Disruptive dragons: can China change the rules of globalisation's game?

Little, Stephen (2008). Disruptive dragons: can China change the rules of globalisation's game? Prometheus, 26(4) pp. 387–397.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/08109020802502980


In early 2008, viewers of UK prime-time television saw corporate advertisements identifying Cisco Systems as synonymous with the internet. This compelling campaign by an established and dominant company was a response to the emergence of a significant Chinese competitor, Huawei–founded in 1988 as a private domestic telecoms equipment manufacturer. Since its foundation, Huawei's entrepreneurial flare had flourished across the globe. It employees more than 80,000 people, but China's new colossus does not sell directly to consumers and the sheer size of its influence often goes unnoticed. All of Huawei's shares are owned by 60 per cent of its employees and its founder, Ren Zhengfei, a former officer in the People's Liberation Army, only retains one per cent of the equity. Yet, Zhengfei and his fellow directors do not give interviews and Huawei's board members are not mentioned in its annual report: they are merely part of an 'executive management team', which is commensurate with 'the Chinese way' where boasting of personal success risks scorn and opprobrium. Over the last two decades, Chinese business has gone global by exploiting processes that hardly appear in the Western management and business texts. Chinese connections straddle the globe as China's global organisations learn to play in different markets and, along the way,develop the power of change the 'rules of the game'. Suddenly, a new form of organisational 'beast' has emerged that is capable of astute learning and unconventional tactics. For a while, such beasts might go unnoticed. But suddenly they seem able to breathe a form of fire that burns the competition. And there is not need to cross the globe to find these Chinese 'dragons', because they will come to you.

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