China led the world technologically in the early 15th century, yet Europe surpassed it overnight. How did this come about? Maverick economist Deirdre McCloskey offers an answer in her work. Although in her youth she fell under the sway of socialist economists, she brings an iconoclasts’ view to her subject believing it is wrong to limit the achievements of humanity to academic theories concerned solely with maximization of utility. Her latest book, Bourgeois Equality, is the concluding volume in a trilogy that seeks to explain “The Bourgeois Era,” which she believes laid the basis for the material and spiritual wealth enjoy by the modern world.
Although China’s official GDP for the first two quarters and industrial growth exceeded expectations, the industrial economy has not yet bottomed out, according to the latest CKGSB study. Led by CKGSB Professor Gan Jie, the study shows that overcapacity remained at a historical high in the second quarter, and product and cost prices continued to rise, while production stayed flat. Meanwhile, the gap between the BSI of state-owned enterprises and that of private enterprises kept widening. The latest BSI findings show that the structural problems of China’s industrial economy remain a significant concern.
Historians say that paper currency was invented by the Chinese during the Tang Dynasty. Today, their descendants are taking the lead again: Young Chinese are abandoning cash. Shop anywhere in China–from a grand shopping mall to a small street vendor–and you can use your smartphone to pay. Of course, the wide acceptance of smartphones and 4G internet is one thing, the rise of fintech firms like Ant Financial is another. Yet to seriously phase out cash, authorities and professionals are pursuing something more than just QR codes: digital currencies based on blockchain technology. Despite the cracking down on unfavorable operations like ICOs, China is studying blockchain in a rather serious way.
Is it true that consumers nowadays need less stuff? Statistics show that in the West at least, the long shopping spree is ending—people are spending more of their disposable income on recreational activities like travel and dining in good restaurants, but less on buying things. Even in China, a country that many thought to have just entered a material era, people have shown less interest in buying new things. What on earth is “minimalism”? What are the reasons behind this trend? For business, minimalism undoubtedly presents a challenge. What can you sell to people who’ve decided they don’t want more?
The wish to be healthier and the benefits that can come of it are boosting the growth of fitness gyms and sporting events. During the past couple of years, over 37,000 fitness clubs mushroomed in China. And in 2016 alone, 2.8 million people participated in 328 marathons, the latter number now being 14 times the level of five years ago, according to the 2016–2017 China Fitness Industry White Paper and the Chinese Athletic Association (CAA). So Chinese consumers are ready to pay for health and wellness, but have the fitness clubs figured out their best offer?
Medical spending in China is increasing every year, and people have started to buy medicine online, with nearly 3 million people buying medicine through mobile apps, among which the largest one is Yiyaowang–the”No.1 pharmacy.” Set up by Yu Gang and his partner, the founder of China’s first large online supermarket, Yihaodian, Yiyaowang is also a key part of a healthcare ecosystem that combines an online hospital, a drugstore and patients. Yu, an experienced businessman and a scholar, tells how he built the ecosystem, how it simplifies the medical process and gives patients access to cheaper drugs.
Wellness tourism is a $3.7 trillion market globally and China is becoming one of the largest source countries for tourists who wish to combine tourism and medical treatment. 2016 saw the greatest number yet of Chinese tourists opting for such medical travel, and the largest spending ever. The rising numbers can be explained by a lack of medical resources domestically combined with people making overseas medical tours a form of luxury entertainment. What are the most favorable destinations for medical tourism? How do people book these tours and how emerging tourism companies make money from such customized trips?
eSports is more than playing digital games online. With an estimated market value of $104 million in 2017, it is a multi-billion industry that both traditional and tech companies are pursuing in China. It is about networking, with millions of people watching contests online at a same time, and about a new way for brands to get closer to Chinese millennial, a demographic many find tricky to connect to. Behind the momentum is both digital sophistication and a maturing internet ecosystem in China. Yet to continue expanding, the industry is facing the difficulty of finding an entrance for traditional sports like soccer and basketball.
Before Daniel Kahneman, few if any psychologists influenced the field of economics. But the Nobel laureate reversed the assumption underpinning most economic theories: people always make rational choices. “People are rational, except they are myopic,” says Kahneman. As a result of his work, which pioneered the ideas of behavioral economics, individuals learned how to modify their less-than-perfect decisions and organizations learned to take human limitations into consideration in decision-making. In this interview, Kahneman talks about the history of his research, how he, who began as a psychologist, ended up influencing economics, and why his work generated so much impact.
Professional networking platforms have already changed the way people find and do work. Where do observers of the virtual working world think this functionality may be heading? What consequences might that have for professionals? Some observers think there will be both utopian and dystopian possibilities ahead for virtual networking because although virtual networking makes it easier to find job opportunities and reduce transaction costs, people or organizations may also misuse the online data or use it to entrench an elite, extract rents, or manipulate people. Others see more tailored networking services, such as using artificial intelligence in recruiting.
