Posts tagged ‘Red China’


Johnny Foreigner might be better at running a car company in Shanghai

12.12.2010

As I made links for the last post, I noticed there were a lot of comments on AROnline about the replacement for the Roewe 750, the Chinese car that is based on the old Rover 75.
   The replacement will be on the Opel Insignia platform, owned by GM. It’s been followed by a lot of cries that are all too familiar to me.
   Most of them are saying that MG is dead, and has been for a long time, underpinned with the sentiment of ‘How dare the Chinese put this car on an American platform?’
   They ignore that some of the design is still done by a British firm and while the physical British input into the next generation of Roewe and MG cars’ production is much more limited than what we see at Jaguar and Land Rover—or, for that matter, Nissan, Toyota, Honda et al—unlike the Japanese brands, the MGs will, at least, continue to bear a brand steeped in British tradition.
   Many brands are not owned by a company incorporated in the country of their founders, and while I often make my choices based on the parent company, the majority of people do not care.
   The comments also seem rather unfair and steeped in some cry of Yellow Peril.
   I wrote on the site, in response to some of them:

   Brands have, for nearly as long as the motoring industry has been around, been acquired by different groups. Are current Vauxhalls “true” British Vauxhalls, because they really haven’t been since GM bought the place in 1925? From the 1930s, Bedfords went on to Chevrolet platforms, yet history does not seem to judge them as harshly as some of us are doing above. They are not the ‘American Bedfords’ or the ‘faux Bedfords’.
   As the world changes, it is only natural that some of these brands will be acquired by countries that do not share the same heritage as Great Britain. As far as I can see, Tata seems to escape the same level of hostility because India was once part of the mighty Empah. As India becomes more confident, and in, say, 2025 when all Jaguar platforms are exclusively engineered there with the help of a non-British car maker (platform-sharing is just as inevitable in the luxury sector), will they be met with the same criticism?
   This is the real world: globalized, with car manufacturers turning to low-cost options where possible. We are connected with internet and intranets. And SAIC is simply leading when it comes to taking an American-owned platform engineered in Germany and putting the ‘Made in China’ stamp on it. Occidental manufacturers have been doing it for years: as Climbsyke points out, Rover did it with Honda platforms …
   Yet we continue to be drawn to these models not because of their Japanese roots, but because they have some connection to the brand, which stirs our emotions. Some of them had the lion’s share of work done in Japan, not Britain, yet that, too, is conveniently overlooked. No one ever mentions the war (which I will now, and China was one of the Allies).
   While some Red Chinese manufacturers are turning out junk that would not get past injunctions waged around intellectual property issues, at least SAIC has some awareness of the history of MG and is willing to acknowledge it. With Roewe, never mind the pastiche-British marketing that it indulges in for the domestic market where these cars are mainly sold; I’m confident that the Shangaiese are more savvy than many of us are giving them credit. An MG is an MG, regardless of the ethnicity of the parent, and regardless of the shouts of the Yellow Peril, as long as its brand values are somehow incorporated.

   What may well happen is that SAIC, MG’s parent, will build up some cash by selling mass-market models, which are, incidentally, doing very well inside Red China.
   Then as the Chinese demand for them takes off (as it is beginning to), it will release a sports car.
   It should rightly concentrate on its domestic market first, and in recessionary times, working on a specialist sports car while the demand is not there just seems foolish.
   When such a sports car arrives, I wonder if the same critics will be there to shout how un-British it is—even if SAIC has to stick it on a Volkswagen platform.
   In my mind, these cars are no more and no less British than the Honda-based models that kept the MG and Rover brands going through the 1980s and 1990s, and it’s inevitable that more unlikely platform- and engine-sharing will happen. Now that the wave of consolidation has ended—Ford and Mazda have announced they are going their separate ways now—you may see very unlikely alliances indeed as the industry deals with supply and margin issues.
   There have already been rumblings about Mercedes-Benz cooperation with Aston Martin; Volvo must look somewhere for a large-car platform if Geely wants to turn it into an even more upscale brand within China; and all sorts of rumours about the platform for the forthcoming Saab 9-2 have been bandied about.
   Given Britain’s own failure in managing its car industry, cries that stick it to Johnny Foreigner have a sour grapes’ tinge to them, but, then, one sees it from the Foreign Office in fact or in fiction:

