nations. On “National Consumer Day”, reporters run investigative reports on companies on Television and it is up to the company to defend its position on the issue under discussion. Top companies such as McDonalds have come under fire for selling inferior quality goods in China. The Chinese consumers take quality very seriously. If a company is suspected of selling inferior goods in China to make up for profits, the company is very likely to be ostracized and will find it hard to gain a strong foothold. Companies should go beyond seeing China as a low cost manufacturing center and start seeing it as a global market with a large population that has a big appetite for high quality products from across the world.