Despite phenomenal economic growth and achievements thanks to China’s opening up and reforms, the country lacks known and influential brands in the global market, automobiles in particular.
This is by no means surprising because since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949 the country had turned a market-based economy into a centralized planning system closed to the outside world. The transition from a centralized to a market-based economy is still on-going and awaits further reforms expected to be undertaken under the new leadership.
Culturally speaking, an interesting theory about the lack of known Chinese brands has been offered by Feng Jun, chairman of Aigo Digital Technology, a Chinese manufacturer of mobile storage devices, multi-media players, computer peripherals, data security systems, etc.
Speaking at the October series of symposiums, Great Time, Great Nation – National Symposium on China’s Economy organized by the China Central Radio Station, Feng mentioned about Juan Antonio Samaranch’s utter surprise when he was told about the rules of the most popular game in China, Mahjong.
Feng was asking Samaranch, Aigo’s consultant, about what has gone wrong with China. Why does China, a great nation with hard-working and innovative people, have a per-capita GDP of only one-tenth of that of Japan? Instead of giving any answer, Samaranch asked Feng what is the most popular game in China.
And when Samaranch learned that it is Mahjong and that the rules of game are such that promote selfishness on the part of each individual player to actively prevent the other three players from winning, even at the expense of his or her own benefits.
“Such rules are rarely seen in games in other countries,” Feng said. “Mahjong was invented in the Tang Dynasty when the great nation started to decline. Mahjong was most popular in the Ming Dynasty, which collapsed disastrously.”
Samaranch suggested that to change the selfish nature of Mahjong in the Olympic spirit, the rule should be modified so that the player that provides a tile that makes the other players a winner should be honored with double bonus points. The spirit of collaboration seen in the competitive game of bridge popular in developed countries should be integrated in the rules of Mahjong, and if that happens, Mahjong may become a great game in the Olympics, said Feng.
Interesting observation that explains from one important cultural aspect why Chinese companies are not yet able to work collaboratively to create well-known international brands.