Thursday, October 17, 2013

Monday, January 2, 2012

Chinese Design Appearing in Global Homes

In the 1980s Steve Jobs tapped German designer Hartmut Esslinger of Frog Design to revolutionize the industrial design of Apple products. In the 1980s and 1990s IBM relied on Munich born Richard Sapper to bring elegant form and function to IBM desktop PCs and ThinkPad notebooks. Few have noticed as Chinese car companies and PC firms like Lenovo are integrating distinctly Chinese design into their products. At first glance the Lenovo IdeaCentre is another consumer all-in-one PC, but a closer glance at the rear vents of the PC reveal artistic lines reminiscent of Ming and Qing Dynasty (1368 - 1912) design. The youthful and charismatic VP of Design Yao Yingjia at Fortune 500 firm, Lenovo, is at the forefront of revealing how Chinese firms integrate their culture and history into the design of today's consumer products. Such artistry and thought is welcome in an age of impersonally cold commodity products.

Top 10 Advertising Capability in China

Based on my experience managing Sales & Marketing deliverables at China's top IT firm, Lenovo, these are the top 10 Advertising Capability required when selecting a local or MNE ad agency in the PRC. Most of these advertising skills are essential in any geography, although many ad agencies lack all ten of these capabilities.

Top 10 Challenges for Local Chinese Marketing Firms

This is a subjective list of the top 10 Advertising Challenges in China based on my 7 year experience of marketing and managing local ad agency relationships in Beijing. While there are many reputable advertising firms operating in China, unfortunately the above list constitutes the challenges many local ad agencies exhibit. This does not mean that reputable firms are not gaining enormous advertising contracts, in fact China is one of the top destinations for corporate advertising spending, as demonstrated in this CampaignAsia & R3 Pitch List from 2011.

Cutting Edge Marketing Shows People Who Do in Beijing

Chinese metropolises like Beijing are becoming hubs for the creative class despite the unending traffic, pollution, and internet censorship. The web video that I wrote and edited shows five real-life creators in Beijing - a model, photographer, product designer, chef and business manager using PCs throughout their day to work smarter.

Four U.S. Brands are Most Engaging Brands in China, Says R3 Research 2H 2011

As many Americans fear the dominance of Chinese firms, much as Americans feared the threat from Japanese brands in the 1980s, it is important to note that in the second half of 2011, R3 research shows nearly half of the most engaging brands in China are American brands - Apple no. 2, Nike no. 3, and Coca-Cola no. 5 and KFC (Yum Brands) no. 10. Americans should take heart that Buyology Inc. research of the top 20 Most Desired Brands in the U.S. for Men or Women do not list a single Chinese brand. So who should be fearful, the Chinese or Americans?

Despite China's Rise not a Single Chinese Brand on Interbrand Global 2011 Top 100 List

While U.S. politicians ratchet up the threat of China to challenge U.S. capitalism and business, it is important to note that 49 out of the Interbrand Best 100 Global Brands 2011 list are U.S. firms and not a single Chinese brand made the coveted list. Marketing power house, Apple, led the Interbrand list with the largest annual change in brand value - surging 58%. Germany with respected brands like Mercedes, BMW and SAP is the closest runner up with 10 top global brands, while France and Japan share third place with 7 top global brands each. Time will tell when Geely which bought Volvo in 2010, BYD with investment by Warren Buffet, or Huawei will make the Interbrand Global Brand list. With such a formidable lead in global branding, U.S. politicians would better serve their constituents by focusing inward on how to invest in long-term R&D, primary - university Education, and Community Infrastructure to ensure American businesses remain competitive against global competition.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sarah Palin's Foreign Policy

On Nov. 25th, 2010 Sarah Palin stated on the Glen Beck radio show "Obviously, we've got to stand with our North Korean allies" (1).

Palin has consistently demonstrated a lack of geopolitical understanding. The Idaho born Republican-Tea Party leader and Fox News Host entered college on a beauty pageant scholarship (2). Decades later, Palin received her passport at the age of 42 (3), and made her first international flight to Kuwait.

