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?
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.
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”.
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.