Professor Allen Morrison has been studying China for over three decades, and he’s an expert on the Enterprise China model, the close relationship between business and state in China. Chinese companies take the lead from Beijing to help meet state objectives, including reduced dependency on the west. In return, they get competitive advantages over western businesses trying to break into China. In this episode, Prof. Morrison, from the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, talks to show host Gene Tunny about his new book with INSEAD’s Prof. Stewart Black on Enterprise China.
What we discuss with Prof. Morrison
- How the business model in China differs from the model in the west [01:50]
- How the Chinese Communist Party oversees businesses in China [10:20]
- What western businesses need to know when doing business in China [12:40]
- Does China have an imperial ambition? [17:28]
- Companies which have done well and those which have done badly in China [22:29]
- Challenges to the Enterprise China model and the CCP [27:48]
- Gene’s takeaways from the episode [39:30]
About this episode’s guest: Allen Morrison
Allen J. Morrison is professor in the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Morrison previously served as CEO and director-general, senior advisor for global management education and executive education initiatives at Arizona State University. Before joining ASU in 2014, Morrison was professor of global management and the holder of the Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Chair for Responsible Leadership in the Maritime Industry at IMD. Professor Morrison was also director of the IMD Global CEO Center, which focuses on the challenges CEOs face while leading their companies in the global economy.
For further information about Prof. Morrison, check out his ASU page:
Links relevant to the conversation
Get a copy of Enterprise China: Adopting a Competitive Strategy for Business Success:
Prof. Morrison’s article “Competing with “Enterprise China” vs. Chinese Enterprises” on the Thunderbird School of Global Management website:
William Kirby’s HBR article “The real reason Uber is giving up in China”:
Transcript: Enterprise China: what western businesses need to know w/ Prof. Allen Morrison – EP171
N.B. This is a lightly edited version of a transcript originally created using the AI application otter.ai. It may not be 100 percent accurate, but should be pretty close. If you’d like to quote from it, please check the quoted segment in the recording.
Gene Tunny 00:00
Coming up on Economics Explored.
Allen Morrison 00:03
The Chinese model is the enterprise China model. If you want to do business, you will wait for the signalling and the support of the government, the government or the there that like the puppeteer is controlling this.
Gene Tunny 00:16
Welcome to the Economics Explored podcast, a frank and fearless exploration of important economic issues. I’m your host, Gene Tunny, broadcasting from Brisbane, Australia. This is episode 171 on enterprise China. My guest is Professor Allen Morrison of the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University. Allen is the co-author of the new book enterprise China, adopting a competitive strategy for business success. In this episode, I chat with Allen about the close relationship between Chinese companies and the Chinese government and what that means for businesses wanting to compete in China. I also ask Allen about just how worried we should be about China’s global ambitions. Please check out the shownotes relevant links and information and for details they can get in touch with any questions or comments. Let me know what you think about this episode. I’d love to hear from you. Right now in my conversation with Professor Allen Morrison on enterprise China. Stick around to the end of the conversation for what I think are the big takeaways. Thanks to my audio engineer, Josh Crotts visit assistance in producing this episode. I hope you enjoy it. Professor Alan Morrison, thanks for joining me on the programme.
Allen Morrison 01:30
Great to be here.
Gene Tunny 01:33
Excellent. Allen, I’m keen to chat with you about your new book, Enterprise China. Could you begin please, by explaining what motivated you to write this book? And then what do you mean by Enterprise China, please?