Before quitting as Governor of Alaska, in an interview with Alaska Business Monthly, Sarah stated she supported the Bush Administration in Iraq but admitted, "I've been so focused on state government, I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq" (4)

Demonstrating her understanding of international diplomay on a May 29th, 2010 Fox News show, Palin stated President Obama would be reelected if, "he played the war card. Say he decided to declare war on Iran or decided really come out and do whatever he could to support Israel, which I would like him to do" (5).

After BP's Deep Horizon oil rig, which was being maintained by Halliburton, killed 11 men and pumped 185 million gallons of oil (6) into the Gulf Coast in the worst oil spill in history, Sarah stated defiantly, 'I repeat the slogan 'drill here, drill now' (7). Later saying, "I want our country to be able to trust the oil industry."

Sarah Palin holds a Univ. of Idaho BA degree in Communications.

(2)Johnson, Kaylene (April 1, 2008). Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down. Epicenter Press. p. 80.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Local Chinese Clothing Retailers Copy Foreign Brands

To local Chinese living in Shang Di on the northern tip of Beijing, the new mall opening was a blessing. For four years residents have had to put up with long lines at the supermarket and little entertainment. The opening of Hualian Mall , the eighth Hualian Mall to open in Beijing alone, brought the first cinema, video arcade and mega shopping market to Shang Di. But during my first walk through the mall I couldn't help noticing dozens of local Chinese retailers knocking off established western brands. Here are some examples from the mall and down the road in nearby Wu Dao Kou.

Above the retail store scrambles the luxury car brand acronym BMW, which stands for Bavarian Motor Works, and inside the store a modified logo of the German car brand is on display. -Hualian Mall, Shang Di, Beijing
This product line of baggages are branded similarly to the luxury brand 'Hugo Boss', which was founded in Metzingen, Germany in 1923 by Hugo Ferdinand Boss. -Hualian Mall, Shang Di, Beijing

A hybrid knockoff of luxury brands Calvin Klein and Paul Smith, a posh Nottingham based UK brand. -located nearby Shang Di in Wu Dao Kou, Beijing
It should be noted that the Hualian Mall did contain a legitimate branch of the London based coffee powerhouse Costa Coffee. Within three months the Costa coffee shop was closed down, apparently not tailoring its beverages to the local tastes of Shang Di residents who are likely more accustomed to tea, or Tsingtao.

Download Software to Jump over the Great FireWall

JumpOverGreatFireWall/">Download From

Thursday, July 16, 2009

China Censors Foreign Websites

The Open Net Iniative (ONI) recently mapped out locations where Internet censorship is "pervasive". Leading the list is China, Iran, Syria, Vietnam, and Tunisia. As chronicled by ONI and experienced in person, in March Youtube was permanently blocked. Two months later in the days before the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising and also the one year anniversary since violence erupted in Tibet in 2008, Blogspot and Wordpress were summarily blocked and have not returned. On June 4th, Flickr, Picasa Web Albums, Twitter and Hotmail were blocked within China during the anniversary of the Tiannamen Square protests. In early July violence broke out in Xinjiang's capitol Urumqi between ethnic Uighurs and Han Chinese, which saw the blocking of Facebook.
The irony is social media facilitates one of humanities most basic needs - the sharing of ideas. Much has been written about how China needs creative people to help the country transition from a largely agragarian economy in rural areas and low-skilled manufacturing to high value added service industries. But how many creative ideas are blocked with a swift invisible hand of censorship? How many innovative new technology videos such as Google Tech Talks will never be seen by local Chinese? How many inspiring photos will never be seen by any of China's more than 50 ethnicities? And how many potential business conversations and relationships will never be forged online? Yes, China has its own search engines like Baidu, and its own versions of youtube such as Youkou, but in a 'flat world' a country cannot benefit from the collective wisdom of the crowd when billions of people's outside voices are restricted. As Richard Florida states in Flight of the Creative Class, a country's ability to compete is largely based upon its ability to attract the most talented and creative global people. Mr. Florida states that this is facilitated when regions embrace openness, and harnesses the power of creative individuals. What would my hometown of Silicon Valley, California be like without creative immigrants like Google co-founder Sirgey Brin of Russia, Intel co-founder Andy Grove of Hungary, or Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla of India? If the U.S.A. had restricted individual forms of self expression and sharing then these creative individuals may have never have chosen to work and live in America. Each foreign website that China blocks deters talented people from choosing to make the move to China. Ironically, it is a global creative class who can help China realize its ambitions to establish the modern service economy it so badly craves.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Even China is not immune to Hip Hop Culture

From With the locals

Major League Baseball adds Cheerleaders in China

In China, Baseball has Cheerleaders from Cory Grenier on Vimeo.

