Posts Tagged ‘China’

Kung Hey Fat Choi Mrs May!

Friday, February 16th, 2018


Perhaps no international leader would be more grateful for some traditional “Lucky Money” at this Chinese New Year than Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May. Her recent visit to China generated positive headlines (£9 billion of deals, 2500 UK jobs) but the litmus test is to what extent are UK and Chinese private sector companies, particularly those under £500 million of enterprise value able to make significant strides in each other’s market. These companies are the engine of employment growth.

Ralph Jennings, a senior reporter at Forbes interviewed me on the eve of Mrs May’s recent visit

I remain highly skeptical about “symbolic success”, recalling a visit to the much heralded MG Rover plant in 2012, at the behest of a senior executive at the new Chinese owners, SAIC. A couple of months earlier, political leaders from the UK and China stood on the very same steps in Longbridge heralding this partnership as a  symbol of new era in bi-lateral trade. Walk inside, and talk to British and Chinese workers as I did, and there were telltale signs of mistrust, viper tongues, and unflattering comparisons with the Japanese car makers welcome in the North East of Britain. One Chinese manager, Annie Qi, on an earlier planned visit, called me 5 minutes before the scheduled meeting time to cancel the entire meeting because she had to drop her kids off at school! “Sorry, go back to London” was the curt one-line response. Car assembly ceased, design continues but the heritage of the MG Rover brand has not been exploited some 10 years later by SAIC. Sustaining these relationships is highly complex and ambiguous, it is a very long game for those with deep pockets and deep pools of patience.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Interview With Me: Forbes

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Forbes contributor and former Reuters reporter, Ralph Jennings, interviewed James on the discrete “welcome mat” likely to be laid out by the Trump presidency for ultra high net worth Chinese entrepreneurs directly investing into the United States. Politics aside, expect pragmatism to prevail.

Why Trump Will Let China’s Smart Elite Invest In The U.S.

Interview With Me: The Street

Monday, January 4th, 2016

The Street’s China reporter, Ralph Jennings explores with James: profitable growth and expansion in China, warmer ties with foreign companies and governments, and the future of the politically-sensitive defence sector.

China Privatizes Arms Production as It Quietly Seeks Global Customers

An Interview With Me From TheStreet

Monday, September 21st, 2015

TheStreet’s reporter, Ralph Jennings, interviews James about the outlook for foreign companies in China’s infrastructure sector set against a turbulent economic environment. Take a short hop from Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport to one of Southern China’s bristling industrial cities, and you are instantly struck by how very similar the airport experience is. A modern, cutting edge design, global retail brands and sense of calm excitement. Will this warm welcome continue for foreign partners at the entrances to China’s promised land?

China Still Investing in Big Projects, With Help From Foreign Contractors

An Interview With Me From The Street

Monday, May 18th, 2015

TheStreet’s reporter, Ralph Jennings, interviews James about the dramatic growth in Chinese overseas direct investment in the insurance, real estate, infrastructure and other related asset classes. The logic is obvious to most but it is the emotional reasoning that is largely misunderstood or unknown. Why would Fosun want to replicate Berkshire Hathaway? Read on

More U.S. Properties Are Being Snapped Up by Chinese Companies



An Interview With Me From The Street

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Here is the latest interview with Ralph Jennings a reporter from The Street on key business trends influencing profitable growth in China and the impact on international investors and luxury goods companies expectations.

China Is Cutting Back on Foreign Luxury Goods — Here’s Why–heres-why.html

Are You Thinking What I Was Thinking V

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
  • No one really knows when markets valuations are at a “peak”, most commentators and investors (Prem Watsa, Sir Michael Moritz and others) are merely applying “gut instinct” like the rest of us
  • After 7 years of “easy money” is it a surprise that we have record market prices (stocks, art and so on)
  • More people have lost money calling a market collapse than a market rise, be careful who you listen to
  • Well run businesses with strong “real” earnings and high quality management and employees will always outperform in the long-term those firms that lack those attributes
  • When retail and institutional investors have greater access to information and knowledge in real-time at less cost, why should tomorrow’s investment cycle follow yesterday’s cycle? We live in a different age.
  • With “real” unemployment and the growth of start ups in many G20 countries at near record levels, wouldn’t policymakers, politicians and media be better off talking more about our “future” prosperity than our “past” grievances
  • When I read polls suggesting  that electorates are more “disengaged” with politicians and their political parties than ever before doesn’t that tell us more about our own fears (education, self-improvement, reinvention)?
  • When you study empirical evidence, we are probably living in the most prosperous and safest decade in the past 100 years, why doesn’t it feel like that when I turn on the television news or pick up a newspaper
  • We are right to be concerned about the legacy we are leaving our children (underfunded entitlements, increasing complexity, wealth gaps) but we rarely reflect on how much wiser they will be than us (technology, health, education and other improvements)
  • We look too much at the rise of China, India and other high growth markets as a threat, when we should consider it as an opportunity
  • If you are well positioned (investor, business or employee) in healthcare, education, technology, travel and dare I say it in financial services, you are in sectors with 10 years of very strong growth
  • How many cases can you point to where great regulation has saved us from a downturn? Wouldn’t we better placed putting the onus on executives to show good judgement rather than leave it to our politicians and mandarins to tie them in knots?
  • We confuse largely “symbolic” action (an executive foregoing a bonus) all too often with “meaningful” improvements (smarter strategic decision-making, hiring better quality management and employees)
  • We “deify” celebrity leaders (Jack Welch, Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Richard Branson) and often overstate the transfer value of their “unique” approaches. In other words their ideas were perfectly suited to the prevailing conditions in their environment but those same conditions rarely exist or in the same order in our own environment
  • Wouldn’t we better served by harnessing the power of “Big People” (an ability to apply knowledge more wisely) than “Big Data” (carving out granules of worthwhile data that must be formatted into meaningful information)?
  • In the hype around Uber, Lyft, Xiaomi and so on why are commentators, investors and analysts not asking more vociferously why so many multinationals failed to exploit these sources of innovation when they were in a far stronger position to do so? Is the boom in corporate venturing a recognition that management in many large multinationals have given up on finding hidden gems within their own business?
  • Twitter and other social media ads, why would they take precedence for a B2B business over boosting the number of peer referrals obtained from existing clients? Don’t get lost in the consumer hype.
  • When did your firm last buy from a cold caller? Wouldn’t those sending spam SMS, email and print flyers be better served attempting to forge a trusting relationship with real buyers? Perhaps they are not very bright.


© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Six Myths of PR In China

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

When foreign firms think about promoting their products and services in China for many the default position is to draw unfavourable parallels with their home market and local competitors (lack of independent and balanced perspective in Chinese media, reluctance to apply critical rigour, abundance of positive spin).  Yet listen to Zhihua (Stephanie) Yan at Z.H. STUDIO, one of the members of my professional community and her recent experiences with mainland Chinese organisations and you soon grasp that many of these myths are just that “myths” with little or no substance.

  1. Majority of mainland Chinese firms today readily embrace independent third party commentaries (expert opinions).
  2. Greater number of Chinese organisations share the belief that balanced perspectives enrich a story.
  3. Greater propensity of mainland Chinese organisations to happily approve constructive criticism and editors and audiences willing to embrace diverse opinions.
  4. Are there exceptions, of course, there are mainland clients who still want to see media releases, interviews and published articles present a “more positive tone” (is that so different from US or Western European organisations?)
  5. PR investments must have clear business outcomes for mainland Chinese firms to approve expenditure. The “value” derived may be more intangible (improved image or stronger brand) than tangible (increased sales, faster talent recuitment, larger capital raising) but it must have a discernible impact on their key constituents’ behaviour.
  6. The credibility gap between “earned media” (published articles, interviews, op-ed pieces) and “paid media” in China has never been wider. Although the demand for the former still lags substantially behind the latter amongst local organisations.

Put it simply, there are three “stumbling blocks”  that currently inhibit wider adoption of typical PR approaches and the demand for external expertise amongst many mainland Chinese organisations:

  1. Mindset
  2. Capabilities
  3. Incentive

Here is two examples,

Case Study #1: A global media-savvy Business School professor requested that Stephanie proof-read, double-check and triple check quotes given to a reporter for a US news wire service in advance of providing his permission for publication.

Case Study #2: A senior executive in a Chinese organisation decided to pass on an exclusive interview with a correspondent  from a world-class, top-tier newspaper after 4-6 months of Stephanie “cultivating the opportunity” because an environment he was working in has “close to zero” risk tolerance and he saw no visible upside in speaking to the reporter. In such circumstances, retainer fees are a “must” for external PR experts wanting to survive in China today.

“Local” Growth Challenges for Marketing & Media Agencies

  1. Cultural: You have to “give to get”. The basic dynamics of PR providing newsworthy and relevant insight that is in the best interests of the writer, not the firm are still not widely understood by many local organisations.  (Increasing need for external expertise to align corporate leaders’ beliefs, attitudes and behaviour with the differing needs of local and international media when promoting their products and services)
  2. Labour Intensive: Many local organisations are unaware of the time invested in attracting major media outlets. (Increasing need for improved education, more relevant examples, more effective metaphors at the outset)
  3. Engaging External Expertise: Low awareness of the “value” derived from an external marketing agency facilitating media interviews. (Increasing need for more effective communication skills and persuasive language with clients pre-, during and at the disengagement stage)
  4. Self vs. External Promotion: Propensity amongst some local CEOs (large egos) to confuse a PR firm’s success generating demand for interviews from top media outlets with their own and their firm’s actual “object of interest” to global media. In other words why pay a marketing agency a fee if they are such a “star”? (Need to use more powerful metrics or formula to show perceived and actual level of interest, the improvement in the client’s condition and the client’s good deal)

These mis-alignment factors simply hinder the prospect of very healthy collaboration with local organisations and require greater time investment to fulfil some really credible, trust-worthy “earned media” results. For China-based media and marketing agencies it’s not something they “don’t want to do”, or even “don’t have the resources to achieve” rather there is an immediate requirement to figure out a better “alignment” with local clients’ market needs and their mutual self-interest.

When you think the grass is greener for local organisations and local agencies in China, as a “foreigner” you might be surprised about the significant advantages you start with.

© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.

An Interview With Me From

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Want to find the next Alibaba? Here is an interview with me that appeared  on addressing the future of innovation in China, changes at China’s “Third Board” (NEEQ) and why local and international investors, entrepreneurs and executives should stand up and take note.

China’s OTC Board a Lifeline for Building Innovation Culture



An Interview With Me From TheStreet

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

TheStreet’s Taiwan-based reporter, Ralph Jennings, interviews James about Dunkin’ Donuts market expansion goals in China, where exactly is the battleground and what must the winners to do build a sustainable business in a hyper-competitive market with wafer thin margins: 

“Dunkin’ Donuts to Incite Foreign Fast-Food Fight in China”