Allen Morrison 01:50
Right. Right. Well, thank you. It’s good to be here. Thanks for having me. So I’ve been working in and around China for my entire professional career, well over 30 years. In fact, I was in China in Beijing in Tiananmen Square when they declared martial law. I’ve been a visiting professor several times in China, I’ve spent well over a year living in hotel rooms in China, advising Western companies, Chinese companies, also state enterprises in China. So my interest in background in China goes back more than three decades. What has fascinated me about China is that the story about China is very different than anywhere else in the world. And the business model is very different, how the approach to business is very different. In the West, we have long held the belief that if we invest in China, China will grow and it has grown. If we help them with technology, China will grow, and it has grown. And we have believed based on our own experience and values that as China advances up the per capita income curve that the public would hunger for democracy, China would open up would befriend everyone in the West. We also believe that as capitalism flourished, the role of the state would diminish. China has flourished, the economy has prospered the people are richer, 800 million people have been taken out of poverty. But the system didn’t change. In fact, the state is doubling down. And what has emerged is a very successful model we call the enterprise China model, where the state and the enterprise in a free market environment, a free market background, if you will have come together to create a very different model of competing, the model has enabled China to prosper. And we in the West are a not we’re not accepting of the model. We just don’t understand it. We are convinced it’s going to fail. It hasn’t failed and may not fail, and we don’t have a good solution for it. So that really prompted us my clue my co author, Professor Steward Black, was affiliated with INSEAD great business school, that really prompted us to better understand how the Chinese model works with the state and companies working together and how we in the West can best respond.
Gene Tunny 04:40
Gotcha. What I think is great about the work you’ve done, Alan, is that you’ve highlighted just how extraordinary this change has been just what’s been happening with China and there was an article that you wrote a couple of years ago Competing with Enterprise China versus Chinese enterprises, which summarises this, and I might just read this out, because I think it’s fascinating. In 2020, China dethrone the US from the top of the Fortune Global 500. In 2021, China extended its lead with 13 more firms on the list than the US, 135 versus 122. And I think that would, that would surprise a lot of people. So could you tell us a bit more about this enterprise China model, please? How did you learn about it? What is there a framework? I mean, are they are these companies? Are they been directed by the administration? I mean, how does it work?
Allen Morrison 05:39
Yeah, so enterprise, China consists of three types of Chinese enterprises, which captures most of the economy. Okay. On the one hand, we have state owned enterprises owned by Beijing, we’ll just say 100 of these firms. Not many of them. Many of the biggest firms in the world on that Fortune list are these firms. They are owned by the state, they’re an appendage to the state. The second level of firms are also state owned enterprises. But they’re owned by provincial governments, municipal governments, there’s 150,000 of these firms. Some of the big firms on that list are also in this set. But there are a lot of these firms out there, the third set are privately owned enterprises. These are firms like Alibaba, Tencent, and so on. But these firms are also heavily influenced by the state. And that owner influence comes in two ways. One is the state typically owns a small piece of these enterprises. They own 4% or 8%, or 12%, either of the parent or subsidiary organisations. So you scratch the surface of we’ve been quite, quite rigorous and looking at a whole swath of mid sized and large Chinese firms. Every single one of them has some component of Chinese ownership, albeit 4% 6%. So the second way they influence these firms is simply by, you know, through regulation or through signalling. So for example, you know, we go back to 2020, when, when Alibaba Jack Ma, Alibaba has, you know, market cap was $665 billion. Jack Ma himself personally was worth about $50 billion. And part of Alibaba is ecosystem is this company called Ant Financial, Jack Ma wants Ant to go public, it would bring in about 300 would value at $315 billion and bring in about $35 billion from the IPO, that would value add at more than Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Barclays, ING, Goldman Sachs, together, huge. But then Jack Ma makes a few comments that this state viewed as disrespectful, shall we say? The IPO is shut off. Jack Ma is basically exile, the stock plummets in value. And this is just a signal to other tech companies that who’s in charge. It’s the state. And so the state can influence these and they influence them directly and indirectly, that what is very typical with these firms, even the privately owned firms are those that are traded in Hong Kong or those that are traded in the NASDAQ. These firms will partner with a state enterprise or a municipality, and they’ll say look, you know, municipality will say here’s the deal, we’ll give you the factory, we’ll give you the land. We’ll provide infrastructure, we want 6% ownership of your company. And we’ll give you discounted finance. So the Chinese partner, the Chinese, privately owned enterprise, they work with the state, then the state will say we’d like you to work with another company, a sister company, and so they’re matchmakers that put it together. This is this kind of ecosystem. If you want to compete in China, you have to be part of that ecosystem. And that we kind of refer to as the enterprise China It ecosystem. Right. Okay.
