Tech & The District » China Tech the way we see it: insights and musings on technology PR, policy and the District, from H&K’s D.C. Tech Team. Thu, 04 Aug 2011 15:06:44 +0000 en hourly 1 China in a nutshell Fri, 21 Nov 2008 20:18:00 +0000 Chad Torbin As many of you know I just returned from China where I had had the pleasure of spending time with many of our colleagues abroad learning first-hand about the culture and tech landscape in the region.


Here are my top five observations and experiences:


1. I’m not as convinced as some that low-end devices will dominate the market in China. Many people tried to sell me on the virtues of a product simply by telling me it is more expensive. Your phone or PC is becoming another symbol of a person’s status or taste and Chinese consumers will not simply buy the cheapest one anymore.


2. People like to drive, push and cram. The number of cars on the roads is so stifling that the government has to limit the number of cars on a given day. Odd license plates one day, even the other.  The subways are so crowded that you don’t need to hold on to anything because you’re sandwiched between several others.  People will push their way on without allowing others to get off. It’s a competitive and crowded marketplace to say the least.


3. Internet addiction is a growing problem in China. Almost daily I would read about some poor guy that had been playing computer games for 40 straight hours and had experienced a seizure or a new state run clinic or military-style boot camp to treat Internet addiction in all the main papers. In fact, China has just become the first to classify Internet addiction as a clinical disorder with the World Health Organization. The government seems committed to helping teens kick the habit, but I’m not sure if its health reasons they’re concerned about as other issues.


4. Good customer service is hard to find. As a spoiled American traveler I found great service at the 5-star hotels , but outside of those places I found minimal service and often had to ask for what I would consider good service. Does this say more about my own vanity or is it a subtle example of a new set of challenges China will face as it enters the global economy and tries to compete with countries like India that have dominated offshore customer service markets for years now.   


5. Most of the people I talked to seemed to be supportive of the government and with strong growth for the past two decades it’s easier to see why they are so supportive so I guess the real test will come now that the economy is starting to slow a bit. The Chinese have slowly been opening themselves to global markets and therefore the possibility of a global recession and many people still count on and believe the government will protect and save them at the end of the day. If they can’t, things could get quite difficult for all.  


All in all, though, I loved my time there and realized that the Chinese people are just striving for the same things we are. They may not do things exactly as I would and some things about the culture frustrated me but after a month in China I came to realize that the Chinese people at this point are just trying to better their lives and achieve the success that we have all been fortunate enough to have. Hope I have an excuse to travel back in a few years and see just how far they’ve come.

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A new set of challenges for U.S. companies in China Wed, 29 Oct 2008 10:39:00 +0000 Chad Torbin As
many of you probably remember, back in the 1970’s, 80’s and even into
the early 90’s anti-American sentiment was one of the biggest
challenges to doing business and selling U.S. products and brands in
China. Luckily, those sentiments have changed and U.S., European, even
some Japanese brands are in high-demand today. So if we’ve finally
hugged-it-out, what are the new, 21st century challenges for U.S. companies and products trying to navigate the world’s biggest market?

walking the streets and malls of Beijing and Shanghai, I think the two
key words in China today are “choice” and “discretion.” There are more
choices than ever in China when it comes to every product imaginable;
computers, sneakers, soap, you name it.  In the past there were one or
two choices if you wanted to buy a product; the Chinese brand or the
foreign brand. Now, every brand sells here. And consumers are
exercising unbelievable discretion when buying global brands. There was
a time when Chinese consumers would just buy any global brand they
could find. Now they’re becoming connoisseurs picking products and
brands from a wide catalogue of choices.  The next set of challenges
here for U.S. companies is increased competition. The trick I believe
is to offer a good quality product, localize your marketing strategy
and don’t rely on the pure novelty of it being a foriegn brand to help
sell it in China anymore.

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15% is not standard practice here Wed, 22 Oct 2008 06:51:00 +0000 Chad Torbin No
matter how much I like the policy here, I still can’t get over the fact
that it’s totally appropriate to yell across the room at your waiter,
shout at random waiters on top of your own, spit on the floor if you so
chose but it’s not appropriate to leave even the smallest of tips. I’m
learning a lot on this trip.

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One place attack ads don’t play Wed, 22 Oct 2008 06:48:00 +0000 Chad Torbin Despite
an increasingly competitive PC market in China, the one thing you won’t
see a lot of is competitive de-positioning. Whether it’s some of the
work we do on competitive behind the scenes or obvious things like
having an executive pointing out flaws in other’s business models or
products, culturally this is not considered an ethical and valid
approach. I’m learning that here, even in a competitive market where
even small margins mean big sales, companies are reluctant to challenge
other company’s claims and products. Commenting on other companies just
doesn’t happen. The message is extremely one-sided.  The mantra is talk
only about the positive attributes of your company and if a reporter
asks about a competitor the response is always; “no comment.”

more of our U.S. clients head to China for conferences, press
conferences and media tours, I thought this would helpful advice for
you to pass along to clients making the trip. Please just scrub your
messaging to be less direct than we would here in the U.S.

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Baidu is Chinese for Google Mon, 20 Oct 2008 10:14:00 +0000 Chad Torbin I sat down with Lynn Fong and some members of H&K’s China Digital team last week for an interesting discussion on social-media in China. When thinking about social media, I myself often over look how user-behaviors influence the landscapes differently from country-to-country. Maybe it’s just that I love writing obnoxious comments on my friend’s Facebook walls that I simply assume everyone else does too?

Popular U.S. companies that come to China such as Facebook, Amazon and Google don’t always do quite as well here since it’s extremely hard for them to localize their platforms which were originally designed with U.S. social behaviors in mind. Take the example of search. Chinese don’t differentiate between paid and non-paid search the same way we do in the U.S. For some in the US, you’d rather throw your computer out the window than click on one of the paid-for, “sponsored links” on the right side of our Google search query. The typical Chinese user however see’s both sets of results, paid and non-paid, as helpful. The Chinese equivalent to Google is Baidu, which we do represent as an agency on some levels. Baidu is designed to search and highlight both sets of results equally whereas Google in China still separates the two as if one had the plague and one was helpful. So if you’re wondering why everyone in China doesn’t just use Google, the answer is that local versions understand the local behaviors better and have designed their platforms with themselves in mind.

If you’re interested in exploring social-media in China in a bit more detail, Lynn’s team has created a great digital library of stats and information accessible internally by H&K staff only by clicking on this link: URL:

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Tech & The District hits the road…already? Mon, 20 Oct 2008 09:04:00 +0000 Chad Torbin Ni
howdy (at least that’s my own version of the standard Chinese greeting
having lived near the great state of Virginia for the last two years).
Traveling in Asia this month for H&K, I’ll be blogging about my
experiences living and working in a country where cell phones dominate, Sony Playstation
is the platform of choice and Lenovo reigns supreme.  Hope you enjoy my
observations on the tech landscape, Asian business culture and some
interesting social behaviors.

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