“No matter what you may be selling, your business in China should be enormous, if the Chinese who should buy your goods would only do so.”
Never did an “if only” clause carry more weight. In the 85 years since Carl Crow, a Shanghai-based American advertising executive, wrote these words in his book Four Hundred Million Customers, China’s population has grown by 1bn people. Their combined spending power is now second only to that of Americans.
Yet the gulf between promise and reality in China’s fabled market haunts foreign corporations as much today as when Crow was trying to market American lipstick and French brandy to the emerging middle class of the 1930s. A host of political and regulatory issues — exacerbated by Xi Jinping’s strict Covid policies and his stance over Russia’s war in Ukraine — are conspiring to eviscerate the dreams of many multinationals.
The result is that direct investment into China…