Everybody knows that China represents a huge opportunity from a
business perspective and the events industry is no exception. In a
rapidly expanding economy, product launches, corporate hospitality,
conferences, presentations, publicity stunts and so on, all play their
(increasingly significant) part in the up-surge of high profile and
lucrative ‘live’ activity.
If you follow us on Twitter
(@londonlaunch) you may have noticed my recent jaunts to the House of
Lords, mainly via a random selection of ‘selfies’ with unsuspecting
slebs such as Hugh Grant and, much more thrillingly, Julian Fellowes who
appreciated my (slightly too in-depth) knowledge of his back
catalogue? Well, I’m not a Lord (yet!) and my meetings have a
distinctly Chinese theme to them. I sit on an Advisory Board for a very
exciting project, codename “The Chinese Dream Ball”.
It’s a Chinese
Dream Ball. Not the most cryptic codename! Essentially, this event is a
huge celebration of Chinese culture and business opportunities,
introducing British businesses to the Chinese market in a spectacular
and high tech way.
The House of Lords and, in particular, Lord Wei who
is the youngest Lord of all, are spearheading this exciting initiative
at Battersea Evolution next year. The exact details are still secret,
but 1,000 corporate guests will be immersed in Chinese culture through
dynamic entertainment, sensational audio-visual, world-class cuisine
(British – Chinese fusion) all in the most dramatic oriental setting
which is guaranteed to stimulate and amaze even the most experienced
Many of China’s leading and most high profile businesses
will be present as well as investors and venture capitalists, all
looking to meet exciting UK businesses and entrepreneurs in a vibrant
environment, reflective of modern day China. The event will dispel
common pre-conceptions about this hugely powerful (and getting more
powerful!) nation and will ram home the very definite message that China
is open for business.
The fact that they have chosen a spectacular
event to convey this point is significant because communication is the
key and, clearly, a high profile, stimulating event is the best way of
doing this. Fact. Londonlaunch have been instrumental in pioneering
this point in the Lords and we are delighted that a selection of our
members will be responsible for delivering it, in style.
what’s going on in China? Should we be worried? Our press has painted a
pretty sensationalistic (and predominantly negative) picture, that’s
Well, last month I met with China’s top Venture
Capitalist, Eric Li, who gave me a fascinating insight into China, where
they’ve come from and where they’re going.
reality is that their form of Communism isn’t Communism as we understand
it. The even more surprising reality is that Eric convinced me (who
has possibly the most Capitalistic mind-set in the world) that the
Chinese have got it right.
His commercial assessment is this.
Economies rise and fall in cycles and, after two hundred years of
capitalist domination, the West is ailing. He advocated ‘Universalised
World Order’ – with China at the centre, of course! They have
successfully evolved their centrally planned economy and China have the
highest standard of living per capita in the world. What’s more, it’s
rising faster than any other nation, at any time in history.
Ice Sculpture Festival, China
simple foundation is that the leaders are hand picked at an early age
and are trained, tried and tested before being let loose to lead. And
it’s not based on money, privilege or family stature either. It’s
entirely fair and a labourer’s child is just as likely to be spotted as a
famous industrialist’s. Their approach is ‘meritocratic’ as opposed to
‘autocratic’. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. I once
sat on a jury and felt compelled to lead the whole process and made it
my business to steer the entire verdict towards my train of thought. This was scary for two reasons. Firstly, because of the ease with which
I convinced the whole lot of them to adopt my viewpoint but secondly,
and far more worryingly, I am convinced they were about to convict the
wrong person. In China this wouldn’t happen, because there aren’t any
juries – just a learned Judge who isn’t stupid. Taking this notion a
step further, think of how many people vote in an election who can’t
name a single policy from the party they are voting for, because they
are voting on principle. And 80 per cent of the time they are voting for who
their parents voted for. The three major parties in the UK are, in
China’s eyes, almost identical policy-wise. That’s why they just have
the one party in China. And you don’t vote for the party as it’s just
‘The Party’. What you do vote for though, is arguably far more
relevant. You vote for the policies. And if a policy is unpopular, the
Party will happily make a U-turn. Because that’s what the people want.
Simple. Interestingly, according to Eric, if China did adopt an
autocratic voting system, they ‘certainly wouldn’t let uneducated people
vote – they would ensure that they passed an exam on the policies in
question first!’ I couldn’t argue with the fact that it was a perfectly
The West was winning for so long but China walks a
different path. This isn’t threatening in any way though. Their simple
viewpoint is that democracy is failing from Washington to Cairo and
that The Party should lead the economy, not the other way round. The
Chinese are not interested in influencing the outside world, like we
are. Hence the Great Wall of China. They will ferociously protect their
own way of life and would do almost anything to ‘keep the barbarians
out’ but they won’t invade anyone. It’s just not their style as they do
not see themselves as revolutionary or ‘expansional’. The Chinese aren’t
even interested in exporting their values and ways, around the world.
Live and let live.
The Great Wall of China.
also (quite articulately) argue that everything ends up as Communism
and that it’s futile to fight it. This is due to a phenomenon known as
‘linear progression’ as we are all on a quest for a Utopian society.