Gene Tunny 10:03
Now, this is yeah, this is interesting. I think I understand how they’re getting a competitive advantage. It’s because they’re getting some support from the state. Is that right? You mentioned that they might get land for a factory or there could be some rights, some incentives.
Allen Morrison 10:20
Right, but it’s more than that. It’s the ability to play in it to be in the game. Okay. So if you want to compete in China, you will be part of this ecosystem. You know, the, the Japanese had their model, the Keiretsu Model, the Koreans had the Chaebol Model, the old Hong’s of Hong Kong, it’s these interlocking ownerships and so on, the Chinese model is the enterprise China model. If you want to do business, you will wait for the signalling and the support of the government, the government or the there, they’re like the puppeteers controlling this. So it’s not just that we’ll give you a little discount on the financing, it’s not just that we’ll give you an old factory, it’s that if you want to play the game, here, you will listen to take direction from the subordinate to the state. One other thing many in the West don’t recognise is that companies in China with 50 or more employees must have on site and office of the Chinese Communist Party. They have a representative on site, medium companies, well, any company over 50 employees. So they’re all listening waiting for the signalling of the state. So it’s a matter of, you know, come almost arranged marriages and partnerships, that, that and I don’t want to say that that government is always, you know, always has tremendous foresight, they don’t. But even if the initiative is taken at the company level approvals, and a wink and a nod from the government, at the state, municipal level, are, are essential. Now I have to say, that’s a Chinese from a Western perspective, you have to think so what are we as are, what do we do about that? We want to do business in China? How do we integrate ourselves with that model? And that’s what much of our book is focused on? What do we in the West do about this?
Gene Tunny 12:29
Okay, okay. Well, I might ask about that, then, Alan, what do we do about it? I mean, I guess when you’re in Rome, you have to do as the Romans do, is that what you’re arguing in your book.
Allen Morrison 12:40
to some degree, it’s obviously not black and white. The first thing we look at in our book is, is we create a model or identify a model for strategy involving China. And on the one hand, one kind of strategy for China involves companies that are primarily focused on accessing China as the factory of the world. So I want to do business in China because I can buy, you know, my cheap couches or coffee pots, or whatever that is they become the factory that was so I’m interested in. That’s my, that’s my focus for China. There are other Western companies that are focused on the Chinese market. So I want to be in China because I want to access corporate or individual customer accounts. And in many industries, China is the second largest market in the world. And in many industries, it’s the biggest market in the world. So your approach to China depends in part on why you’re there. Most companies in the West there’s over a million companies in the West, doing business in and with China today, a million companies. Most of them are small, have a small, relatively inconsequential presence. They’re basically buying an option. They’re there, they don’t really understand why they’re there. They kind of burned the box checking business. Those companies are at risk. They’re at risk. So number one is understand why you’re there. Secondly, is to think very carefully about the industry you’re in because China has targeted 10 industries. Where if you’re a Westerner you’re going to be in deep, deep trouble. If you don’t think you know two or three steps ahead of the Chinese. These are the industries we typically think of associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the kind of the industries of the future, robotics, pharmaceutical, aerospace, advanced materials. The Chinese have put a big umbrella up You know, and they keep reading, readjusting the definition. But these are the industries most in the West who would say, look, we’d really like to be there. In those industries, if you’re a Western company competing in those industries, the Chinese have been clear about this. They have identified market share levels, hurdles, and they go from 70, to 80, to 90%, domestic production domestic market share in these industries. So if you’re an aerospace, it’s going to be about 80% of the industry must be controlled by Chinese enterprises, period, doesn’t matter how good your technology is, doesn’t matter how good your service is, your market share it has been determined will be reduced to at most that 20%. But you’re gonna have to cut that up and share it with other Western firms. So be very cognizant of what the Chinese are after the Chinese are, after three things, they’ve been very clear about this, it’s been published, it’s not, you don’t have to be a spy and go in there and take pictures of their, you know, secret ID documents, their strategy is based on three steps. Number one, we want to become less dependent on the west, we want to reduce our dependency. Number two, they want to dominate domestically. And number three, they then want to go out into the world and lead the world to flip that dependency relationship. So we in the West are dependent on China. That’s that’s their approach. And they’ve been doing this for 30 years. And they have articulated it since the early 2000s. And so in the West, we need to be very aware of, of what we’re up against. That does not mean that China wants to decouple from the west. I think the worst thing that could happen to China is it would decouple from the west. And by the way, it would not be a good thing for the West to decouple from China. But they clearly have an engagement strategy and a strategy. That’s whose objective is to ultimately win and flip that dependency relationship.
