Over the past 25 years, China has become the world’s preeminent manufacturer, churning out everything from running shoes to Apple products. Powering that ascent was heavy foreign direct investment combined with a seemingly inexhaustible pool of cheap labor. But now, as the Chinese economy slows, wages rise and the workforce atrophies, the decades-long manufacturing boom may be ending. To help deliver China from industrial decline, the Chinese leadership is betting on automation. However for Beijing to become the world’s robotic leader, there is an even more complex issue behind updating robotic technology: how to handle the displacement of large numbers of Chinese workers?
One day in October, 2015, a group of disgruntled investors gathered in Beijing to lodge a complaint: they had bought so-called wealth management products from a state-owned guarantor backed company that managed nearly $8 billion in assets, and which had collapsed later. Such defaults have been uncommon in China’s wealth management product space, but the now-gargantuan industry may pose a large risk to China’s financial system. Many risky aspects of the wealth management products industry make people worry about the possibility of a chain reaction similar to the 2008 financial crisis, when the US mortgage market buckled under similar strains.
One could be forgiven for thinking that after purchasing Uber’s China operations, Didi Chuxing—which now boasts over 300 million users and over 80% of China’s market—would be on easy street. But things are never that simple in the Chinese market. Figures have shown Didi is losing users and drivers. Under strict Chinese local governments’ new policies, Didi may face bigger challenges than Uber China. Meanwhile more people cast doubts over its business model. Boasting a sharing economy model, car-pooling, the company now relies more on providing car-hailing services with prices lower than taxis to maintain its scale. Once the subsidies withdrew, users walk away.
Optimism for Chinese firms is increasing. As they’re making money, they also face different issues. The CKGSB Business Conditions Index posted a mark of 60.8 in November, up from October’s 58.5. This shows that for the survey’s sample firms, of which the majority is relatively successful in China, the next six months are viewed with increased optimism. The CKGSB BCI comprises four sub-indices. Of these, corporate sales fell slightly from 75.4 to 74.0, while corporate profits rose from 57.4 to 61.8. The fact that both of these indices are both well above the confidence threshold of 50 shows that company prospects are improving.
Over 120 million Chinese went abroad and spent over $104.5 billion in 2015 and more are projected for 2016. But for young Chinese people, their spending isn’t all about shopping in tax-free shops. As Leo Lin Song, chief of staff of TripAdvisor says, Chinese travelers are becoming more sophisticated: they’re reaching to further places and want to have more distinct cultural experience and not afraid to explore the unknown. Yet compared to western travelers, Chinese tourists are still special. They like to read pictures and need clear guidance—and that’s where TripAdvisor chips in.
A common challenge faced by Western tech giants like WeWork and Airbnb: in China there are locally made equivalents already. Yet China is a market hard to ignore. Six years after its founding, WeWork entered the Chinese market and is trying to adapt. Localization happens in every detail, from office design to the hiring of team members. but how will the company win the already very fierce competition among the co-working spaces in China? With a more global network, or a more experienced team in the shared-office? How will it deal with the Chinese government?
When talking about gender equality, people think of blue-collar workers in the garment industry in Bangladesh or women in China’s factories. However, in the white-collar professional world at the other end of the spectrum, inequality exists and it has an enormous impact on individual lives and entire economies. Women in China are now half of the educated workforce, but play a disproportionately small role in management. How does this happen? What should we do to make changes? Ripa Rashid, Executive Vice President of the Center for Talent Innovation, discusses women in emerging markets with CKGSB Knowledge, and gives her original observations and answers.
Although the quality of ‘made in China’ products has not been fully recognized in foreign markets, ‘made in China’ apps have made their way in the Google and Apple app stores. Chinese tech firms, under intense domestic market competition, are seeking new ways out of China. India, Brazil and Russia—emerging economies with young smartphones users—have become their new battleground. More mature firms have also begun to try to compete in developed markets in the US and Europe, where there is better infrastructure and users are willing to pay for premium services. But in these developed markets, Chinese tech firms face more challenges.
Inspired by the unicorn WeWork in the US, Chinese entrepreneurs have been starting their own co-working spaces. And renting a spot in a co-working space has become a popular option for startups. At the end of 2015, there were over 16,000 of these co-working spaces in China. Are they being formed because of real customer demand or just inflated by a startup bubble? Can they really save cost? What’s their future? How do they differ from US co-working spaces? Read our interview with Mao Daqing, CEO of URwork, the largest co-working space in China in terms of scale, to find the answers.
Central banking is not enough. While monetary policy did much to recover from the global financial crisis, its instruments have been largely exhausted and rendered ineffective. Low interest rates and quantitative easing may have kept the engine spinning, but are not pillars of sustainable economic policy. In China, there might still be scope for more monetary easing, but Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic advisor at financial services group Allianz and formerly at the helm of investment firm PIMCO, warns that, ‘‘China needs to avoid the trap that the advanced countries have fallen into, namely that of excessive prolonged reliance on central banks.’’