Don’t Quote Me (On Apple – Or GE – In China)

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The most quotable quote was hard to pick this time round, but we are leading with a rather wonderful one, from Liu Chuanzhi of Lenovo, about his US rival, Steve Jobs of Apple. As the FT reported:

“[Liu] told the Financial Times: “We are lucky that Steve Jobs has such a bad temper and doesn’t care about China. If Apple were to spend the same effort on the Chinese consumer as we do, we would be in trouble…My theory is that a manager needs to be the string on which he puts one pearl after another. But Jobs himself is a big pearl.”

Death by a thousand cuts…But he could be right. While Apple has been lauded by some for its aggressive negotiating position in China, it may have missed a trick. With China growing so fast in this space, brand positioning and market share are valuable assets. As noted in our weekly review, McKinsey have suggested that China could/should be a “second home” market for many multinationals. To make that happen, preconceptions, strategies, (and egos) need to adapt to what is a very different market from only a few years ago.

While the Liu-Jobs jibe won out, General Electric’s boss, Jeffrey Immelt, had a good punt in relation to business conditions in China. The Financial Times also reported this:

‘“I really worry about China…I am not sure that in the end they want any of us to win, or any of us to be successful.”

Mr Immelt acknowledged the importance of the Chinese market…but declared GE was encountering its toughest business conditions there in 25 years.

“China and India remain important for GE but I am thinking about what is next,” he said, mentioning what he called “most interesting resource-rich countries” in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America plus Indonesia. “They don’t all want to be colonised by the Chinese. They want to develop themselves,” he said. The comments echo a rising chorus of complaints from foreign business groups in China about the regulatory environment they face.’

The comments have been widely aired, and it seems GE’s PR people have been busy as a result. Such open criticism is rare (and rarely a good idea) in China, but the frustration is common (as we noted here). Lobbying at national, industry and company level continues to go on behind the scenes, and this is a better starting place than a headline in the FT. But, to be successful, companies need to do more up front to understand the political and economic drivers of the market, to make sure their strategies and communications are aligned with those of China, to be realistic about market access, and far how their offering fits in with / adds value for China. And to adapt.

Banging ones head against the Great Brick Wall of China will create a headache for only one person…

(See also details of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China survey: Predictable… RT @peijinc: EU firms wary of unpredictable China rules: survey

Update 13/07/10: A bit of good news has been reported for GE: It’s not all bad news for GE… RT @DealZone: GE, Eaton among suppliers for China jet

4 Responses to “Don’t Quote Me (On Apple – Or GE – In China)”

  1. Archive » Briefly…Top Ten Tweets (From Manufacturing, Minimum Wages & 2nd Tier Cities, To Second Home Markets, Risks & Revisions)| China Business Blog Says:

    […] But perhaps GE’s boss put it most bluntly (see our “Don’t Quote Me” post here). […]

  2. Tweets that mention Archive » Don’t Quote Me (On Apple – Or GE – In China)| China Business Blog -- Says:

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  3. Archive » Briefly…Top Ten Tweets (From First Half Figures, Intensity & Investment, To IP, Successes & Shades of Grey)| China Business Blog Says:

    […] outspoken GE (see here) has had some positive news, with a high-tech contract award for supply to Chinese aircraft maker […]

  4. Archive » Briefly…Top Ten Tweets (From Making Coffee, Buying Chips & Luxury Goods, To Inflation, Internet Civility & Immelt)| China Business Blog Says:

    […] Immelt again About face (and $2bn more FDI from GE) RT @BeyondBrics: Immelt to Beijing: we feel welcome (see also: RT @WSJAsiaBiz: GE CEO Presses China Concerns; The party line on FDI RT @ChinaDailyUSA: View: Foreign-invested companies could play a more active role in China. NB:Quite a change from his previous position! […]

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