Gene Tunny 17:28
So do you think that’s the main thing thereafter? It’s, it’s reducing that dependency, rather than? I mean, to what extent do they have imperial ambitions I suppose you could call it was one of the concerns we’ve had in or people in Australia have had is that there are concerns about espionage. And we blocked the telecommunications company, Huawei from being involved in our 5g rollout. So to what extent should we be concerned about that? It’s not just about them, wanting to become more independent. It’s a broader, it’s a bigger game.
Allen Morrison 18:08
You have a former, well, relative of mine, Morrison, who was the prime minister who lashed out on some of this. So yes, by the way, if we’re not closely related, okay. Don’t blame me. So look, I think that the Chinese to understand the Chinese you understand need to understand the history. Every country has its history. But China fresh in China’s memory is what happened in the 19th century when China was subjugated by the West by Britain, to a lesser degree, the US, but you know, that particular animosity visa vie, the Japanese, it was a last century is the century of embarrassment for them. A humiliation is what they refer to it, as they do not ever want to go back to that. They that is, even though it’s 150 years old, it is still part of the Chinese psyche. So they, rather than think of them as imperialist, I would think of them more than seeking respect and seeking a return to what they we all refer to as the Middle Kingdom of China. You know, for 900 years, China led the world as the world’s biggest, most influential, most prosperous economy. And they want to return to that. And so, you know, to the degree imperialism, you know, helps, sure, they’re not going to push back on that, but it’s not. They’re not culturally, an imperialist by mentality, as opposed to say the Russians. So it’s about respect. It’s about power. It’s about control. It’s about influence. More than I would think it’s about imperialism. Now, does that mean we shouldn’t be a lot smarter about it? We should be a lot smarter about how we think about China. And we’ve been, I think, pretty naive about the Chinese. And we’re starting to wake up in the West about what it means to contain the ambitions of China.
Gene Tunny 20:26
Right? And what does that mean for a company say that? I mean, there are plenty of Chinese companies that are operating in the West, does that mean we need to have closer there needs to be closer scrutiny? There’s a lot of talk about tick tock in the US, for example. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Allen Morrison 20:45
Yeah, I mean, that what you need, just think about the kind of mindset I hope we can communicate with with this book, is when you think about China do not think about it as Chinese enterprises, as individual entities, think of them as having an umbilical cord back to the state. So when you do business with Chinese enterprises, you are ultimately doing business with this whole ecosystem, and ultimately, with the state, so it doesn’t mean you can’t do business with them. But you have to recognise that whatever you share, whatever you give them will be absorbed and spread throughout the Chinese eco ecosystem. In terms of best practices. I think that one of the keys to the you know, for the West, is to understand how that model provides big advantages to China, but also provides some significant barriers and problems for the Chinese.
Gene Tunny 21:55
Okay, we’ll take a short break here for a word from our sponsor.
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Gene Tunny 22:29
Now back to the show. Allen, do you have any examples of companies that are engaging with China? Well, and then perhaps some that have been burned or that are doing it badly?