China's Economic Growth Continues Faster than the West

In July 2009, Bloomberg reports that China's stock market displaced Japan as the second most valuable stock market in the world, with the Shanghai Composite Index growing 75% from the same period last year. Investors are reacting positively to the Chinese stimulus package, which unlike the US stimulus, has created record lending, increased domestic consumption and boosted the stock prices of domestic firms. Infrastructure spending in the less developed western provinces, high auto and real estate sales and domestic consumption for manufactured goods are credited with China's recent economic recovery. Despite the 'global financial crisis', China's economy grew 7.9% over the same period last year. China's spectacular economic rebound points to a meltdown in the U.S. housing, credit and securities market, which have hit western economies hardest. The globalized impact from U.S. financial troubles did not cross the Pacific as hard as predicted. For the first time in modern history, governments in the developing countries may be looking to China rather than the U.S. for economic and political models to copy. The long term effects of this socio-economic change are unknown.

Millions of Boy Security Guards

With a national slogan of a "Harmonious Society", why all the security? Every large apartment complex in China is guarded by young Chinese security guards who can be seen staring bored into space, harassing motorists, or listening to music on their mobile phones. Beijing has more security guards at residential areas than any city I have ever visited. In 2007, the Beijing Municipal People's Congress stated there are 200,000 security guards in Beijing alone, of which 50,000 security guards patrol properties. Xinhua News Agency states that a security guard earns only 1,000 RMB ($133) a month, which is less than a waiter. The report also states that 30,000 guards are employed illegally. In 2006 there were five cases of murder in Beijing by security guards, in which all five of the convicted guards were below the age of 20, were not natives of Beijing, and had no high school education.

Note: Once I saw a badly beaten guard, who looked about 16, but a elite police officer who arrived stopped me from helping him and refused to let me give him a cold Coke for his swollen cheek. Often I donate my old clothes and magazines to the guards who stand freezing for hours in the cold winters and sweating during hot summers. If China wants to be a world class country, and not only the largest economy, then the 50,000 young men standing in place at Beijing apartments will need a high school education and a more purposeful role in society. For a start, how about an Eco-Corps of newly trained botanists, forestry majors and biologists planting trees and plants in the barren, deforested hills surrounding Beijing?

90 Second Motorcycle Taxi Ride in Beijing

90 Second Motor Taxi Ride in Beijing from Cory Grenier on Vimeo.

Behaviors are Learned

From With the locals

China's Economic Winners

From California Visit

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

H1N1 Lands in Hong Kong and China Reacts

On the morning of Friday, May 1st I decided to book a three night stay at the Renaissance Hotel over the Metropark Hotel in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. That was a fortunate decision.  Upon landing in Hong Kong from Beijing I saw that people were taking the H1N1 flu seriously.  As the above photo illustrates, numerous passengers, and every HK airport employee were wearing protective masks.  I was asked to fill out a new type of health form that asked if I had 'contact with pig'.  

Once in Wan Chai, HK my girlfriend and I passed a chaotic scene of police, medical workers and press photographers wearing masks outside the Metropark Hotel as we walked to the nearby entertainment district Central.   I commented that someone inside the Hotel was probably infected with the H1N1 virus.  I was right. 

