What Is the Future of U.S. – China Relations?

A recent NYTimes article “Can the U.S. and China Get Along?” by Orville Schell, a longtime China observer and director of the Center of U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society, is an interesting read.

The author lists a range of old and new challenges in dealing with China, from Taiwan, to human rights, to disputes in the South China Sea, to cyberattacks, and more. At the center of these problems is China’s new leader Xi Jinping’s increasing assertiveness. He has called for a “China Dream” to restore China’s pre-eminence in the world with a focus on prosperity, national unity, and greater global influence.

That is a departure from what America had hoped for: with economic reforms and social exchanges, China will eventually become a country of “greater openness and constitutionalism.” In another words, it will become more like America. Now, America finds it’s hard to deal with a country that has a very different political system, history, and values.

What are the solutions moving forward? Letting the US-China relationship fall into an abyss like the US-Russia relationship is not an option. Schell proposes a number of hard choices that America must make Continue reading

Debate Over “Why Amazon Should Fear Alibaba”

My latest article on Forbes Why Amazon Should Fear Alibaba has generated some debate. The premise of the article is that Alibaba is more focused on helping small businesses because its success depends critically on its sellers’ successes. Amazon is less so because it is a giant retailer itself, and small businesses account for only 40 % of its sales (versus 100 % on Alibaba’s Tmall). The article points out some practices by Amazon that hurt small businesses.

One person posted the following comment:

As a retired small business owner, I really like the model that she presents as Alibaba’s “ecosystem”. I think she is right, once this service comes to America, small businesses will flock to it. Small business in America is tired of being bullied by massive corporations that have consumed modern marketing and hold them hostage. The $25,000 up front deposit is nothing if Alibaba can deliver on and keeps its promises. Amazon on the other hand is dangerous to work with and rather than becoming a marketing partner, becomes a predatory competitor.

Another reader obviously didn’t agree, and commented:

Alibaba’s heralded stab at the U.S. market, 11 Main St., was rubber knife, sold off less than a year later with other U.S. assets acquired pre-IPO. Tmall is a huge ecosystem of brutal competition where the top stores that spend big on marketing reap big rewards, and the bottom 60% suck wind… Better yet, try to get ahold of a forthcoming, transparent, English-speaking service rep at Alibaba to answer your questions. Tmall is a great channel, but no silver bullet for small western businesses, by any means.

I welcome this kind of debate. The sparks of truth come forth only after the clash of different ideas. Amazon is a very innovative company although it may have fallen short in serving small businesses. Alibaba, on the other hand, has a lot of work to do in order to win over Western small businesses.

Please comment more!

Razorfish Global Event in Shanghai

Recently, I attended the Razorfish Global event “China: 10 Years Ahead” in Shanghai, and had the honor to speak there. It was one-of-kind event, designed to help Western companies learn about innovations in China’s social media and e-commerce sectors.

Below are some highlight pictures:

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Speaking with Vincent Digonnet, Chief Growth and Transformation Officer of Razorfish International, Tracy Zhang, President of Financial Times China on how Western businesses can transform themselves with the innovations from the East.

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The rooftop of Shook Restaurant on the Bund with a spectacular view of Pudong

Helen Wang speaks at Razorfish
Mingling with attendees from Europe, U.S., and India.

In the coming weeks, I will have a series of articles about what I have learned at the event. Stay tuned!

Happy Chinese New Year and My Newsletter

Today is the Chinese Lunar New Year – the year of sheep, ram, or goat. Why? Because in Chinese, there is no distinction between sheep, ram, and goat – they are the same word: Yang (?). I wish everyone a very happy and prosperous year of the Yang!

The New Year begets a new beginning. I have just started a new newsletter. Here is the first issue. Hope you enjoy reading it! Your comments are most welcome!

3 Trends of New Asian Consumers

Asian consumers will account for about 60 percent of global purchasing power. In my latest article on Forbes, I discuss three trends of new Asian consumers: their youth, their proficiency with mobile technologies, and their innate sense of what constitutes good value for their money.