Allen Morrison 22:42
Yeah, absolutely. So the companies easily that had been burned or doing it badly. I think they come in a couple of different categories. The first stars are many of these tech companies, which have been pushed out of China. These are companies like Amazon and Uber, typically tap tech companies that have through because they’re threatened because of their target industries, their initial investments have been wasted, and they’re out of the country. So it’s not difficult to find those examples. Companies that have done it well, in China. I think I would, first we and we do this in the book identify kind of a continuum of what that means and how they’ve done it. But on you have companies like for example, Honeywell, Honeywell is approach to China has to basically go in with the following premise. That is, they want to be in China, for China. They’re not in China, you know, to suck profits out to invest in another part of the world. They are in China to look after the Chinese to as best they can to become an insider in the Chinese market. And because of that they’ve had a CEO who has become fluent in Mandarin. He just recently retired. They’ve been fully engaged with Chinese partners, ingratiating themselves with the Chinese ecosystem. And so other companies like Coca Cola have done the same. They have a myriad of partnerships in China. They every one of these has some tie in, typically with a municipal government. Their approach to China is to be in China, for China. Then you have a company like Yum brands, these are the guys who are Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut. They went so far as to say if we’re really going to be in China for China, we cannot have ties back to the corporate parent. And there are some reasons for that because of public relations because of oversight. And so they have determined that for them, they need to create a separate publicly listed company, Yum China, which is only focused on China. And there are some good reasons for that. By the way, it does protect the parent company, from Chinese behaviours that many in the West will find embarrassing. So we’re seeing companies that are having problems in China, are the ones who, despite making lots of money in China, are compromising some of their values to be there. We’re seeing examples, left, right and centre, whether it’s Daimler Dolce and Gabbana, or the NBA National Basketball Association, whether it’s Apple, Apple, which has a heavy overhang in China, heavy exposure to China, they have made in many ways deals that would be unacceptable were they to be brought to full light in the West. One of those, for example is their iCloud, basically data farm, in that they’ve created with a Chinese partner, which they had to do to bring on a partner in order to do this. But they then stepped out to let the partner manage it gave them the encryption codes. And this partner has ties to the state. So if you are using Apple in China, the state can access all of your data. And by the way, that includes a data that could compromise potentially your identity and your and your personal security. In the West, Apple would never engage in this kind of behaviour. Nor if it was really made public. With China, would Apple be able to survive? I think the torrent of negative press that that would overwhelm it. So I think you’re seeing a lot of these deals going on, to make peace with China, through apology tours, that in the West, are going to cause some problems. So working in that, you know, that model of in China for China is going to require Western companies to rethink some of their global values and the degree to which they need to cut the umbilical cord, just like we’ve seen with young China.
Gene Tunny 27:48
Yeah. Okay. One last question, Allen. Can I ask you about how sustainable you think this enterprise China model is given that economists would argue that this is not the best way to run a company or that it’s going to you’d have less efficient corporations? I mean, how sustainable is this and also, there are the issues with the lack of democracy in China, just how sustainable is this whole model in the next, over the next decade, two decades, etc.
Allen Morrison 28:23
You know, we have been more than happy to interpret China through the prism or the lens of the West, which may not be the most effective lens out there. And let me add the other caveat, we’ve been wrong about China too many times to to do predict with any accuracy, what’s going to happen. So here’s a couple of things that the Chinese have to deal with, which are significant problems. Problem number one is the shift from what we call vertical China to horizontal China. Vertical China’s a command and control going back to Mao the state controls everything, you know, why did your factory makes shoes you know, pairs of shoes because we’re only told to make the left shoe and not the right shoe. Just stupid things that come when the state controls everything. That’s traditionally been the model, horizontal China’s where we have empowered consumers educated informed with resources with money, the ability to travel, the ability to think for themselves. And horizontal China also includes municipal you know, mayors and governors, which are pulling and tugging, you know, and trying to fight the horizontal model of Xi Jingping. So there is that pressure out there. And that pressure is not going away. If anything, it’s going to get worse. Number two, despite China’s efforts to break the dependency curve, the dependency cycle, they have not been able to do that in the areas of highest technology, which, you know, I’m thinking semiconductors microprocessors, for their most advanced three nanometre chips. They are wholly dependent on Western technology, including Taiwan Semiconductor, which is, you know, across the straits. They don’t have the capability to do they barely have, they certainly don’t have enough capacity by indigenous Chinese firms even handle five nanometer technology at a level that would satisfy demand. They have not been able to do this. They’re several