Earlier in the day flight MU505 from Shanghai to Hong Kong  carried a Mexican passenger who was infected with the H1N1 virus and checked in to the Metropark Hotel.  The passenger became the first confirmed H1N1 flu victim in Asia.  The Hong Kong and Chinese government swiftly reacted by placing all 354 hotel guests and staff under a seven day quarantine inside the Metropark Hotel.  In addition all flights between Mexico and China were cancelled indefinitely. Throughout China crowds are the norm, personal space is a luxury, and public spitting is prevalent.  Under such conditions it is easy to understand China's reaction to prevent an epidemic from catching hold of the population.  
The South China Morning Post reported that local HK restaurant owners in Wan Chai were suffering economically from a 50% drop in business.  But entrepreneurial local street vendors could be seen selling enormous quantities of protective face masks.  Perhaps the street vendors are analogous for the current financial downturn, where despite a global crisis situation, hardworking Chinese continue to profit.  

Sunday, April 26, 2009

China's GDP Growth Slows to a 17 Year Low

This clip states that China's GDP growth grew at a mere 6%, its lowest rate since 1992. The growth decline has been less global demand for Chinese made products with exports declining 20% from this time last year. Domestically China's (USD) 600 Billion dollar stimulus is contributing to heightened domestic growth with China's stock market up and auto sales growing to record levels. But as the former blog post shows, growing consumption of auto sales has its own social and long term economic impacts.

China's Environmental Challenge will equal a Talent Challenge

Less than a year since Science Magazine placed the title, 'China's Environmental Challenges' on its cover, the New York Times reports that China is cutting back on its environmental projects and instead focusing more resources on creating economic growth in an effort to smooth the impact from the global financial crisis.  Obviously China's leaders need to continuously create employment opportunities for its enormous population and sustain social stability. However the Government should continue to invest in environmental protection and green projects because they can ensure higher efficiency, GDP growth and lower health and environmental costs.  Critically important a clean environment will ensure the flow of global human talent required for China's future economic and technological advancement.
The China Price is especially high for the environment and its inhabitants.   The photo above shows the personal effect that Beijing's pollution had on me during an hour motorcycle ride behind scores of smoggy diesel trucks.  When I returned to my Beijing apartment I coughed up dust and blood.  A book titled The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future by Elizabeth C. Economy states that the cost of being the world’s largest manufacturing center is that China is now the leading contributor to climate change. The River Runs Black states that air pollution contributes to the deaths of 300,000 Chinese people a year. In 2006, Economy delivered a grave report to U.S. gov. officials titled, China's Environmental Challenge, that states 75% of 340 monitored cities in China have unclean air.
The Wall Street Journal reported that environmental science professors at Peking University estimate air pollution killed 25,000 people in Beijing and cost 7% of city GDP in 2002 alone.  China's capitol, Beijing, has consistently led China's Environmental Protection Agency as having the fewest days that meet China's air quality standards. 

Air pollution not only kills people, but it also deters the world's top talent from moving to Beijing.   Richard Florida details in his book Flight of the Creative Class, that today's top innovators relocate globally to places that provide the best local environments, business opportunities and overall quality of life. 

Modern day Silicon Valley in California would not exist without the top innovators from around the world such as Google co-founder Sergey Brin of Russia, Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla of India, or Intel co-founder Andy Grove.

 As long as Beijing residents face choking traffic, burning lungs and itchy eyes, the creative class of the world who can collectively fuel the high value service economy that China's government leaders yearn for, will stay at home.  


China leads World in Traffic Deaths

Any driver or passenger on China's roads will see that traffic rules are systematically broken.  The result is that China leads the world in traffic deaths since 1987.   Last year, 81,000 people died on China's roads according to the China Automotive Technology Research Center (CATRC).  

After the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Space launches, the world community awoke to China's concrete aspiration to become the world's next super power.  But to accomplish this feat, the citizens of the country will need to develop respect for the regulatory laws that can enable world-class development.  Countries whose citizens respect intellectual property rights, uphold workers safety and obey civil regulations have shown sustained growth that have withstood the economic downturns of time.  

Monday, April 20, 2009

The China Price

The China Price is an enlightening read into the lives of the people behind the label, and exposes the corrupt practices of some of the local manufacturers and western multinationals. Recently Financial Times journalist Alexandra Harney discussed her book The China Price, which discusses the experiences of everyday Chinese who toil in poor conditions to produce products often sold to the West. Alexandra candidly answered questions and used real life examples of the people she had met during her investigations. At one point Alexandra shared how some dishonest Chinese manufacturers run two factories. The first factory is clean and presentable for western inspectors. A second shadow factory is located nearby where working conditions are worse and production rates much higher, which means employees must work illegal over-time to meet demand.

