It’s no accident: What China can teach us about becoming a market leader

March 28, 2022

The 2022 Olympics made one thing clear: China isn’t scared of anyone. The nation hosted thousands of athletes and was given billions of dollars in free media exposure despite genocide against Uyghur Muslims, unleashing a worldwide pandemic, and cracking down on freedoms in Hong Kong. Such a remarkable PR coup didn’t happen overnight; China spent decades amassing influence and power to become possibly the world’s most powerful nation.

China’s rise is bad news for the rest of the world; but here’s what its success can teach about becoming a bullet-proof market leader.

  1. Become indispensable. China has been on the United Nations’ Security Council since its founding, making itself politically indispensable. It is the center of production and processing for many industries, making itself indispensable to companies and consumers seeking cheaper goods. And its billion citizens make it an indispensable partner to companies looking for new markets, such as Hollywood and the National Basketball Association.
  2. Patiently execute your long-term plan. China didn’t become an economic powerhouse overnight. Its NBA relationship, for example, began in the 1980s and accelerated after 200 million Chinese watched China native Yao Ming’s first game with the Houston Rockets in 2002. NBA China was created in 2008, and now the NBA has a $5 billion arrangement with the Chinese government.Likewise, a 2018 analysis by a former economist for The Federal Reserve of St. Louis explained that China’s production capabilities were virtually non-existent in the late 1970s, compared to industrial powers like Great Britain and the U.S. Now, China “produces nearly 50 percent of the world’s major industrial goods.” Its production capabilities “started to take off” around 1980, and passed the U.S. in 2010 – 30 years later. 
  3. Let other people do some of the talking for you. Lebron James surely did China’s bidding when he lambasted former Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey for opposing China’s crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong. China ended up censoring NBA games despite Morey’s apology, costing the league hundreds of millions of dollars.

China spent decades becoming a leader in the community of nations, using the same fundamentals which have made Tesla, Apple, and Walmart household names. And just like these market leaders, it now controls the narrative surroundings its failures, successes, and future. The Olympics are surely not its last PR coup on its rise to the top.

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