My takeaways from a week in China

Justin Paterno
May 24, 2015 · 3 min read

I was fortunate to be able to spend the past week in Beijing attending the Renren Global CEO conference. It was a fantastic event, as I got to meet and mingle with many American and Chinese entrepreneurs solving similar problems in each country — a truly unique experience.

Now that the jet lag has subsided and the memories are still fresh, I wanted to write down share some of my observations from the trip.

  1. Capitalism is thriving and brutal in China in the areas the government wants it to. In speaking with a few people, it’s clear that the Chinese government wants technology to flourish in China, the result is competition unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Companies and products that existed 2 years ago are gone today. Entrepreneurs are under enormous pressure to grow, and grow fast. Every problem has many Chinese companies trying to solve it.
  2. It is a waste of time and money for US internet companies to try to access the China market. There are so many companies in China already solving the problem you set out to solve, and as someone told me, “China wants to build its own internet”. Any US company you are invested in based on this thesis is likely a sell.
  3. Apple is on fire in China (and has so much more room to grow). China loves Apple, especially the iPhone 6. Most wealthy Chinese own an iPhone, but most Chinese still own Android devices (Xiaomi or Samsung). An investment in Apple is an investment in a China middle class.
  4. There is a form of “Manifest Destiny” going on in China. Listening to the CEO of the Chinese version of StockTwits, Xueqiu (“Snowball Finance”) speak, he mentioned the inspiration of his companies name was from Warren Buffet’s quote, “Life is like a snowball. The important thing is finding wet snow and a really long hill.” In his speech, I believe he equated China to this snowball and you definitely get that feeling from everyone you speak with. I don’t know what it was like to live through the US version of Manifest Destiny, but it feels like something similar is going on in China. We may mock the ghost cities, but China is playing the long game, and most in China are playing along.
  5. For what one would think is a police state, hardly any police could be seen. While walking around Beijing, it occurred to me that unlike a walk in New York, I saw very few police officers. In bringing it up to an expat who lived there he responded, “As long as you walk in your path, you have a great deal of freedom in China.” I found this interesting in contrasting some of the current issue in the US with over-policing. In many ways we are mirror images. In the US, we have much more “macro freedom”, but in China there is much more “micro freedom”. Even for being in a foreign land, it felt quite safe.
  6. To understand China, observe how they drive. Driving in China is insane — so many people, and so many cars. I used the term to describe the way they drive as “aggressive-defensive driving”. While obviously an oxymoron, it is an apt description. They loosely follow traffic signs and lights, but there is a order in all the chaos. They are aggressive, impatient yet observant and respectful. Taking a left turn in an intersection with a red light should surely result in an accident, but yet it doesn’t. Perhaps the same could be said about China, the Chinese people, and the economy. There is definitely an order beyond the chaos that our Western eyes observes.

Anyways, those are all the important ones I wanted to share. I’m sure I have plenty more. If you ever have a chance to visit, I would definitely recommend it.

    Justin Paterno

    Written by

    COO @StockTwits. Love good music, great food, and bad jokes.

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