The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Zhang Ruimin wants to sell you a refrigerator. You, as in "you American", or "you European". Since Zhang is the CEO of Haier Group, a Chinese manufacturer of durable consumer goods, he's facing an uphill battle. But he's looking at building a global brand, one dorm-fridge at a time. (Registration required to read the full article.)

China is, of course, a latent economic giant. One metric that bears this out is its advertising marketing, currently at $10 billion and set to grow into the world's second largest (behind Japan's) by 2010.

Along with such explosive growth will be companies like Haier, which will spread their wings across the globe. Along the way, they'll encounter the same xenophobia that corporate Japan did during the 1970s and 80s. Remember how panicked all America was when news like Rockefeller Plaza being sold to Japanese investors was overblown? Everyone thought the crafty Japs were going to buy up the entire United States. The fact that British and French money owns far more U.S.-based assets than any other foreign investors, and that no one seemed to mind that, highlighted how the fear of "Japan Inc." was pretty much racial in root. As Chinese investment in the U.S. becomes more frequent and visible, I expect the same dynamic to replay itself. It'll be amusing to watch.