Slavery becomes Feudalism becomes Socialism becomes Capitalism becomes a
Communist utopia. In the West, we try to do the opposite and create a
Democratic Utopia which, according to the Chinese, in an impossible
paradox. And this is, ironically, because of the election process.
the West, Monarchy becomes tyranny, Aristocracy becomes oligarchy and
democracy becomes licentiousness (yup, I had to look it up too!) – it
means excess, decadence, wastefulness (you get the drift).
have only been two eras of democracy, firstly in Ancient Greece (and it
lasted 200 years) and secondly, now (and it’s been going for 200
years). Interestingly, in the UK, until recently ‘democracy’ didn’t
include the poor. Or women. Hmmm. Democracy was thought to be
adaptable because one can vote people out and change course via the
election process.. But this no longer happens, because the rules of
engagement are so rigid as all parties are intrinsically the same. “The
(admittedly rather ominously Orwellian named) Party” in China has been
in power for 64 years and has arguably adapted far more radically than
eras of seemingly dramatic differences between the Conservative and
Perhaps the most widely publicised and ridiculed
aspect of Chinese culture is the well-documented censorship. Google
China is far more restrictive than any other Google, that’s for sure!
But, significantly (and contrary to popular belief) they still have a
Google – just a culturally adapted one! The Chinese position is that
‘freedom of speech’ is a false notion. In fact, this is proving to be
true in the West too – you can even be arrested for something you write
on twitter these days! That’s not very ‘free’ is it? Yet, we generally
agree that it’s right that Trolls should be gunned down (for want of a
more politically correct phrase!). In fact, speech has consistently
caused great harm. Once upon a time there was a quiet young boy called
Adolf Hitler and we all know how that turned out. Speech is now
restricted in Germany as a direct result. In China, speech is an act.
Like a punch in the face! Restriction of speech can change. Freedom of
speech can’t, because once you’re ‘free’ you never go back. I remember
going nuts when I was ‘released’ from possibly the strictest Prep School
in the Country. I arrived at Rugby, couldn’t believe the levels of
‘freedom’ I was allowed and eventually got expelled. Now I can’t go back
because I’ve had a taste for anarchy. It reminds me of a brilliant
lyric from 90’s band, James. “Now I’ve swung back down again, it’s worse
than it was before. If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with
being poor.” Capitalism in motion.
The Western Nations spend a
huge amount of time and effort spreading the notion of voting and free
markets and the world desperately wants it to work, but there are signs
that it’s faltering. Taiwan have adopted a very Western way of doing
things, yet there is absolutely no growth in Taiwan. A new era of “New
World Disorder” is upon us. An era of seemingly inevitable war
instinct. This is highlighted by “single narrative fault-line
dichotomy’. It’s explained like this. A decade ago there was a big
problem in the Middle East, with Iraq at the heart of it. So we attacked
Iraq and deposed their leader. Job done? Problem eradicated? No.
Because there’s never a sigle fault-line. The fissure cracks and
splinters, resulting in far more problems with repercussions all over
the world. In theory it’s a good idea but in practice it’s not as simple
as good versus evil, democracy versus tyranny because there are
multiple repercussions. The Arab Spring was not the Berlin Wall because
there were simply too many other fault-lines.
In reality, I don’t
buy it 100% and, by default I will always remain abjectly Capitalist as
opposed to Communist, out of sheer belligerence if nothing else, but
you have to admit that it does seem pretty compelling. Especially coming
from a Vulture Capitalist! China is central, everything else to them is
peripheral. That’s the DNA of China.
There’s a massive business
opportunity in China and the corporate events sector is potentially
huge. As long as you understand that it has to be on their terms. They
won’t be bossed. In the events sector, a joint-venture is a great way to
get a foot in the door. For event production agencies, event agencies
and hospitality agencies, niche suppliers and caterers this is a great
idea because Chinese businesses are keen to learn and partner from UK
organisations, welcoming us with open arms because, in reality, the
events sector in China (as it stands today) is relatively embryonic.
Now’s the time, because first mover advantage is a very real phenomenon.
Particularly in such a fast moving place.
internet based brands haven’t yet been able to successfully ‘break’
China because it’s so cultural. It’s not standardised, and this is a
challenge. One thing’s for sure, you need Chinese personnel and you
need to adopt Chinese culture throughout your organisation, creating
wealth for the Chinese people (as well as for yourself). Look at
General Motors, Coca-Cola and Apple. They’re all flying in China because
they have successfully embraced their culture.
And here’s a
final thought. The USA’s ‘Holy Trinity’ of Wall Street, Hollywood and
Silicone Valley are the last three properly profitable commodities in
America that demand global interest. And they only directly employ about
1/250th of the USA’s population, 1 million people. Is that sustainable?
China claim to have created a unique blend of
socialism and Communism which works. If you want a piece of the action,
you’re welcome to give it ago. Just heed my words.
Chinese Dream Ball is happening on Tuesday the 9 September 2014, so if
you want to immerse yourself in the magic of China, meet all sorts of
Chinese business leaders and brands, and enjoy a sensational evening at
one of the most important events of the year, then your company simply
has to have a presence. There will be all sorts of hugely high profile
personalities and political leaders from both nations too, of course.
The original article can be read here: http://www.londonlaunch.com/be-inspired/wills-week/china-in-your-hands/#.UpypUY3B2Ud
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