China

Andrew Hill

Expect more Chinese heroes. That seems to be the clear message of the tie-up announced on Wednesday between China’s Seven Stars and Pinewood Shepperton Studios. Among other things, it should allow Chinese co-productions wider distribution in the fast-growing Chinese market, provided, my colleague Robert Cookson writes, they have “at least one Chinese actor, some scenes to be filmed in China, and somehow relate to China”. Read more

Andrew Hill

Having now read Tim Cook’s letter of apology to Chinese consumers, I think the Apple chief executive has rather deftly achieved his objective – a public act of contrition – without admitting that his company did anything wrong.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s translation, he says:

We are aware that a lack of communication … has led to the perception that Apple is arrogant and doesn’t care or attach enough importance to consumer feedback. We express our sincere apologies for any concerns or misunderstandings this gave consumers.

This is at best an apology for creating a misperception, rather than for discriminating against Chinese consumers, one of China Central TV’s accusationsRead more

It takes an Orwellian sense of irony – or a complete lack of it – for a censor to ban the phrase “freedom of speech”. Yet that was among the search terms blocked on Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, in the row over censorship that erupted in Guangzhou this week.

Andrew Hill

With the Chinese Communist party about to anoint Xi Jinping as its new secretary general, there is plenty of speculation about the implications of its political and economic changes for the rest of the world, but little about its capacity to inspire management innovation.

China is overdue a modern management guru (Sun Tzu, born around the sixth century BC, doesn’t count).

Walter Kiechel has written an excellent potted history of “The Management Century” in the latest Harvard Business Review, starting in the late 19th and early 20th century with an “age of scientific management” (led by Frederick Winslow Taylor), moving through a more sophisticated era of growing self-confidence from the 1940s to the 1980s (dominated by the insights of Peter Drucker, whose life and work is celebrated this week at the Global Drucker Forum in Vienna) and on to the modern era of specialisation and globalisation. But, as Kiechel writes, “most of our story so far takes place in the United States”: Read more

To read the scathing condemnation of Chinese telecoms equipment suppliers fired from Washington this week, you would think we still lived in another world. In that world, telecoms networks were built by national monopolies such as AT&T, France Telecom and British Telecom, and outsiders stayed away.

Andrew Hill

US national security concerns apart, China’s Huawei has one of the strangest governance structures of any multinational company: a “panel” of three chief executives each of whom rotates into the top executive role every six months.

On the issue of Huawei’s links with the Chinese military, the telecommunications equipment company has proved the equal of any western counterpart when it comes to using spin-doctors to push out a strong and consistent message that it has been maligned. But when it comes to the rotating CEOs, its founder, Ren Zhengfei (who is one of the trio), is remarkably frank that the arrangement is a bold experiment. “Even if we fail, we will not regret our choice because we have blazed a new trail,” he said in the most recent annual reportRead more

John Gapper

Apple $60m settlement with Proview Technology of Shenzhen, the manufacturing city in the Pearl River delta, to gain undisputed control of its iPad trademark, shows how tricky controlling intellectual property in China remains.

China is still stuck between its official policy of moving to more innovation and protection of intellectual property and the sketchier reality on the ground. It remains very easy to buy knock-off Apple phones and components in the Pearl River. Read more

Andrew Hill

I’m fascinated by the first part in a new FT series on manufacturing, led by our expert Peter Marsh, who has a new book coming out on the topic.

In particular, I love the bar chart in this interactive graphic about the “seven ages of industry“ (click on the “chart” tab when it opens). Read more

Andrew Hill

Embattled defenders of horseracing in the UK and Ireland will allow themselves a wry smile at China’s decision to buy into Irish thoroughbred racing and breeding expertise. Just as communist China is trying to breathe new life into a sport it once outlawed, racing is under fire in the decadent west.

The 2012 Grand National at Aintree – next time, Tianjin? (AP Photo/Jon Super)

The news that Ireland will help China set up a $2bn national equine centre came the day after critics renewed calls for a ban on the Grand National – English racing’s best-known and most gruelling steeplechase. Two horses had to be destroyed after falling in Saturday’s race. Read more

To fly from New York to Beijing, as I did this week, is to enter a looking-glass world. Eight o’clock in the morning becomes the same time in the evening. One transfers from a country aggrieved at China to one aggrieved at the US.

John Gapper

Greetings from the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, the training college for the elite cadre of administrators, academics and politicians that run the country.

I am here for a seminar on China’s economic development organised jointly by Wilton Park, an independent agency of the UK Foreign Office that runs political and economic conferences, and the Central Party School. Not long ago, they would have seemed like unlikely bedfellows, but times have changed. Read more

John Gapper

The FT’s story about the alleged torture of a billionaire businessman in the Chinese city of Chongqing under Bo Xilai’s populist administration is an explosive reminder of how high are the stakes in the leadership transition.

The story of Li Jun, who was allegedly tortured in a detention centre in Chongqing after falling out with the city’s administration, also shows the roughness of the internal battles among China’s political factions.

As Mr Li says of his alleged arrest and maltreatment, after being arrested for refusing to hand over some former People’s Liberation Army property in the city to be turned into a park:

“When they told me I’d breached the contract and would have to pay for my freedom, I felt I had been kidnapped by a group of bandits. But I didn’t have any other choice.”

 Read more

John Gapper

 BMW M5 Sedan: Design

The news that sales of Rolls-Royce cars in China have overtaken those in the US, and that China now accounts for 31 per cent of Rolls-Royce’s sales, makes me wonder if we have reached a turning point for luxury design.

That sprung to mind when I saw a BMW M5 driving along a parkway in the US the other day. Although this is subjective, my first reaction to looking at its rear view and tail lights was that it would have looked more at home on the Bund in Shanghai. Read more

If you seek a lively leadership campaign, the place for you is not Iowa or New Hampshire but China. Instead of caucusing among voters in schools and halls, these all-action candidates are punishing Walmart in Chongqing and pacifying 13,000 irate villagers in Guangdong.

John Gapper

The protests in the southern Chinese village of Wukan, which has now established its own administration outside the control of Guangdong province, cap an extraordinary year of street protests from the Middle East to Wall Street.

It is worth watching this FT video filmed inside Wukan by Ben Marino, with commentary by Jamil Anderlini, our Beijing bureau chief. It features villagers speaking openly of their defiance of the local and regional Communist Party structure and calling for Beijing to step in.

It reminds me of my visit to Guangdong this autumn, talking to migrant workers who come to the Pearl River Delta to find relatively high-paying jobs. Although they are far better off than their parents, they also see others profiting – sometimes illicitly – from special treatment.  Read more