The book also states in 2006 the China Government moved to strengthen legal protection for workers, but both the American Chamber and European Chambers of Commerce representing multinational firms warned that the law would greatly reduce employment opportunities for PRC workers and hurt China's competitiveness for foreign investment (p. 258-259). One day maybe firms operating in China will learn that the best way to sustainable global economic growth is to raise the bar for the well being of all people regardless of geography. That will require meaningful China innovation.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

China's Demand for Salmon Grows

During the first nine months of 2008, China's global seafood imports increased 50% to total over one million tons of fish. Recently I ate at a Chinese buffet where I saw customers going for bowl after bowl of Shark Fin Soup and the Sushi chef worked hard to keep enough salmon on the serving tray.  No sooner had he thinly sliced a long fillet and set the red meat out, then the first two customers would take the entire platter between them.   As I stood in line I began to wonder what a increasingly affluent population of 1.3 billion seafood consumers mean for today's salmon population and fisherman.  
In 2006, the USDA reported that China was the second largest single country to consume US salmon products, after Japan. Between 2005 and 2006 US salmon exports to China grew 25% to reach 36,000 tonnes, worth nearly $110 million USD.   During the same period the US imported 22,000 tonnes of salmon from China at a value of $80 million. Evidently salmon is one commodity that the U.S. enjoys a favorable balance of trade with China.   But is this sustainable?  In California officials have cancelled the Chinook Salmon fishing season because of low fish populations caused by over fishing and environmental impacts from dams, pesticides and pollutants from cities.   The message is clear, China's growing consumer purchasing power will continue to grow demand for salmon imports and other seafood.  However as California has demonstrated, nature is increasingly unable to sustain the market's demand for salmon.    Please click this link for a useful Sustainable Seafood Guide from the Monterrey Bay Aquarium to learn how you can help conserve dwindling fish populations.  

Monday, April 13, 2009

The People behind China's Development

China's Electrifying Car Strategy

Last year a number of electric cars were shown at the Beijing auto show, but most were being manufactured by Japanese firms. Mitsubishi's urban car, the iMiev, (above) plugs into a standard 110 volt power outlet and is capable of 80 miles per charge.  The car is powered solely by electric lithium-ion batteries. However the global economic crisis is hitting the Japanese auto makers hard. 
General Motor's all electric Volt, (above) was scheduled for production in Nov. 2010. But last December, GM announced that it is halting development of the Volt due to the financial crisis. This is not the first time. In 1996 the US had the lead in electric car technology, but GM similarly abandoned the effort and destroyed its fleet of EV1 electric vehicles despite public protests.  The Obama Administration is stressing that GM should keep the Volt project alive, despite its unprofitable outlook in the short-run.  The Volt project has already cost GM $1 billion in research and development, and represents the USA's only fighting chance to wrestle a piece of the electric car market from its competitors in Asia. Today the United States is up against a more formidable competitor than Honda or Toyota. China.  

Last year as Detroit auto manufacturers were closing, China's passenger car market grew 10% in 2008, and is continuing to expand. China's 'compressed development' has seen people go from no telephone to mobile phone, from no PC to wireless laptop and now masses of people are going straight from bicycles to cars.  The reason why China might leapfrog its Japanese and Western counterparts in electric car adoption is because the habits of the middle-class are still being formed. In addition, the centralized government is throwing its support behind electric cars.  China's Minister of Science and Technology is a former Audi engineer from Germany who in April 2009 states, "We need to be sustainable in different sectors, particularly in the auto sector".  To meet this objective domestic firm like BYD (Build Your Dreams), a local battery manufacturer for mobile phones and notebook PCs, is producing battery powered cars.  In addition, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has signed an agreement with Nissan to develop electric cars.  The Government has set a target to have 500,000 non-gasoline cars on the road by 2011.  China's Olympic and Space program have proved that the country is capable of meeting ambitious project deadlines.  Western auto firms can only see the future by looking out the windshield and not staring listlessly in the rear view mirror.   