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Posted in branding, business, cars, China, culture, design, interests, marketing, Sweden, TV, UK, USA | No Comments »


Wikileaks’ brand of transparency is the enemy of the establishment

10.12.2010

There are probably two things, chiefly, that fuel support for Julian Assange.
   First, the idea that the mainstream media are not independent, but merely mouthpieces for the establishment. There’s some truth to this.
   Secondly, the fact that Wikileaks is revealing, this time, things that we already knew: that governments are two-faced.
   While I have posted my reservations about Wikileaks elsewhere, the latest news—that the US and Red China collaborated on ensuring that COP15 would fail—shows that governments are quite happy to follow the money, and be complicit with corporations who wish to continue polluting.
   Creating transparency—something I harped on about since joining the Medinge Group and writing in Beyond Branding with my colleagues—is something I believe in, so knocking down a few walls and having certain suspicions confirmed are good things.
   In the 2000s, the processes in our systems revealed that the Emperor had no clothes over at Enron—which prompted, in some respects, Beyond Branding—and, more recently, that the sub-prime mortgage market was a crock.
   Maybe it is about time that the processes revealed a few truths about government, and the very reasons so many of us mistrust them, or give politicians such a low rating in surveys.
   The fact that despite the democratic ideal, many are not working for us.
   On the 8th, Stefan Engeseth cheekily suggested on his blog that Wikileaks should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yesterday, Russia suggested that Julian Assange could receive its nomination.
   Although Russia itself has come under fire, it rather likes having the two-faced nature of NATO confirmed by Wikileaks: on the one hand, saying that Russia is a strategic partner, while on the other, planning to defend the Baltic states and Poland from a Russian attack.
   A Peace Prize for a website or a founder who put certain anti-Taliban informants at risk would not get my vote, but the underlying sentiment of no more secrets does.
   The sad thing is that it might not, single-handedly, usher in an era where governments level with us more—but it is one of many moves that might.
   I say this as the establishment, including financial institutions, closes in on the website. As pointed out to me by Daniel Spector, PayPal and Mastercard are quite happy to accept your donations to the Ku Klux Klan, but will decline those to Wikileaks.

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Posted in business, culture, leadership, media, politics, social responsibility, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


Just one clause, and I’m out of there

17.08.2010

A contact of mine kindly sent me an invitation to a Chinese business networking site, called Ushi. All seemed well till I looked at the terms and conditions, which have, inter alia:

You agree to abide by any and all the related Chinese laws and regulations of the Contract Law of the People’s Republic of China, Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China and its implementing regulations, Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Preserving Computer Network Security (“Security Decision of the National People’s Congress”), Law of the People’s Republic of China on Guarding State Secrets, the Telecommunication Statute of the People’s Republic of China (“the Telecommunication Statute”), the Computer Information Security Protection System Regulations of PRC, INTERIM PROVISIONS GOVERNING THE MANAGEMENT OF THE COMPUTER INFORMATION NETWORKS IN THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA CONNECTING TO THE INTERNATIONAL NETWORK and measures for implementation, Administration of the Maintenance of Secrets in the International Networking of Computer Information Systems, Administration of Internet Information Services Procedures, MEASURES FOR SECURITY PROTECTION ADMINISTRATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL NETWORKING OF COMPUTER INFORMATION NETWORKS, Administration of Internet Electronic Messaging Services Provisions (“Electronic Messaging Provisions”). You also agree to be fully responsible for any behaviors and the any possible result due to the misuse of your account and password in this or that way. Any violation of Security Decision of the National People’s Congress may constitute a crime and you might be prosecuted for the crime. According to the Telecommunication Statute, telecommunication users assume liability for message contents and result transmitted via a communication network. In any case, should Ushi.cn have reasons to conclude that any of your behaviors, including but not limited to any of your words and other behaviors, have violated or may violate any of the above mentioned laws and regulations, the service offered by Ushi.cn will be immediately terminated at any time without prior notice.