For decades, China has been a top destination for foreign firms to move their operations abroad, now the trend is reversing—Chinese firms, especially manufacturers, are now moving to the US, not only to lower the cost of production but also to build their brands in global market. Indeed, China is losing its old advantage of cheap labor and raw material, and in certain parts of the US, the land is much cheaper than in China. Meanwhile, the re-booming US economy, flexible financial system and beneficiary tax policies are also driving ambitious Chinese entrepreneurs, who are changing the “Made in China” to “Made in the US”.
“China is not known for greenness, but it is moving in that direction,” says Christian Haessler, Head of Innovation for Covestro in the Asia-Pacific region. An offshoot of the German pharmaceuticals and life sciences giant Bayer, Covestro was spun off in 2015 and today produces advanced raw materials for like the environmental friendly coatings and lightweight materials to be used in electric vehicles. In this interview with CKGSB Knowledge, Haessler explains what Covestro’s business is like in China as a behind-the-scenes firm and how it, with material technology, supports China’s sustainable development.
WeChat is not just a messaging app. With nearly a billion active users, it is used to make voice calls, play games, read news, hail cars and more. With WeChat Pay, people use the app to send money and pay bills by scanning a QR code, and friends and families use WeChat to send lucky money during festivals. For many, WeChat is already indispensable. How did the company grow? What were the key decisions and strategies? In the fierce competition between WeChat pay and Alibaba’s Alipay, who will win? There are many questions about WeChat, but the app’s success is certain—for now.
Online social networks are changing Chinese professional culture—simply sending out resumes to get a job is inadequate. Compared to Americans, young Chinese spend more time networking and leverage social sites to find jobs. Recruiters are active participants in this trend. As a Shanghai-based employer says: “I don’t even call people anymore.” Instead of waiting for resumes that may contain dull business mug-shots, employers look at applicants’ social profiles, chatting to ones they find interesting and learn about their business and leisure time and maybe, if lucky, get a rough idea of their personality.
Education in China has undergone sweeping changes since 1980. A major change is the emerging popularity of elite private schools. Different from public schools under China’s 9-year free compulsory education, many elite private schools, with expat teachers and small classes, have western-style curriculum and focus on developing students’ creative abilities. Newly-affluent families favoring private schools are willing to pay tuitions ranging from $36,000 to $72,000 per year and they believe children in these private schools are also from well-off families. The trend has also attracted investors from other industries, with big firms like Vanke and Alibaba investing billions in private schools.
With a growing economy and the world’s largest population, China has for decades been a key destination for foreign companies expanding abroad, but the difficulties of doing business here have never been small. In the past few years, however, China has in some respects become an increasingly risky place to do business, in part because of the Chinese government’s efforts to modernize regulations and crack down on bad actors. In this interview, senior partner Kent Kedl at Control Risks explains how the challenge is not only for foreign companies to understand and comply with new rules, but to make compliance into a competitive advantage.
NetEase is the Chinese internet pioneer you have probably never heard of. Founded in 1997, before its bigger and better-known Chinese internet peers Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (collectively known as BAT), it is largely unknown outside of China. NetEase is currently making big pushes into many new businesses: e-commerce, online learning, music streaming and a host of other businesses, but it still has a long way to go to climb back to the top of the China tech tree. Analysts note that NetEase lacks the breadth of its rivals’ businesses, and that will likely stymie its growth, unless it can continue to diversify successfully.
After meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this year, Donald Trump backtracked and dropped his accusation of China being a currency manipulator. But the issue of currency manipulation is still debatable. The RMB is certainly not a free-floating currency and the controls are complex. China’s central bank sets the daily rate with movements only allowed in a narrow 2% band. This did not change for years, until August 2015 when the central bank reformed a bit by beginning to set the daily RMB rates based on the closing value of the previous day’s interbank forex market. But it’s not considered a major change and the way to achieve a more open currency remains difficult.
The Summer 2017 issue of CKGSB Knowledge is out! It has articles and interviews like: COVER STORY: India: The New Battlefield: The next big market is right next door to China, and the entire world is looking for a piece of it COMMENTARY: The Fourth Industrial Revolution: A new era is upon us, and this time it will be different, not least […]
Back in 2014, Stephen Hawking warned that people should be careful about artificial intelligence (AI)—the full development of it could spell the end of the human race, he said. Brad Nelson, professor of robotics and intelligent systems at ETH Zürich, is optimistic about the technology’s development. To him, machines and robotics are augmenting instead of replacing the human workforce. In this interview with CKGSB Knowledge, Nelson talks about the state of AI so far, China’s advantages in this industry and, as an engineer, his insights into the relation between humans and machines.