George Graham

How Does China Do It?

A Chinese e-commerce company named Alibaba – something like eBay and Amazon wrapped up in one package – set records with its massive multi-billion-dollar IPO on the New York Stock Exchange this morning. And this could just be the beginning. Expect more Chinese megabrands to emerge on the world stage soon.

I am amazed at China’s success, although – from what I know about the society – I wouldn’t want to live there.

How does China stay out of war for example? I don’t know of one Chinese soldier on foreign soil this morning. Chinese traders yes. Chinese investors – they’re pledging billions for India and building resort hotels in the Caribbean. They are locking up sources of vital raw materials in Latin America and Africa. All of this without one drone strike.

I know, by now you’re calling me a Communist. But praising China is not praising Communism – not as I know it, anyway.

China is obviously a capitalist power and becoming more successful at practicing capitalism all the time. The marketing of products like the Xiaomi smart phone is a case in point.

 In an article in The Drum, David Brabbins of Prophet in Hong Kong reports that:

One emerging brand is turning brand building on its head by basing the entire company around customer-driven design. In bringing the ‘customer-development’ philosophy of internet companies to a hardware product category, it is rewriting the established order of the smartphone industry.

It’s called Xiaomi – “Think of ‘show me’ and then pronounce the first word as if it was ‘shower’” recommends Hugo Barra, the ex-Google Android boss who now heads up the company (it has recently shortened to ‘Mi’ for a global audience) – and it’s transforming the way smartphones are developed, priced, promoted and sold, while reinventing how brands are built in the digital age.

It has a killer lean business model that’s making everyone else look expensive, and this gives it a huge number of competitive advantages.

As I said, I’m not planning to move to China any time soon. From what I know, the vast country is in the grip of ruthless tyrants who have no patience with dissidents. Here in America I enjoy precious personal freedom.

But China must be doing something right.

You don’t hear ISIS threatening to wreak havoc in Beijing. You don’t hear Putin rattling his warheads at China. Yes, the Japanese are mad as hell at the Chinese for claiming some islands in their area, and the Vietnamese also have their shorts in a knot over territorial disputes with China. But that’s hardly the same as the bloody crises in which America and Europe  are involved.

The way I see it, China is the ultimate pragmatist, free of restricting dogma or ideology to do whatever works. And that philosophy seems to be working very well indeed. 

Unfortunately, it implies freedom from morality, too. And that’s a frightening trade-off. One that I personally would not dream of accepting.

Click for Brabbins’ article.

 Click for the Alibaba IPO.

Click for Chinese investment in Latin America.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for