by Paul Shetler and Marcelo Silva

This is the final installment of the China Digital Playbook, an ongoing series authored by digital transformation experts Marcelo Silva and Paul Shetler.

Chinese digital competition has grown enormously over the last decade, and looks likely to kick into exponential pace. That means that it has never been more wrong to assume that all innovation is Western.

The mistake isn’t just geographical: Chinese innovation can’t, and shouldn’t, be confused with what’s happening in America. China’s companies and government are understanding digital in a radically different way to what their Western counterparts are used to.

America’s FANGs have established a lead, but the BATXs are quickly catching up. Given the continued increase in digital access in China, and the ongoing willingness of China’s middle class to transact online, there’s every reason to think that trend will continue.

Further disintermediation of internet technologies will only lower the barriers to entry for Chinese players looking to expand globally, but there are still questions over Chinese brands’ capacity to break into Western markets, challenging highly trusted, respected Western companies along the way. As John Gartner, Vice-President of International Corporate Affairs for JD.com, has said, ‘There is no question that as a Chinese company you have to work harder to prove your intentions are genuine.”

The Chinese digital playbook has been able to show the West up in various areas, in large part because of its broad strategy, deep consumer experience and access to government support.

The real question is whether Chinese firms will be equally successful in foreign markets.

We can know one thing for sure — Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent certainly won’t die wondering.

About the authors

With over 20 years of online experience, Marcelo Silva is considered to be one of the most experienced and knowledgeable digital practitioners within the Australian digital space and has recently relocated to Singapore. He is the founder of Digital Transformation Scores, invests in innovative companies and consults to emerging digital businesses across the Asia Pacific.

Paul Shetler is Expert in Residence at Stone & Chalk and an adviser to governments and organisations around the world who are transforming their business. He is a speaker on digital transformation and organisational change. Paul was the CEO of the Digital Transformation Office and the Chief Digital Officer of the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Agency.

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