As China seeks to shake off its image of the world’s mass-producer of cheap products and move up the value chain, Chinese companies are trying to reshape their reputations in the international market to win acceptance.
This image of dull producers of cheap products has continued to haunt many Chinese companies who have tried to shift their focus onto quality and branding, as well as those who have mulled presence in foreign countries.
“The image has significantly restrained Chinese companies’ price negotiation and their overseas expansion,” said Wang Shutong, chief executive officer of DHgate.com, a major Chinese B2B e-platform that helps small and medium traders tap overseas markets.
Lack of trust in Chinese products is one of the major stumbling blocks in Chinese companies’ overseas advance, according to company representatives attending the 2012 APEC SME Summit.
Wang Hong, general manager of the Yuwang Company, a fruit seller in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, recalled the first time when the company tried to sell fruits to foreign customers.
“In their impressions, especially for some Europeans, Chinese products are below quality standards, and they immediately put that label on us, ” she said.
The company analyzed its failures and kept trying to build trust, and now the company had made successful advances in many regions across the world.
For the companies that have similar experiences with Yuwang, the lessons they learned along the way were simple — to win trust with quality and faith.
“Trust is a major issue. Chinese companies should place more emphasis on product quality and be more confident in winning trust in the overseas market,” said Xu Zhihua, CEO of Peak Sport Products Co. Ltd, a shoemaker in southern China’s Fujian Province that has gained increasing popularity overseas.
While seeking to export higher-quality products, some Chinese enterprises, due to fierce competitions and rising production costs at home, have been taking steps to build up business bases overseas.
Following the footsteps of China’s company giants such as Huawei and Haier, the country’s small- and medium-sized enterprises are also trying to go global.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed Chinese investors have set up 18,000 businesses overseas as of the end of last year.
But the SMEs’ increasing presence overseas have encountered a range of problems, including bias from local consumers and misunderstandings of local laws and rules, which, to some extent, have affected the world’s perception of Chinese businesses.
Besides respects to the local rules and laws, experts have called for more attention to the corporate social responsibility (CSR).
“When companies want to go abroad, CSR is among the most important issues they have to face,” said Martin Cauchon, Canada’s former minister of justice, at the 2012 APEC SME Summit.
He said eliminations of child labor, environment and anti-corruption are among the most concerned.
In addition to product, service and company operation, entrepreneur’s personal charisma is a valuable asset in refurnishing China’s image in global market, expert said.
“The successes of Microsoft and Apple show how personal influence can promote the image of their company,” said Wang Yiwu, director of National Modern Economic Theory Research Institute of Hainan University.
“Bill Gates and Steve Jobs speak for the innovation spirit and global influence of America’s IT industry. China also needs its own entrepreneur icon to represent the image of China manufacture,” he said.
Wang suggested that Chinese entrepreneurs take more active role to deliver the concept behind their products and services.
He also called for a more amicable environment for business talents to innovate, as the next-generation of manufacturing will be all about innovation and ideas.