Update on China

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Thomas Cramption (Global Managing Director of Ogilvy and Mather) leads the panel discussion about "Updates on China" with Bessie Lee (CEO of WPP China), Yat Siu (CEO of Outblaze Limited).and Fritz Demopoulus (Founder of Queen's Road Capital). Thomas starts with a few assumptions and myths about China and discusses it with the other 3 panelists. One big questions is whether and why Chinese education is fantastic. Shanghai for example scores number 1 in the categories Math, science and eading. In Bessie's opinio the Chinese education system is very good in shaping students to memorize content and taking exams but eventually they lack innovative thinking. So, Asian parents think that their kids are great because they bring good grades home but being successful in exams does not lead to innovative thinking. Thomas finds that in his company there might be 10 great talents out of 400, the rest is technically very good but only this small percentage is exciting. Yat Siu adds to this that Chinese studenta are very obedient which is a difficult mindset for an economy that is changing from production type to innovation type. China needs to focus on innovation and the soft side of education.

Another myth about China is that it doesn't innovate. For example, most of all dot.com ideas are copies, very rarely Chinese companies come up with new ideas. Focus on innovation and soft side of education. Bessie Lee refers to that as "Fakevolution". However, Yat Siu, argues that some initatives are very innovative, as Baidu who managed a lot of innovations in terms of benefits if scale and cheap labor. In the end there is a lot of incremental and process improvements and China has become very innovative often at the low end side of producion with years of experience. Fritz mentions a myth " China doesn't innovate". Some initatives are very innovative, e.g. Baidu copying Google. Creating a business system that is very innovative, benefits of scale and cheap people in China. A lot of process and incremental improvements. Yat Siu counterarguments that China has become very innovative often at the low end side of production with years of experience. He also believes in the light of this vast competition in China in order to survive there must be differentation and innovation. But China has been through an unstable time and stability is a very important concept for Chinese people, hence radical innovations is not necessarily in their nature.

Another myth that causes discussion is that "Chinese Youth hates the West and Chinese love democracy." In terms of Chinese youth they constantly want to improve and also go abroad but this does not mean that they want to necessarily emulate democracy. Fairness and equality are important concepts for them but not the idea of democracy. Chinese youth like the lifestyle of the West but are also proud of their own nation. They want to constantly improve but do not want to become the West. Also, the bigger battle is not China against the West but the public and the private sector in China.

The fourth myth deals with China rejecting foreign companies as not a single foreign company in the tech industry has been successful in China. However, this is not due to the Chinese rejecting Western companies but more due to managements, technology and organisational reasons. For the same reason many American tech companies failed in Germany or Brazil they also failed in China. In general Chinese companies admire Western companies. Also there are models of success as a lot of smaller companies succeed but the press tends to only look at multinationals. But for bigger companies it is more difficult to discard old concepts and treat China differently than the Western world.

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