generations behind. They have committed $250 billion to kick starting this. But there are some reasons why I’d be concerned that they’ll be able to do this, I’m not sure they will be able to do this, because we in the West have increasingly stopped allowing the shipping of tools, foundry tools and so on for these plants. Number three, there are some phenomena in China called a byline, which translates to let it rot. That’s it. That’s this kind of younger millennials, the Gen Z age who are, you know, 28 years old, who are because of the clamp down on technology in particular, finding themselves unemployed, underemployed, and spend their days playing video games, and fighting and chafing against the state, the state with the motto in the West, translated, let it rot, we hope the whole system burns down. So there’s this anger palatable. I would also argue demographics are, are probably China’s worst enemy. We saw this exact model play out in Japan, where we saw the Chinese population peak in the 90s, has been on a steep decline. It’s paralleling that in China, Chinese population reached its peak in about 2007. Between now and 2050, China’s slated to lose about 230 million people, 230 million people, when the economy shrinks by that amount, the only way the economy can keep its own, if you will, is by dramatically increasing its productivity levels to offset declining population, or they can open the door and have all kinds of immigrants coming in. There’s not a chance of the second happening. And, so can they increase productivity? Not like they have in the past. They have many internal problems, those agrarian farmworkers who left to come to the cities, that’s all played out the ability tp increasingly used capital, that’s to drug jackup product that is decreased, particularly as the economy gets so big, this issue of the challenge of numbers. So China is facing some serious headwinds. And we haven’t even talked about the political blowback from the west restrictions increasingly blocking the transfer of technology. Huawei, you mentioned earlier, Huawei is in many ways, yes, absolutely world class company. But pretty much every major technology advanced made by China made by Huawei, was made outside of China at Huawei facilities outside of China. So China’s seem very adept at importing expropriating technology from the West, not the greatest at doing it in house. They are facing a lot of headwinds, China.
Gene Tunny 33:52
Right. Okay. So I mean, are you saying that we’ll look at there are a lot of challenges. So look, I mean, who knows what could happen? I mean, there is there is this growing dissatisfaction. That we’ve got the demographic issues. So yeah, the whole, so the legitimacy of that administration. Am I right, that it was based on strong economic growth since the 80s. Since the liberalisation and bringing hundreds of millions of people out of poverty that underpins the legitimacy of the administration. Right.
Allen Morrison 34:30
right. Yeah, it does. And, of course, COVID crackdown hasn’t helped. Yeah, I’ll just share one story with you. And maybe the the audience would be interested in this in the late 1980s, when I was in in Beijing, and we had all those demonstrations and martial law. I had dinner with a very senior university administrator, very senior, I don’t want to embarrass him or implicate him. And we were talking about These demonstrations and the tanks rolling and so on, I asked his opinion, his opinion it kind of shocked me, very informed guy. He said, first off, I doubt that the demonstrations really took place the way they’re portrayed in the West. Like, really? Secondly, he said, but even if you’re accurate, he said, What you fail to understand in the West is that in China, we don’t care particularly about democracy. I said, Really, that’s shocking to me. He said, Here’s the reason what I am one vote. In a country with over 1.2 billion people. My vote has no impact on anything. What I care about, is economic prosperity. That’s what I care about. And so when you look at this, from that perspective, where that stability and prosperity, what will propel the regime forward is prosperity, economic growth, and so on, when you start to make compromises, and when you start to say, no politics trumps prosperity, politics trumps economic growth, then you’re going to see this, you know, empowered middle class and upper class begin to change more and more and more, I’m by no means predicting that, you know, that we’re going to see a change in regimes in Beijing, what I am predicting is that tensions within China are going to continue to rise. And either the government will clamp down on that, or we’ll have to become more open. And I’ve taken great, you know, satisfaction and seeing Xi Jinping relaxed, some of those COVID restrictions, based a week or 10 days ago on kind of this groundswell of, of opposition. So I think the Chinese are in for a very interesting 5,10, 15 years going forward. I’m not predicting that, you know, we’ll see a groundswell of change. But I do think that the Chinese model will evolve. One final thing I will say about this is that, it would be a mistake to think that Western companies, by in large, are losing money are getting somehow hammered in China. Some of Western companies, most profitable businesses, one of the kind of ugly secrets out there, they’re coming out of China. There many companies are making embarrassing amounts of money in China. And the Chinese are fine with that. The Western companies are kind of hiding that obfuscating that through transfers, through creating, you know, trading centres in Malta or something, and funnelling money, very smart about this. Where the Chinese will get very upset is if you’re in one of these targets, very upset, and focus is your one of these target industries. And if you refuse to play in their sandbox in their ecosystem, you can figure out how to do that. And you can get out of the way of these strategic industries, China can and will remain or can be and will remain a very viable market for Western firms into the decades ahead.