Sunday, April 12, 2009

China now the World's Largest Car Market

Above, an international model named Marta Wojcicka attracts more attention from Chinese spectators than the convertible SAAB car behind her. 
Last year Beijing hosted one of the largest Auto Shows in the world.   Tens of thousands of people were pushing and shoving to take photos of the gleaming cars and attractive women surrounding them.   As the U.S. economy is slowing, in Jan. 2009,
China outpaced the U.S. to become the world's largest car market. Monthly car sales in China totaled 735,000 cars, nearly 12% more than in the U.S.  
The Beijing car show was chaotic.  One photographer from San Francisco stated he had to leave early because there were just too many people.  Since then many of the people at the 2008 Beijing Car Show have bought new cars.   Reuters news reports  in the first two and a half months of 2009, Beijing is adding an average of nearly 1,500 new cars each day to its roads.  Ironically  the Chinese Government is restricting 930,000 cars from driving each week day in Beijing, in an effort to curb the pollution and traffic caused by the Capitol's 3.6 million vehicles.  Car manufacturers should also practice some restraint of their own, and consider marketing more ecological vehicles that enrich the total experience of their customers lives.  Sadly the glamorous car dreams promoted at the Beijing Auto Show do not match the polluted and restrictive experience that motorists and residents live with in Beijing.  

The World's Largest Car Show

Two Minute Walk at the Beijing Auto Show from Cory Grenier on Vimeo.

Motorcycle Mania - China's Mechanized Cash Crop

Driving a motorcycle in China can be deadly.  Above a motorcyclist in Shang Di District lays helpless after on an accident.  But last year on a trip to Henan my colleague and I saw two dead motorcyclists lying unnaturally motionless across their motor bike.  Seconds earlier the two riders had collided with a blue farm truck. Neither rider was wearing a helmet. 

But with the right regulatory framework motorcycles, especially electric powered, could be used to curb pollution, reduce gasoline consumption, and ease traffic. Taiwan is a good example where thousands of scooters share the roads with cars.  Imagine the traffic jams if every scooter rider in Taipei were driving a car!  In Beijing, millions of new middle class car drivers, construction and transport trucks, and low-income motorcycle riders share the same roads.  But motorcyclists are restricted from many areas of the city. 
Despite the large motorcycle riding population in China, driving a motorcycle in the country carries enormous risk, especially in the southern city of  Shenzhen.  After a series of crimes were committed by thieves using motorcycles, the Shenzhen government confiscated nearly 600,000 motorcycles since 2003, and publicly destroyed 14,000 last year.  This would be unthinkable in Taiwan, for countless people use motorcycles and scooters as their primary transportation.  But at the same time that China is destroying motorcycles at home, the country's motorcycle production continues to grow.  The Chairman of China's giant motorcycle firm Lifan states that the company is seeking to use China's rural stimulus support to expand motorcycles into the countryside.  Also global exports continue to rise.  In 2008, according to China Economic Net nearly 90 Chinese firms exported over 9.7 million motorcycles.
According to the China Daily, in 2006, China was already the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer - producing half of the world's motorcycles. However premium motorcycle firms like Ducati have not entered Mainland China, although Ducati is present in Hong Kong.  Most large motorcycles are banned in Beijing, and nearly all foreign motorcycles have been brought into China illegally and are using falsified registration and fake license plates. The photo above shows a Ducati dealership in Taiwan.

Driving a motorcycle as a foreigner is especially challenging. The China Transportation authority does not provide a traffic rule book in English, so a person must go to FESCO and purchase a traffic manual that has been translated into English for $22. You must also have copies of your home license, and a document that translates this information into Chinese, along with passport size photos on a white background. The traffic exam is 100 questions in English with a 45 minute time limit.   Many foreign citizens have been seriously injured in motorcycle accidents, and are consistently questioned and even pursued by police.

Soon it may be time to hang up the helmet. Below is a clip of what driving my Ducati is like on the commute to work in Beijing.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Motorcycles in Beijing often have an 'A' plate which is the registration code of Hebei.  To drive legally within the inner ring roads of Beijing, one must have a proper 'B' license plate.