Tuesday, 27 November 2012

17 Chinese miners dug up Canadian xenophobia

There is no secret that Chinese want to live and work in Canada. In fact, nearly 30,000 Chinese migrated to Canada in 2011. However, while it is a tabooed racist topic to rule out visible minorities from immigration list, unions and some Canadians are more willing to jump into the topics “to protect Canada”, ruling out Chinese from doing business in Canada. In 2011, there are 39,825 foreign workers in primary industry, but unions decided that 300 Chinese miners are simply too many. In addition, several deals of Chinese acquisition of Canadian companies are either blocked or significantly delayed by the Canadian government due to political pressure. Opposition to those deals argues that Chinese purchase of Canadian companies will threaten Canadian security and intellectual properties. While few will openly criticize Chinese Canadians, many are jumped into the fray of China bashing: citing pollution, abuses of human rights, greedy, sly, senseless consumption, etc.
While China certainly has a lot of problems, we are talking about real money and real business here. Canadians should be rational and objective to maximize profits and mutual benefits for the good of Canadian public interest and economy. Yet, some Canadians view things very differently when the word “foreign” are replaced by “Chinese”. Somehow, it is a bad deal that Chinese companies buy tar sand mines, while Husky Energy was once owned by the richest man of Hong Kong (still partially owned by his son, Victor Li) and most of tar sand oil will eventually go to the USA, freeing up Gulf supply for East Asia buyers, aka China, at a much cheaper price (largely due to the price difference between Brent Crude Oil Futures (price benchmark of China) and West Texas Intermediate Crude Oil Futures (price benchmark of the USA)). Somehow, it is dangerous for Canadian companies to buy cables and internet equipments from a Chinese company, while most consumer electronics, daily products, toys, apple juice, etc come from China. No one complained when ATI, found by three Chinese Canadians in Markham, Lee Ka Lau, Benny Lau, and Kwok Yuen Ho, are sold to an American company in Sunnyvale, California, AMD, which almost ended Markham high-tech growth overnight. Now, no Canadians worry the lost of intellectual property to China when AMD graphic cards are quietly moved to made in China instead of Canada. Like all good stories, we love to have an antagonist, but crying wolves will just make us look stupid.

Drastic changes to make no change

After months of delay and numerous typhoons from political rumour mills, Xi Jinping, the latest Chinese top leader, has succeeded the presidency with new the military and executive wings. With over 70% turnover rate in both the Central Military Commission and the Executive Committee of the State Council, evidences suggest the internal differences were finally set aside and the settlement was set to make everyone happy (at least, all sides could find quiet compromises.) Aside from normal rhetoric, Xi assures continuity and respect to the previous leaders and emphasis on better the lives of ordinary Chinese. That meant no dramatic u-turn of the macroeconomic policies of suppressing inflation, increasing minimum wages& labour benefits, and achieving both goals through gradual Renminbi appreciation against the USD. With dramatic solutions to the political infighting, the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China paves the way to stronger conservatism and patriotism. A new team with new leaders may need more time to act on an economy that shows signs of slowing down. Wealthy Chinese Canadians tend to have over sea assets and businesses in China. The continuation of Renminbi appreciation and suppression of inflation could increase their purchasing power in Canada. Recently, Chinese companies and business owners show signs of increasing interest in investment and migration to Canada. While the leadership swap may be bad news for those who want to seek business opportunities in China, it can be positive news for Canadian market.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Multicultural Marketing: Call for Action in the Malls

Remember a joke that a friend used to make in the past is, “As long as there are people at a place, there are Chinese people.”  We used to laugh at it, but we all know that it is the truth.  During the past fifteen years, there has been continuous increase of Chinese immigrants all over the world.   In the meantime, more and more companies have realized the importance of the Chinese communities both because of their size and the high purchasing power of them.

No need to say, every nationality is different in terms of their habits, life style and preferences.  One thing I have realized about Chinese people is that, Chinese people like to go to the malls a lot.  Even though their visit might not be directly for the purpose of buying things, it is still a common place for hanging out during their leisure.  This phenomenal generally happens in two groups of visitors.  One group is the regular visitors, which consist of the elders and nannies that take their children and play in resting areas of the malls.  It also consists of teenagers and young adults who like to go for window shopping, and their purpose is usually social or fashion related.  The second group of visitors is the tourists.  Eaton center specifically, it has been included in many Chinese traveling guide for gift shopping.  It is also the most visited mall in Canada throughout the years.

Although Chinese people do have high purchasing power, they have a different value set and ways of buying compare to the others.  With these facts, we would expect the malls to have more marketing strategies that directly target at the Chinese customers.  However, either my retail working experience in the past or when I was walking in the malls tells me very little about multicultural marketing that has been done for this aspect.  One example about how the stores at Paris engage the Chinese customers is that, they try to minimize the language barriers for Chinese at all the tourist shopping areas.  Every national brand at these places has at least two to three sales associates that are able to connect to the Chinese customers and sell in Chinese.  On the other hand, a large number of the stores at Eaton center have not effectively adopted multicultural marketing as a way of increasing their sales.

Many businesses are now realizing the importance of the Chinese market, yet many stops at the realizing stage.  The high volume of Chinese customers should not be kept at the window shopping stage.  It is a good time to get customers into the store and convert into sales figures.  If these businesses could moving forward and involve multicultural marketing, it will create a bridge for effectively approaching and engaging the Chinese customers for future sales.