Just a few years ago, such a headline would be considered impossible. Europe led the way in fashion and luxury, Japan in automotive and the US in retail and technology.
But when it comes to technology things are now looking different. Since 2013, 4 of the world’s largest tech companies have been Chinese.
Of course, this has largely been directly fueled by domestic growth. China currently has 618 million Internet users and that is considered to be only half of the potential market. The country has seen an explosion in mobile and China Mobile is now the world’s biggest phone company.
What is interesting though is not the sheer numbers but the innovation behind them. China built a reputation as a follow fast economy. The perception in the west was of thousands of people in factories taking apart western products and copying them to the same degree of quality but at a fraction of the price.
That is how you build products but not how you build brands. For a product to become a consumer brand it needs to be differentiated and in China, that differentiation is coming via innovation.
Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent and Xiaomi all have innovative products that early adopters of tech love. Western consumers will embrace them as they did Japanese cars and in a few years, the above brands will be as established globally as Toyota, Nissan and Honda. More recently we have seen Wanda as an emerging global entertainment brand, shadowing the big cinema and leisure park empires. They have developed their entertainment empire from small beginnings in Sichuan Province in South West China to a business of immense proportions and now global reach.
At which point, the headline China Leads The Way In Building Global Brands, will be a statement of fact not a forecast.
Of course, brands are largely built on emotional considerations substantiated by rational benefits. Apple and Samsung have shown how to do both in tech – the Chinese will do the same but in their way.