Here is a summery of the article:

Asian consumers are significantly younger than their Western counterparts. In China, those born after 1980 are becoming mainstream consumers. India’s demographics are more compelling. In 2014, India’s median age was 27, compared to 38 in the US and 46 in Germany.

Asians are more adept with mobile devices than with personal computers. Therefore, mobile commerce is more advanced and widespread in Asia Pacific than the West. For example, in 2013, 55 percent of consumers in China had used mobile payments, compared to only 19 percent in the US.

Lastly, Asian consumers are value seekers, much more so than their Western counterparts. They have an innate sense for the value of any product and service they consume. Whether they are shopping for luxury goods or penny-pinching for a bargain, they want to get the most for their money.

Read the full article on Forbes.

Helen Wang on CNN to Discuss the Chinese Middle Class

I was honored to appear on CNN to discuss the Chinese middle class and what it means to global business. Here is a clip of the show:

The show was filmed at the CNN studio in Hong Kong on September 1st. Other panelists were Jeff Waters, partner of Boston Consulting Group, and Professor Xiao Geng of Fung Global Institute.

I am glad that mainstream media have started to pay attention to this subject. As I have said for the last five years, the rise of the China’s middle class is the biggest story of our time because of its profound impact!

My Op-Ed: The Legacy of Umbrella Man

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests have lasted for months with no solution in sight. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an opinion piece on Al Jazeera America, in which I argue that the best possible outcome could be that students negotiate a partial or symbolic victory.

Hong Kong could be a testing ground for Xi Jinping to pioneer the “one country, two systems” model of governance, a move toward a more open and democratic China — although it will not be in the form of Western style of democracy. If this happens, a symbolic victory for Hong Kong students could be a significant one for China in the long run, and Xi Jinping could be one of the greatest leaders in China’s recent history.

Whatever the end result of the protests, Hong Kong will no longer be the same. “Tank Man” has disappeared but is not forgotten. “Umbrella Man” may also disappear but will become an inspiration for future generations of brave young men and women who want to live in a better, more democratic world. Read full article on Al Jazeera.

Apple Pay Is Not Innovative Compared to What’s Happening in China

With Apple’s fanfare announcement of Apple Pay on new iPhone6 and Apple Watch, Gary Rieschel of Qiming Ventures seemed unimpressed and said it was a non-event in China as Alipay and Tenpay had been doing exact that for years.

Watch the Silicon Dragon show:

Are we seeing a reversing tide when it comes to innovation in consumer and mobile sectors? Your comments are welcome.

Will China Lead Innovation In Mobile Social Commerce?

Social commerce is a novel term in the US, and many people are not familiar with it. Some think it refers to those annoying ads on Facebook. According to Wikipedia, social commerce is the use of social networks in the context of e-commerce transactions.

In China, social commerce has taken up a life of its own and become the backbone of e-commerce.

While the “Ice Bucket Challenge” has gone viral on Facebook, Chinese consumers use social media in a much more thoughtful way. Instead of posting some silly videos and pictures, they turn to social media to solve real life problems, to seek advice from friends and opinion leaders, and to decide what products to buy or not to buy.

Read the full article on Forbes.

The Rise of the New Global Middle Class

The global middle class will explode in the next fifteen years, growing from 1.8 billion in 2009 to 4.9 billion in 2030. About 66 percent will be in Asia Pacific, compared to only 7 percent in North America and 14 percent in Europe. New Asian Pacific consumers will wield nearly 60 percent of total purchasing power, double that of North America and Europe combined. This is a significant shift in economic power from West to East that hasn’t been seen in the last 300 years. Its impacts could dwarf the Industrial Revolution.

China and India will make the biggest waves in this surge of the new global middle class. In 2009, these two Asian countries comprised just over 5 percent of global middle class consumption; in 15 years, their share of global middle class consumption will increase to 41 percent or more.

What do you make of this? Comments are welcome.