Imagine that you belong to a group that wants to change the
behavior of a powerful but erratic individual outside the group.
What's the best way? Most would agree that letting the individual
join the group and gradually socializing him or her would be the
But when it comes to China's membership in the World Trade
Organization (WTO), some members aren't sure. And with the next
vote on the issue coming later this year, media accounts indicate
that China is still fighting an uphill battle. Many WTO members,
especially the United States, see China as a developed country. But
China considers itself a developing country and therefore seeks a
gradual, rather than an immediate, end to its trade barriers as a
condition of membership.
To consider China anything but a developing country is to
misunderstand China. For while it is a vast country and is headed
down the capitalist road, China is hardly the developed market some
in the US see it as.
Westerners look at China's population - 20 percent of the
world's population - and see a market of 1.2 billion people. But
the size of the Chinese market is exaggerated, and its potential is
uncertain and unclear. The exaggeration comes about because most
assume that the 1.2 billion people in China are automatically
What's the first thing a consumer market needs? Money. The
Chinese are not wealthy, or even close. The average per capita
income is $500 a year, and 73 percent of the 1.2 billion Chinese
live in generally poor rural areas. The population of cities is
hardly representative of the country, and there is a growing
economic gap between rural and city residents.
How do consumers learn about consumer goods? Word of mouth, of
course, plays an important role. But so do newspapers, radio, and
television. In fact TV, more than anything, created a mass market
in the US and could do the same in China.
Could. With the news media controlled by the government, its
value is immediately discounted as an advertising outlet. Who would
believe an advertisement in the People's Daily, knowing that the
"news" in the paper is determined by the Communist Party?
Besides building credibility for the news media, the Chinese
need to have more media outlets. China is a country of 1.2 billion
people but only 2,200 newspapers, 274 AM radio stations, and 202 TV
stations. China is a country of 1.2 billion people but only 215
million radios. It's a country of 1.2 billion people but only 75
million television sets. …