Chinese Brands Not Trusted Abroad

China! Land of Contrasts!  (Cue pictures of migrant workers wearily hauling bags of cement on bleak construction site with glitzy high rises shooting up behind them).  Citing seemingly contradictory, irreconcilable statistics or facts when considering China is not breaking new ground (communist, authoritarian politics vs. entrepreneurial grassroots capitalism, gigantic investments in green technologies vs. hellish pollution and environmental degradation, push for an internationalized yuan vs. currency manipulation etc…), but, as the infallible James Fallows writes, “really absorbing them is one of the greatest challenges for the outside world in reckoning with China and its rise”.

When it comes to American perceptions of China, I can’t think of a better way to illustrate the confused feelings many in the US have then citing these two statistics back to back: 53% of Americans (falsely) name China as the world’s “top economic power”, yet  94% cannot name one single Chinese brand.  Despite lofty international expansion goals and lavish marketing, roughly the same number of people can identify a Chinese brand as currently approve of Congress.  Whether this is indicative of some sort of endemic “soft power fail” on behalf of Chinese business and political leaders, or we are simply in the embryonic stage of companies with huge addressable domestic markets turning their focus abroad…Congress.  Ouch.

China is well aware of this, and it is fascinating watching how individual companies, government leaders, and media outlets address this challenge.  With the recent acquisition of Smithfield by Chinese food conglomerate Shuanghui International, more attention than ever is being focused on the global ambitions of Chinese companies.  The marketing, branding, and public relations challenges Chinese companies are facing, and will continue to face, in the United States are daunting, and I’ll be very interested to watch (and get my hands dirty with) these business opportunities in the years and decades to come.

This is an excerpt from a piece which recently appeared in The Global Times (环球时报) on the severe lack of trust in Chinese brands abroad, and the importance in addressing this.

Original article http://world.huanqiu.com/regions/2013-06/4031557.html

My translation:

American Report:  Chinese Companies Not Highly Trusted Abroad

Edelman, a well known US public relations firm, recently released the “2013 Global Trust Barometer”.  According to this report, Chinese companies do not enjoy a high level of trust globally, ranking in the bottom third of the 17 countries surveyed.  Without considering the scientific basis of this survey, this should serve as a wake up call to Chinese companies.

A Chinese company’s image abroad does not just impact its own operations and profits, but is linked to the overall perception of other Chinese companies.  The behavior of thousands of Chinese companies abroad constitutes a very important component of the international community’s opinion of China.  In the eyes of many foreigners, their feelings towards Chinese companies is the most intuitive and direct element in their overall opinion of China.

China is currently in a critical moment of its rise.  China’s rise is very different from that of other nations throughout history, as it is a peaceful road towards power.  Thus, the importance of “flexible means” and “soft power” are naturally higher, and the image of the nation and its corporations abroad is increasingly perceptible.  Chinese companies, especially those aggressively seeking to expand abroad, have an “unshirkable responsibility” to be a window through which the world can observe China’s rise.  Through their actions,  these companies can assert a positive image of China, display the harmony and strength of Chinese culture, increase the acceptance of China by the international community, reduce resistance to China’s rise, and most importantly avoid “high costs” associated with China’s development.

In light of these considerations, problems and situations arising regarding Chinese companies abroad cannot be ignored, no matter how small.  If the problems Chinese companies abroad are facing do not find substantive solutions, they will face a bottleneck in expanding globally, or even initiate a domino effect by increasing difficulties for companies going abroad in the future.  With the deepening reality of China’s rise, this bottleneck could hinder the nation’s growth.

Improving the image of Chinese companies abroad requires the help and support of all levels in China, as well as increased efforts on behalf of these companies themselves to find a mutually complimenting balance between profit and image.  To realize the “great revival of the Chinese nation”, we must work together to improve the image of Chinese companies abroad.

Original Chinese:

http://world.huanqiu.com/regions/2013-06/4031557.html

美报告: 中国企业诚信可信度的全球排名不高

以提供公关咨询服务著称的美国爱德曼公司推出《2013全球信任度调查报告》的显示,中国企业诚信可信度的全球排名不高,在被调查的17个国家中列倒数第三。且不论其科学性如何,对中国企业的形象建设而言,应视作一个提醒。

。。。

一家中国企业在海外的形象,影响的不仅是自身的经营和利益,还关系到其他中国企业的整体形象。千千万万中国企业在海外的行为方式和日常做法,也会被国际社会整合为中国国家形象的重要组成部分。对很多外国人来说,中国企业的海外形象,是中国国家形象中最直观、最贴近的元素。

当前是中国崛起的关键阶段。中国崛起与历史上的大国崛起有很大不同,因为中国要走和平崛起之路,自然会对柔性手段和软实力的要求更高,国家形象、企业海外形象的重要性进一步凸显。因此,中国企业,特别是很多积极走出去的企业,也责无旁贷地成为观察中国崛起的一扇重要窗口。通过这些企业的行为,树立良好的中国形象,展现中华文化讲信修睦、和而不同的胸襟内涵,提高国际社会对中国的接受度,减少对中国崛起的抵制,特别是要避免形成代价越来越大的崛起态势。

也因此,涉及企业海外形象的案例和问题,不可因其小而忽视。如果中国企业海外形象问题长期得不到实质性解决,我们就会面临走出去的瓶颈,甚至会造成某种多米诺骨牌效应,令今后的企业走出去更加困难。而随着中国的和平发展走向深入,这个瓶颈也会演化为中国崛起的瓶颈。

中国企业海外形象的改善,既需要国家层面的帮助与支持,也需要企业自身投入更大的努力去探索,发现有效路径,找到利益与形象相得益彰的平衡点。为了实现中华民族的伟大复兴,需要我们行动起来,打一场中国企业海外形象的攻坚战。