Chile’s Atacama Desert is one of the most inhospitable places on earth. Situated 2,300 meters above sea level and encircled by mountains, the region receives almost no rainfall and the blinding sun singes exposed human skin within minutes. But 40 meters below the salt flats lie our planet’s largest and purest reserves of the chemical element lithium. Lithium, the lightest of all metals, has the best electrochemical potential. This makes it perfect for rechargeable batteries, a technology that powers our smartphones and is expected to become even more crucial in the future. Now, a Chinese firm is attempting to gain control of the Atacama reserves.
The World Bank estimates that up to 77% of jobs in China could be made redundant by machines in the long term. Investing in robots will become more attractive for manufacturers. The Chinese government also pledges to make China a “world factory” of robots. But real changes are much slower. Reports say that large numbers of workers are still used on production lines doing repetitive tasks such as scrubbing speaker systems with toothbrushes. Despite the fact that China’s labor costs are six times higher than 10 years ago, workers are often still cheaper than robots in short term.
For many years, China’s emerging companies, especially those in the internet sector, have relied on foreign capital. Alibaba and Tencent were nurtured by overseas venture capital, and were eventually listed abroad. These two companies have today become world-class giants. The market value of Alibaba was $495 billion as of late May, while Tencent’s valuation was $605 billion. This puts them among the world’s top 10 most valuable companies. The success of China’s leading tech companies is an understandable source of pride to many in China. But for China’s policymakers, a question presents itself: why do so many outstanding Chinese companies end up going public overseas?
The rise of e-commerce has long been touted as a threat to shopping malls and bricks-and-mortar stores, with consumers preferring the ease and convenience of shopping online. But while e-commerce has made serious inroads into certain goods and services, sectors such as fresh food remain stubbornly resistant, even in China, one of the most eager adopters of e-commerce in the world. The country’s internet giants are moving toward a new model, what Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma calls “New Retail” — an integration of online with the offline world that e-commerce was supposed to cannibalize.
China played a surprisingly prominent role in debates surrounding the UK’s 2016 referendum on leaving the EU. For leading “Leavers”, Brexit was a chance for Britain to free itself from a stifling Brussels bureaucracy and build stronger trade relations with upcoming powers like China. But those expecting a blossoming in China-UK relations after Brexit might be disappointed, says Leslie Young, Professor of Economics at CKGSB. Professor Young, who received a doctorate in mathematics from Oxford University in 1971, at the age of 20, and who is now a recognized authority in international economics, explains how Chinese business is likely to be affected by Brexit.
China is now home to many of the world’s largest and most dynamic private companies. But apart from a few exceptions such as Alibaba’s Jack Ma, little is known outside China about the intrepid entrepreneurs who built these business empires, often against astonishing odds. Professor Peter Cappelli at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and author of Fortune Makers: The Leaders Creating China’s Great Global Companies, is trying to change that.
China has banned borderless cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, but it is a move the country may come to regret. Until recently, China was the world’s largest market for virtual currency and digital currencies trading and China’s ban on Bitcoin came abruptly. Some experts think Beijing’s intention is to regulate the market, not hobble it—but the crackdown may last for a while. The future for cryptocurrencies in China is unclear, because the Chinese government is also backing the underlying blockchain technology. Will cryptocurrencies come to light again?
Over the past five years, the business model of China’s clothing industry has been unraveling. For decades, China’s vast apparel industry competed mainly on price. But with labor, land and raw materials costs rising, environmental regulations tightening and competition becoming ever fiercer, even many of China’s best-known brands have struggled. There has been one exception: HLA. The Jiangsu Province-based menswear label has grown stronger even as competitors shuttered hundreds of outlets. In this interview, Li Lode, Professor of Operations Management at CKGSB and Professor Emeritus at Yale University, explains how HLA’s success has been made possible by smart strategic decisions.
Becoming a movie star isn’t attractive anymore. For many young netizens in China, online stardom is the ultimate dream, not only because online celebrities now earn even more than A-list movie stars, but also they are able to influence hundreds and thousands of people just by go livestreaming, sharing beauty tips and fashion trends and posting their own selfies. Consumer brands and clients are chasing after these online celebrities. Reports say the online celebrity economy by some calculations is worth more than the country’s domestic film industry. How to become an online star? How do they make money? What’s behind the rise of “wanghong culture”?
Few people outside China will have heard of Bytedance, the Beijing-based software startup that creates fiendishly addictive content apps using world-leading artificial intelligence technology. However, more than 200 million people in China—or over one in four of the country’s mobile users—use Bytedance’s products every day, and now the company has ambitions to hook the rest of the world on its apps too. Huge traffic brings customized contents to Bytedance users, which is the magic code for its success. But copyright lawsuits and competition from the BAT companies are just two of the challenges Bytedance faces.