China misunderstood

Guest post by Glen Jensen, Class of 2012

Before visiting China I generally believed what I’d been told by the US media. I was led to believe China was the great colossus untapped mega-market of 1.5 billion people. I was also led to believe the Chinese are generally unhappy and repressed by an oppressive government who wants to control their every move on the web.

We visited Motorola and this visit put the Chinese market into perspective. Using the cell phone market as a general indicator of the overall market size and strength. The total Chinese market is 1.5 billion the effective market is only 180 million as compared to the 200 million US market. This made the potential market for goods and services not seems so colossal.

What I found was the charter of the Chinese government is one of harmony, inclusiveness and stability. The safeguards put on the free speech and the internet are towards this aim. Although this is repressive to our sensibilities the motivation is not so “evil”. Because of this repression I have been led to believe that if the “Great Firewall of China” were knocked down the Chinese people would come knocking down the doors of Facebook, Twitter, Google and the like. However, from experience I found the great-firewall is more of a nuisance than a true blockade and any site can be viewed with only minor inconvenience. What was interesting is that nobody in the west mentions the following of Baidu and Sina-Weibo the Google/Twitter equivalents in the Chinese market. The Chinese people choose the product which is tailored to the local market and even when given the choice to adopt a US web-product they often prefer the local product.

If you are going to enter the Chinese market make sure understand the market and come with an compelling product tailored to the local tastes. If you come to the Chinese market with an incompatible product, don’t blame the Chinese government for your failure. I believe this is cause for the lack of adoption for Amazon.cn and the out and out failure Google in the Chinese market.