It’s true what they say about China. The competition for the next innovative business idea is about as cut throat as the american gold rush. In fact, the cast of characters is even simililar.
1. the gold prospectors
For my generation, the gold prospector is most famously referenced in Toy Story 2. But the prospector in China is not the moustached villain out to disrupt the peace, but rather the keen sensed entrepreneur who seeks out new places and ideas to make money. They seize the opportunity, and then call on others to help make their business plan a reality. They strike gold.
2.The Oregon trail pioneers
These guys; They are jumping on the prospector’s bandwagon. These people heard about where the prospector is finding the gold. Whether it is a student grant, or a multinational business opportunity; cholera and scurvy be damned, they are headed to China to join the competition and get a piece of that gold.
3. The cowboys
these tough skinned wranglers are the adventure types. They go to China for the thrill of it. They make ends meet by employing their natural talents, perhaps through teaching english. After a hard day’s work, they like to wind down at one of Shanghai’s many saloons. The fascinating thing about the cowboys is, they didn’t run to China intending to strike gold. But they gained a skill that the oregon trail pioneers don’t have: cultural and lingual literacy. Confused about the way the natives do things in China? Talk to the cowboys. They know the native culture better than anybody. Sometimes, a cowboy will see a niche in the native market that they have grown to know so well. So they take their lasso and seize the opportunity….thus graduating to prospector status.
3. The Injuns (I’m allowed to use this terms…because I go to school in the south AND I’m part choctaw)
the injuns have their way of doing things. They drink a copious amount of fire water (baijiu) at business meetings, they will never speak candidly to a colleugue if they are doing something wrong, and they work dilligently beyond the typical working hours of 9-5. They ironically embrace both conformity and competition. Sometimes, they wear crazy clothes to throw cowboys, prospectors, and pioneers off their game. The idea of queing up or paying for something full price sucks the fun out of the game of life. They are going through a period of adjustment as they define their own culture, embrace the influx of new cultures, and find ways to coexist peacefully while also finding a way to remain top dog.
So I am not kidding. History repeats itself, China is really just the new wild wild west (or should I say east). Instead of horses they have scooters, instead of saloons they have karaoke…
and instead of the Sheriff, they have…the communist government.
The Sheriff is not a man to mess with. In fact, unless a prospector has some serious guanxi with the sheriff, they aren’t going to be finding much gold.
So really the moral of the story is: If you have an idea, come to China. If you don’t have an idea, come to China and figure it out. Once you find yourself in China with an idea-find an in with the sheriff.