Reports that China is surpassing Japan as the world's second largest economy were no surprise. Exuberant coverage has called China's growth "spectacular" in its speed and scope, and forecasters are giddy at the prospects for this vast nation, still immature in global business terms.
With so much global corporate focus on China, it would be easy to take the business climate for granted. But it is far from linear. Harold Burson, founding chairman of Burson-Marsteller, says doing business in China is still a "work in progress". American-based CEOs know the importance of China, but are sometimes uncertain about the "shifting scene of what companies can expect from partners and the government".
It's a perspective that Roger Bolton, former Page president, also noted in his report on Page's first event in China in 2008. Bolton observed the supreme confidence of public officials, even though somewhat tempered by their acknowledgment that much work remains to be done.
And one of the bellwethers of this burgeoning maturity will be China's inroads into global media and culture, an ambition that Bolton addresses in his summary.
Paraphrasing remarks by Wang Guoqing, the Deputy Director of the information office of the state council, Bolton writes
"[Wang] spoke confidently of China's growth rate and of its efforts to develop 'soft power'. He observed that developed countries control the global information network and described efforts to expand the influence of China's culture and its media."
This observation resonates even more powerfully nearly two years later. A big question remaining is whether communications within Chinese companies will move consistently to the center of business strategy, as it has done in the top Western companies. If not, these businesses may be ill equipped to handle the pressures of playing on the global media stage they are so keen to create.
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