Recently, I spent one and a half week in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai, together with a group of MBA students. During the period, we investigated China’s entrepreneurial environment and held the 9th China Business Plan Competition. My impression on China this year is quite different from what it used to be several years ago. China is much more attractive for entrepreneurs, and more cities are ready to welcome entrepreneurs.
I am not familiar with China’s complicated history and current social issues, but there were obvious changes since our last visit 18 months ago. China appeared to be more open, more honest, more approachable and ready to move forward. The people we interviewed, from factory owners to tour guides, were more open about China’s various challenges, such as pollution, loan and lack of creativity, and more enthusiastic about potential opportunities, such as the changes to laws, including the “One Child” policy, transition to a consumer and services-oriented economy, and innovations in health care and clean energy, etc..
At the beginning of this trip, we suggested our students to focus on similarities and opportunities. Throughout the trip, the Chinese people we met emphasized that the opportunities are abundant in China for the creative, experienced entrepreneurs who understand how to deal with hard problems and want to realize their ambitions. To some extent, the Chinese market may be oversaturated for a particular product or service. However, Chinese economy is still developing, and there may be huge business opportunities in its market. The entrepreneurial community in Washington D.C. has already connected with China through the mayor’s office and other organizations. All you need is the right attitude and the willing to strive for your dream in the market.
1. Change your views on China. Skilled employees work on computers in the manufacturing facilities we visited. The view that China is only the world’s manufacturing factory and copying others’ innovations is already out of date. For example, we visited Zhongguancun tech park, the “Silicon Valley” of Beijing, and we saw the innovations in 3D printing, electronics, green energy and health care, but noticed that the country needs overseas talents to introduce advanced technologies to the Chinese market.
2. Just go to China. China is fit for entrepreneurs, but you won’t understand this until you see it in person. Our students went to China decidedly. After they experienced in Chinese cities, tasted Chinese food, used the local transportation and spoke to potential customers, they became more confident in exploring their business.
3. Develop skills to solve problems. If you are a serial entrepreneur, and you have done this many times, China is desperate for you. Chinese universities are cultivating engineers and scientists, but not enough entrepreneurs. Americans have the creative problem-solving and critical thinking skills that many Chinese simply haven’t been taught. They need talents, and our human capital is in high demand.
There is a window of opportunity for entrepreneurs who are willing to take time to understand Chinese culture, business conducts and customer demands. Undeniably, China is no longer a factory of the world that can only copy, instead, China is heading to a new peak with its technology and innovation. More and more foreign entrepreneurs begin to realize it.