While e-commerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba continue to rise, many physical-store retailers are dying off. MINISO is a rare exception, however. Founded in 2013 by Chinese entrepreneur Ye Guofu and Japanese designer Miyake Junya, MINISO has exploded into an emerging business empire with 1,800 stores in 40 countries, delivering an eclectic collection of affordable, curated goods, challenging the physical retail naysayers. What is the key to MINISO’s success? Through careful consideration of the customer and a unique aesthetic, it manages to do what online stores cannot: Deliver an experience.
Predicting China’s future is hard given its size, history and complexity of population, but it’s easy to share an opinion about the country—anybody can come in and say something about China, whether it’s news media or self-styled pundits. The cost of entry for having a view on China is so low that basically anybody can have one. The ongoing topic is the Chinese economy: bulls and bears have been arguing non-stop about the state of the economy. Damien Ma, Fellow of the Think Tank at the Chicago-based Paulson Institute, talks about how find the true signal in the noise, and discusses the less relevant factors one should dismiss.
After Chinese President Xi Jinping took a strong stand in support of globalization, a clear line was drawn between him and US President Donald Trump. But China and the US are not swapping roles, said Martin Wolf, the chief economics commentator at the Financial Times and a long-time observer of the Chinese economy. Wolf suggested that China, despite its rapid growth and maturing economy, remains a developing country and will not take on the mantle that the US has in the post-war era. “People don’t know what the true nature of the so-called ‘Trumponomics’ is,” said Wolf in his interview with us.
Traditional offices are disappearing—some are being redesigned to be beautiful spaces that employees actually want to come to work in and meanwhile, humbler versions of the Silicon Valley spaces are increasingly popular too. This year, about 1 million people will work in a co-working space. In ten years, that number will top 1 billion. The co-working idea reflects the trend that companies keep trying to move more of their balance sheet from fixed to variable costs, and the supply of office-less workers keeps rising. So which vision of the future will win out—the palace or the co-working hive?
Seven years ago, around 70% of passengers in US-China air trips were American. But today, more than 50% of travelers are Chinese. Flying used to be a luxury mode for travel in China, but now is for the masses. Data shows that by 2029 China will overtake the US as the world’s largest passenger market. The increasing passenger demand has not only brought Chinese airlines big successes in the past decade but also some real challenges like lengthy delays and poor service. In fact, Chinese airlines are struggling to keep up with growth in demand, and compared to foreign counterparts, they are not as global nor as profitable as they should be.
The Chinese internet industry has developed at an amazing speed with a number of tech firms becoming “unicorns” worldwide. A major force behind those fast-growing companies and young CEOs is the venture capital firms who play a crucial role in spotting and supporting innovative models. Over the past 10 years, VC has evolved from a non-mainstream form of finance to one of the hottest areas in the Middle Kingdom. Ramon Zeng, with a number of successful investments in “unicorns”, talks about his observation of the industry and what the next big trend will be.
Huawei is one of only a few Chinese companies that has become truly global, deriving more revenue abroad than at home. Long a telecom equipment provider, Huawei shifted its focus to consumer devices and took only five years to become the second most profitable Android smartphone maker and the third largest in terms of production. How did the company manage to do that, given that the smartphone industry is highly competitive? And smartphones are only the highest-profile part of the sprawling telecom giant. With over 170,000 employees across the globe, what is the company’s management system like and what could we learn from Huawei’s model?
Chinese people love to try new technologies. Over the past year, virtual reality exploded across the country, attracting attention as well as investment from people who see a potential wave of the future: Analysts predict that China’s VR market will be worth $8.5 billion by 2020. But the real-world business of VR, which surged largely on the back of heavy investment, is less solid than it could be. Some people expect the technology to bring revolutionary changes to many industries like gaming, films and shopping but currently a huge portion of the VR market is still for video games and the business model is not yet solidly defined.
Debt is a ticking-time bomb for the Chinese economy. In the past three years central government stopped local governments from financing through investment vehicles and set a cap for the issuance of bonds. But new forms of debt continue to be formed. Local officials appear not to care about borrowing more, as long as the money can be used in projects that may translate to political achievements. And with those achievements, officials will be promoted to a higher level–as will the debt burden. A more worrisome thought will be: can those additional government debts and investments support China’s long-term growth?
China’s economic growth over the past few decades has impressed the world. But the world’s second largest economy now faces a difficult transformation: from relying on exports and investments to developing domestic demand. That’s not easy. Government-led stimulus is only a temporary solution and only looked reasonable in the first few years after the recent global financial crisis. In fact, the main problem facing the Chinese economy has been the weak demand in domestic market which manifested clearly in 2006, and became more obvious when growth slowed down.