Experiencing China [#1]
I came to China in August 2014. Since then I’ve been living, studying and contributing to the startup community in Shenzhen, the city, that’s soon to be the next “Silicon Valley”, or at least, that’s what people here say and wish for.
Whether Shenzhen or any other city in China has the potential to become an innovation hub, that's a discussion for another time. In this series of short posts, I'd like to share my personal experience, things that surprised me as well as stories and news that I find interesting. Should you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to reach out! So, without further ado, let's get on it.
1) Chaos? No, China
I remember, when driving a car, my father always told me that you're not only responsible for your actions, but you also have to read the circumstances and things that are happening around you and try to anticipate what the other drivers/people might do. We quite often forget about it, because there are certain rules we expect others to follow. And they do, in 99% of cases. But what if they don't?
Having spent more than a year in China, I started to realize that if there are some rules, not many people follow them. You can see it almost anywhere, on the road, on the street, on the subway, on the line, in the parking lot and the list could go on and on. I am writing this not to complain nor in the hopes that my post will be the trigger for a change. At the end of the day, I'm just a visitor here, and I have to accept this country and its culture as it's to get the most out of this experience.
My point is different. Living in China* can be a good way to get exposed to an environment full of uncertainty and variables you just cannot control. There will always be something you'll have a difficulty in wrapping your head around. Guaranteed.
2) When it comes to $$$, there is no room for a fair play
You may have heard about the recent news that Tencent blocked Uber's accounts on WeChat (China’s most popular messaging and social media app operated by Tencent) due to “malicious marketing” practices and policy violation. People thought that this happened primarily for three reasons.
#1 — Uber is becoming a threat for Didi Kuaidi (local ride-hailing app).
#2 — Tencent led US$15 million Series B investment in Didi Dache (now Didi Kuaidi) in 2013.
#3 —Foreign companies aren't welcomed in China in general.
When we dig a little deeper, we'll see that even though the reasons mentioned above hold true, there's one more aspect, and that's the way how Chinese people do business.
According to Bloomberg Chinese companies (especially those big ones) have been competing even against each other using “unfair” practices.
“Rivalries in China’s technology industry run deep. In 2013, Alibaba suspended some of Tencent’s messaging services, while Tencent blocked Alibaba’s payment processor, Alipay, from WeChat. Tencent eventually expanded its ban on Alibaba’s businesses after striking a deal with another e-commerce company, JD.com. Before the taxi app merger in China, Tencent blocked Kuaidi Dache, backed by Alibaba, from sharing coupons through WeChat. Tencent has also barred users from accessing services provided by Qihoo 360 Technology.”
Similar situations occur everywhere in the world. Below you can see one example from the very same Bloomberg article.
“Of course, American companies employ their own tactics designed to needle rivals, and Uber is certainly among them. The ride-booking startup Lyft complained about Uber employees flooding its app with thousands of fake ride requests in New York last year and telling investors not to fund the company.”
The point here is that the situation in China is probably also affected by the following factors.
#1 — Chinese culture is different. Be the biggest or you lose. Society only admires the KINGS.
#2 — There's already some money at stake but much BIGGER chunk to gain.
#3 — Fierce competition and unscrupulous practices are more frequent in China. No matter the companies' origins.
#4 — Involvement of all Chinese internet leaders (Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent).
One of the things that positively surprised me is the work ethic of Chinese people. Especially young generation doing startups realize that the only way how to win against the fierce competition is to bring more to the table.
The 6-day workweek is a standard here and even among other people working double shifts isn't as rare as you might expect.
*I believe this will work not only in case of China. The effect should be similar anywhere else in the world where the culture is significantly different from the culture of your home country.
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