   Mainland China has an awful lot of laws relating to the internet—not very Confucian.
   This scares me off, big time. I’m cool with contract law and copyright law, and I have the basics there when it comes to the PRC. The rest: I really don’t have time to look up the legislation and procedures.
   It is so tempting to accept the invitation, given the way the business world is heading, but until the People’s Republic can do something about cleaning up its legislative framework, it’s a no to Ushi.
   I’m sure that when browsing other Chinese sites, I have not been confronted with quite this much. Or maybe I just haven’t browsed enough in the dot-cn space?

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Posted in business, China, internet | 2 Comments »


Volvo Cars, a unit of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.

31.03.2010

I haven’t missed the sale of Volvo to Geely, but it wasn’t as momentous as the rebirth of Saab. We knew the deal was coming and the rest were formalities.
   The company has said there will be no Geelys badged as Volvos and vice versa. It recognizes the Volvo brand is too valuable to tinker with—something Ford did, too, even if it starved the company of smaller models that could have helped kept its market share strong in Sweden.
   Important for Geely is the innovative technology that Volvo possesses that could make the younger company a world-class player. It’s common knowledge that Volvo provided Ford with some of its better present platforms, and that as a centre of excellence, it worked on safety systems for all Ford units.
   Geely gets access to the lot, which improves its own product—while arguably helping Volvo realize economies of scale in the Red Chinese market. It only sells a seventh of what Audi does in the growing market, and Geely could instantly help improve that.
   The deal makes sense. One only needs to take a look at how quickly Geely has grown in China—without pirating others’ designs—to know that it’s not in the business of asset-stripping or ripping off its Swedish unit. Of the Chinese firms, it’s operated far more ethically than, say, BYD, with its too-close-to-Toyota designs.
   And will we see Geely outside China? You bet we will—but only when the cars are up to snuff. If Ford can build a Taurus on a Volvo S80 platform, then look out for world-class small- to mid-sized Geelys hitting international markets on future Volvo ones.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, China, design, marketing, Sweden, USA | 1 Comment »


Toyota’s recent “30-degree” scandal in China

16.03.2010

Sam Flemming in Advertising Age mentioned the scandal that Toyota has been embroiled in inside China, before a lot of the bad press it received in the occident over “unintended acceleration”.
   This involved a netizen, an owner of a Toyota Highlander Sport, filming that his SUV was unable to get up a 30-degree incline, something which “lesser” models such as the Korean-built Renault Koleos, and even the subcompact Chery QQ—one of the cheapest cars around in China—could manage.
   The following news item reveals more. It’s in Mandarin and dates from December 22, 2009.   The news investigators show that even a Daewoo Lacetti (Buick Excelle in China) and a Chery van could manage the same slope, and confirm that the Highlander could not do it.
   They are not alone. Jitendra Patel filmed this with his 2009 Highlander earlier last year:

   As Sam says, this issue has brewed thanks to the Chinese internet which, while not as free as it is in most countries, still seems to create active consumers’ groups. People will rally as individuals if the cause is right—and consumers seem to be rediscovering their power, online.

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Posted in business, cars, China, culture, internet, media, TV | No Comments »


How could the Chinese republic celebrate its centenary?

21.02.2010

Next year marks the centenary of the founding of the Chinese republic. We got rid of our rather hopeless Ching Dynasty, and ushered in Asia’s first democracy.
   Both the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China see 1911 as an important year, and Dr Sun Yat-sen as the founder of the nation (here is a page from the Zhongshan government on Dr Sun which—shock—even mentions democracy). As the father of the country, his legacy one of the few things nationalists and communists agree on, even though technically the two sides remain in conflict and are in a state of Civil War. The Republic began on October 10, 1911, a date which tends to be celebrated by many, though it was formally declared on January 1, 1912.
   So, what might 2011 bring in terms of perspective?
   Idealists might point to some possibilities:

