This week, end of June 2019, I spent 5 days in China. 4 of them in Hongkong (7 Mio. city), which is definitely not “real” China, and 1 day in Shenzhen, one of the Chinese Mega Cities with 20 Mio. inhabitants, with an average age of 29, connected to Hongkong via a 14 minutes highspeed train. What opened my eyes the most was, that I as a travel and culture experienced woman, speaking 4 languages was lost in translation as only once in my life before (back in 1989 in Moscow).
- I do not speak at least one of the main Chinese languages neither the Chinese speak English. And I would not even be able to read their signs or ticketing machines.
- they use completely different payment systems: they went from cash to cashless, skipping the artefact of a credit card.
- I did not undergo a culture training before (big mistake!) in order to know how to hand over a business card, how to store it. How to understand when a “yes” is not a “yes”. And so on…
- of their way of addressing complexity with complexity thinking (in shades of grey, as they call it) instead of simplifying complex problems to the max. A new perspective on working agile… at least for me.
- in China government is ruling the business (with long term plans to which the companies better align their projects to) and not the other way around.
- their form of handling technology and irrationality (of the people) in a so called “technocracy”, thinking intensely about better forms than democracy to handle the complex future.
Embracing this different angle of looking at topics and relations (not things, as I learned from
Prof. De Kai) took my whole brain, heart and soul in these days and I realized that I hardly had a look at my eMails or Slack messages. Obviously I managed to keep my focus.
Having said all this, I want to share my insights on Hongkong and China, but believe me, for getting your first impression you better go there on your own.
China has a clear national strategy that focusses on technical innovation. In order to catch up with the rest of the world, increase productivity and level up the game in technological leadership. Given all that it is important to keep in mind that in China politicians are very well educated (internationally) and selected and that science is more appreciated than wealth. A professor is ranking higher in society than a billionaire. Which also resonates in their reputation and success, internationally: 4 out of the top 100 universities in the world are located in the “Greater Bay Area” (a cooperation of 11 cities including Hongkong (Finance), Shenzhen (Production), Macao (Entertainment) …) – the Business Executive program at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) was selected number one, 9 out of 12 times in the past years. And last but not least the world market leader in drones (80% market share) DJI was founded out of here.
Within this framework of longterm plans, the businesses and companies are optimizing their immediate results which makes it hard for early stage StartUps in China and opens at the same time the window for (hardware) accelerators like HAX (from SFO) who let their early stage investments (about 40 a year) build their prototypes within 4-8 months in the ecosystem of Shenzhen where you can buy 90% of all existing parts for producing products as single pieces at places like Huaqiangbay.
To turn one week into one month, StartUps work 9/9/6 – which means 6 days a week from 9 to 9. Opposite to corporates who are said to be much slower. Still there are at least two famous cases of successfully transforming into a digital business, so is Ping An Group (who turned from a traditional insurance business into a tech company) and TCL (The Creative Life), a former governmental company, today the world´s second largest producer for TVs.
I will dig deeper into the success stories of selected Chinese companies in separate blogs, companies such as SenseTime (one of the first AI StartUps that IPOed), One Plus (a smartphone consumer brand, launched by a startup in Shenzhen back in 2013), Insta360 (founded in 2014 as Chinese StartUp, competing seriously with GoPro), Deep Blue Tech (AI), iCarbonX (working on medical food that will keep us healthy), ZhongAn (China´s first Online Insurance) and WeBank (China´s first online bank, leveraging microloans at large scale).
Leaders of tomorrow
From the founder of the Future City Summit we learned that it´s the young generation and the women who are working on the “new identity of Chinese” when it comes to lifestyle, forming families (today at the age of 23), work ethics...
Hongkong aims to play the role as a super connector between the East and the West, which is still not possible due to different tax and government systems.
The major effort seems to be taken in building connections, via infrastructure such das highspeed trains and WeChat. What at the end comes back to the AI science of Prof. De Kai who talks about the strengths of “models of relations” vs. former “models of things” (70ies AI). De Kai sees strong potential to solve the complexity of our planet in signals versus structure of systems and intuition in leadership versus pseudo-fact based decisions (as truth does simply not exist). Which led us in the discussion back to the need of not yet existing political models, as neither democracy nor technocracy seem to be the solution for combining humans (irrationality) with machines and their technical possibilities. What leads us there is interaction, dialogue and intersection – which happened lately at Kinnernet.
New questions need new answers
Finding answers for the new questions arising on our planet, such as climate, food, water, energy, and a lot more, we all need creativity how to rethink our ways of doing business and running states in order to hold our planet together. Why not combine Europe´s creativity and sustainability with China´s leading technologies and production? We need to cooperate if we want to change the world, as we are clearly not in the majority in Europe.. see the lately news from Forbes: NASA Says Earth Is Greener Today Than 20 Years Ago Thanks To China, India
In Shenzhen we experienced how kids and their parents in China are guided into immersive experiences in order to keep playing when it comes to creating prototypes and new businesses.
As Chinese perceive themselves less creative than productive. My gut feeling is that agile methods could help out here, as creativity is guided along a clear structure that avoids to feel exposed.
For me this short dive into Chinese culture was a big motivation to dive deeper into the potential of combining these complementary skills and cultures in order to make this planet grow in a healthy and sustainable way. A big thank you to all the people we met, that gave us these open insights and invited us to stay in contact and cocreate our future. Let´s do this!