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.
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?
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.
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.
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.