Gene Tunny 38:37
Okay. Oh, that’s, that’s been great. I think it’s a well researched book, published by Wiley. Is that right? So very reputable.
Allen Morrison 38:46
Wiley and yeah, thank you. We love the book.
Gene Tunny 38:50
Yes, absolutely. So I’ll put a link in the show notes to it. So people who can get a copy. Any final thoughts before we wrap up?
Allen Morrison 38:58
No, I’m delighted you’re you’re talking about this. China’s a huge issue of the day. I will only say that our book steers clear of politics, and focuses on what’s happening with business and what business leaders can do to prepare their companies better in a world where China is not going away.
Gene Tunny 39:19
Okay, gotcha. Righto. Well, Professor Allen Morrison, thanks so much for appearing on the show. I really enjoyed the conversation.
Allen Morrison 39:27
Thank you so much.
Gene Tunny 39:30
Okay, so what am I big takeaways from my conversation with Allen? My first takeaway is that enterprise China, this close relationship between business and government has a wide reach, and it has huge implications for companies wanting to do business in China. In the words of Allen and his co author, enterprise, China extends far beyond this core cluster of state owned enterprises and includes virtually all privately owned enterprises of any significant size or importance. That’s pretty concerning if you’re trying to compete in China. This leads into my second takeaway, but it is very challenging for Western businesses to do business in China. Various Western companies such as Uber have lost a lot of money trying to break into the Chinese market. It couldn’t compete against enterprise China. I found a great quote from Harvard Business School professor William Kirby in 2016, about what happened with Uber. Uber is leaving China, not because of interference from its rivals, but because of interference from the state. It was worried about the prospect of unfavourable national regulations that would damage its business in China. Disney is another prominent example of a company which has had difficulties in China. As Allen and his co-author noted the book Disney’s 2020 Milan film was not only bad for Disney’s reputation in the West, because it was filmed in a region where Uighurs are oppressed. But the Chinese government shut down coverage of the film in China, so very few Chinese people ended up seeing it. The government apparently was concerned that a lot of the media coverage drew attention to China’s human rights abuses. Reflecting on what happened with Disney, Allen and his co author write in the book, beyond appeasing the Chinese state with carefully chosen words and at the ready heartfelt apologies. Western companies face an even larger challenge, responding to rules and regulations that are inconsistent with their home country values. Many of these rules govern the collection and sharing of sensitive data with the Chinese state. As an example, many Western executives in China report being pressured to facilitate China’s social credit system that uses data on such things as credit scores and parking tickets to determine social benefits, and even employment opportunities for Chinese citizens. Okay, that’s very concerning for sure. My third takeaway is that China faces some big headwinds, which will challenge the enterprise China model and the regime in the coming decades. These include China’s ageing and declining population, demographic changes will reduce the rate of economic growth. As I discussed with Allen, economic growth in recent decades has helped the regime stay in power. And I expect that as growth slows, the regime will become even more unpopular as an economist to expect that the enterprise China model will ultimately deliver inferior results to our more free market style of capitalism in western economies. Okay, those are my big takeaways from my discussion with Professor Allen Morrison on enterprise China. Do you think I pick the most important ones? Do you agree or disagree with my takes? If you’re willing to share your own takeaways from the episode, please send them to me via firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a voice message via SpeakPipe. You can find the link in the show notes. Thanks for listening. Okay, that’s the end of this episode of Economics Explored. I hope you enjoyed it. If so, please tell your family and friends and leave a comment or give us a rating on your podcast app. If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, you can feel free to send them to email@example.com and we’ll aim to address them in a future episode. Thanks for listening. Until next week, goodbye
Thanks to Obsidian Productions for mixing the episode and to the show’s sponsor, Gene’s consultancy business www.adepteconomics.com.au.
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