`When I was in Hong Kong last March with my good friend Tom Eastling he offered an idea – why don’t you help Chinese companies market their goods and services into the United States? The moment he said it I was immediately smitten with the idea. After all American and western countries in general look at the rising middle class in China (300 million strong and growing) as a huge opportunity for first movers. And they’re right. Yet at the same time, China’s ‘Go-out’ policy focuses on Chinese companies selling into the United States, North America, Europe and South America.
Armed with that concept I spent a week and a half traveling to Shanghai, Beijing and Wuxi in China last September. Upon my return I quickly found a Mandarin tutor (a terrific Shanghainese woman named Grace Brennan – at least that’s what she is called here in the U.S.) with whom I have been taking lessons twice a week. I am learning the language but I am also learning more about Chinese culture.
This week I am on my way back as an invited speaker as a part of the Low Carbon Business Development Forum to be held in Shenzhen beginning this Friday. My proficiency in Mandarin leaves much to be desired but I will be giving it my best shot during my trip. Fortunately many Chinese people learn and speak English which is a great relief to me as I am traveling alone for the most part this time.
Helping Chinese companies market their products into the U.S. is becoming more prevalent as this past week Ogilvy & Mather announced they were investing in opening a unit (in New York for some reason) dedicated to helping Chinese businesses market to the U.S.. I wonder why that office was not opened in Shanghai. That’s something I’d like to do – open an office for our agency in China to help Chinese companies better understand the U.S. and European markets.
Chinese products are becoming more and more accepted in the United States. iPods, iPads and many other top quality devices are ‘Made in China’ – or at least assembled there. In fact Shenzhen is the city where many of those technology devices Americans use every day are put together. For the record I am neither blind nor insensitive to complaints about working conditions in some of the factories in China. I am also aware of the complaints about the value of Chinese currency (the Renminbi or Yuan) in relation to the U.S. dollar.
Part of the problem is the trade imbalance. Here’s a popular notion – as sales of Chinese products into the U.S. expand, the quality of the products will improve, and wages in China will increase making those products more expensive. Consequently U.S. made products will become more competitive in the process. It’s already been happening and some industries (clothing for instance) have moved out of China to other Asian countries and beyond. The role our company will play will be to facilitate the ‘Going Out’ of Chinese companies into the U.S. and beyond.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the Green Revolution in China – and the Chinese are working hard at leading the way in this area. Solar, Wind, and Lighting (both compact fluorescent and HB-LED) are fast growing industries within China. The automobile company BYD (owned in part by Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffet) has opened an office in Los Angeles to build and sell a fully electric car. I am aware that China burns coal at distressingly high levels to power factories and municipalities. That’s what makes the greening of China all the more important.
I am excited to be going on yet another adventure into the Middle Kingdom. I will post a few times from Shenzhen (and Hong Kong). These kinds of trips really stimulate my creativity and thinking in general.
But I find that travel does that for me in general. How about you?