That’s China, That’s Risky Business

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Thanks for Danwei for the heads up on an article by Mark Kitto, known to many in China as the creator of the “that’s” magazines brand. He took on the tightly-controlled Chinese media sector (making more headway than the likes of Rupert Murdoch, for a while) but eventually suffered from the weight of pressure from a publishing system that does not give foreigners any ownership, and from a few in authority who wanted control and profits.

In the publishing sector in China, foreigners can only rent publishing licenses from approved state publishers, and operate on a consulting basis with control of advertising revenues…but they are always on thin ice. Critically, it is possible to own a trademark, and this was the only protection afforded to Kitto – who is now in court for what will be an interesting test case for the (officially supported) protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) in China.

Kitto has written a book on the subject…and is seeking a publisher (the original one dropped the project due to fears over the impact it might have on the business in China). We will watch with interest.

Working in highly-regulated industries, such as publishing, in China is always a risky proposition, as policies and regulations (as well as key people) can change quickly. The cost of early market entry can also be high – due to heavy investment of time by senior executives, high-profile activities in China, and the services of well-connected lobbyists and supporters in government. Of course the rewards can be great too, with competitive advantages that can last for many years…or just a few. After all, that’s China…

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