  • that closer economic ties across the Taiwan Strait mean the eventual formation of a Chinese commonwealth, with both sides maintaining the political impasse;
  • a review of the ideas of the republic as espoused by Dr Sun, and the greater acceptance of the political structure he believed in, which included cooperation between nationalists and communists;
  • that both sides of the political argument agree there are more commonalities than differences between all Chinese peoples.
  •    I doubt we’ll see political unity while Beijing is still governed by the Communist Party, which sees little point in changing its own structure to accommodate territories it considers its own. We see a similar view, officially, within the Kuomintang, interpreted in its favour. The regular triumph of ideology over practicality and the prospect of a joint future growth of ‘China’ gets in the way; the idea of an economic union or commonwealth might be the easiest way forward.
       Never mind what you call it internally, it is a solution in which both sides can claim victory, preserve face, and avoid bloodshed. The fact that no armistice has been signed by both signs is actually an advantage—because it means this difference of opinion can be solved technically as an internal matter, not one between two sovereign states.
       This is not an idea that the diehards like, so let the name-calling begin in the comments.
       But remember in whatever debate we enter, we should think of this question: since we all dislike what the Ching Dynasty did to China, what is the best way to honour the memory of the founding father of the nation in 2011?

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    Posted in China, culture, politics | No Comments »


    Google’s rethink on Red China: you can’t stop the Chinese people

    13.01.2010

    If I were Google, would I have entered Red China with the censored version of Google.cn, hiding things from the Chinese people for the sake of money? In February 2006, I blogged about this very issue and concluded, ‘No.’
       Obeying the law is one thing. Providing the people with slanted views to prop up governmental propaganda is another.
       It seems Google has gained a conscience, to the point where it is talking about shutting its office inside the Middle Kingdom, after lifting the self-imposed censorship it instituted in the mid-2000s when it entered. It also cites various international hacking attempts in an effort to gain the contents of Gmail accounts of people who have been talking about Chinese human rights. These have, the company claims, originated from Red China.
       Global Voices Online has a great piece summarizing the reactions inside the People’s Republic, which are supportive of Google and critical of the Politburo.
       I’ve always believed that the Chinese people cannot be silenced. Nor are we stupid. With such strong economic growth (albeit with fudged figures) and a natural entrepreneurial spirit, what does Beijing have to be afraid of?
       It’s not as though the occidental technocratic experiment has worked particularly well for productivity and personal wealth over the last 30 years, and the Chinese people aren’t going to see western culture in as bright a light as it once had.
       The days of walking out of an impoverished Red China on to the streets of the west are long gone, given how quickly the nation has caught up (and in some cases overtaken) the rest of the world. There’s not as huge a gap between the two. Economically, Beijing has nothing to lose face over any more.
       The only question left these days is human rights, one which Beijing gets squirmy about.
       There is an easy way to fix this: become idealistic, then live it. Red China is big and powerful enough to see this through, and the backbone of deontological, Confucian ideals surely have shown how such a large country can be governed without dissent getting out of hand.
       The expense of monitoring and censorship might be better used on raising the more difficult areas of the country out of poverty.
       It’s with these principles that a united Chinese Commonwealth might be a reality, one where freedoms are enjoyed by all. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
       Take even the minutest step toward permitting freedoms, and I guarantee the opposition to Red Chinese trade and diplomatic relations will begin to fall. The fact this blog remains accessible inside the Bamboo Curtain is actually a positive sign: it means that some free thinking is allowed. Deals like Geely–Volvo might well become easier for the west to contemplate, once Beijing looks more like it wishes to be part of the international community.
       Such a community is not biased toward the west—and westerners themselves will argue that it is not. China’s influence—and I mean all of China and in countries where the Chinese diaspora is strong—is greater than Beijing will ever acknowledge.
       Until that attitude changes, Red Chinese industrial deals won’t have as easy a ride (relatively) as Ratan Tata and his acquisition of Jaguar and Land Rover.

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    Posted in business, cars, China, culture, India, internet, politics | 10 Comments »