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新经济MOOK

中国最挑剔的读物

 
 
 

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外企难以进入中国市场  

2009-12-18 14:10:09|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Selling foreign goods in China

中国备受期望带领世界走出衰退,

但外企发现,在中国做生意仍同以往一样艰难。

 

 

上海一家研究机构Access Asia的总经理保罗·弗伦奇说,每年都会有一家公司从他的公司买同一份研究特定产品在中国销路的报告。这是因为每年这家公司都会向中国派一名管理人员来开拓中国市场,很快,这名管理人员就失望地离开——无法在短时间内利用有限的资源打开中国市场。

并非弗伦奇先生的顾客一人如此。另外一家研究机构IMS估计,诸如辉瑞、阿斯利康和拜耳的制药巨头,在华销售量仅占其全球销售量的2%。据称,保洁在华年销售量仅刚超过30亿美元,不足其总销售量的5%。联合利华在华销售量不足总销售量的2.5%,其在华业务刚能盈利。美国保险公司AIG,已在上海成立子公司,相对其他竞争对手,已得以进入中国市场,但只限制其在8个城市营业。分析人士猜测,AIG在华营业额还不如台湾,而台湾的人口仅为中国的2%,竞争比中国更为激烈。

自19世纪以来,先是期望——然后大多数情况下失望是在中国做生意的主旋律。那时,曼彻斯特的纺织工人做梦都想给衬衫下摆加长然后销往中国。由于国内经济衰退,外企比以往更期望能从中国的经济发展中获利。但去年以来,欧洲及美国对中国的出口仍大致持平,仅占总出口量不足7%。中欧商学院客座教授罗纳德·施拉姆说,即使中国今年达到官方目标8%。但对西方企业总销售量的影响只不过是零头而已。

当然,许多外企在中国效益不错,尤其处于价值链这个极端的产品:奢侈品、光纤电缆及大型飞机是一种,石油、矿石、可回收利用的废品是另一种。但其他产品,受明晰的法律障碍及隐性障碍所限,仍无法接近中国消费者,尽管中国2001年加入WTO时承诺将改革。出版业,电信,石油开采,营销,医药,银行及保险业,都或保护国内企业,或禁止外企进入。腐败、保护主义及废话连篇的规章制度都阻挡外企进入。

最近,外国商业的三次游说(上海美国商会,中国欧盟商会,美中贸易关系委员会)报告证实了这一令人沮丧的观点。报告着墨最多的内容与大家最为关心商业事宜毫无关系,反而,报告中在抱怨补助竞争,限制进入,监管冲突,对知识产权保护不力及不透明且专制的官僚体系。

商会自己要想在中国营业,需要提供如下单位的批示文件:美国国务院,中国驻美大使馆,华盛顿及上海市政府,地方税务机关及地方工商局。需要六个月时间办理一年的营业执照。尽管费时费力费钱,但至少还有规定的章程可循。其他人可就没这么幸运了,加入WTO时,中国同意允许外企参与国内航线的订票服务,但据欧洲商会消息,中国暂时还没有制定相应的规章制度。

地方官员竭尽全力保护本国公司,经常让它们优先获得土地及信贷,或放松管理限制。如果跨国法律师雇用中国的律师的话,那么这么多的繁文缛节就够他们折腾了,所以他们没有雇。广告公司老板汤姆·克托洛夫说,政府通过控制媒体,控制了广告价格。所有这些都使得外企进入中国市场的成本高于许多西方国家,尽管由于大多数中国人还很穷,外企在中国的潜在收益要低于大多数西方国家。在中国,几乎没有什么可靠的商业信息。

外企为了克服这些障碍,趋向于本地化生产;其产品被认为是高质量的(少数外企通过降价在中国获得成功),花费大量的时间与精力开拓中国的分销网络,提高产品知名度。以美国轮胎生产商固特异为例,固特异在中国的760个经销权都是与当地企业合作,由当地的企业进而取得政府的经营许可。固特异公司到处向政府垄断的媒体发放广告,进行品牌宣传。受先入为主品牌的制约,固特异的广告主要营销理念是:安全驾驶。

和其他地方一样,也得考虑当地偏好。中国消费者其大多数国家的消费者似乎更偏好多样化。宝洁生产的佳洁士牌牙膏有令人艳羡的各种香味系列,包括柠檬,茶叶,草莓,盐及蜂蜜香味。世界上最大的手机生产商诺基亚也提供类似的产品组合。

另一个外企在中国成功的策略是高价策略——很惊讶吧?毕竟中国的工资水平仍然很低。尼尔森公司的一项调查证明,中国消费者认为外国品牌相对较贵,即使事实并非如此。这说明外企应采取质量竞争而非成本竞争。苹果电脑,通用汽车及levi's在中国的售价均高于世界其他地方。奢侈品牌也是如此,不过大多数外企还是未能得到这样的收益。

 

EVERY year, says Paul French, head of Access Asia, a research firm based in Shanghai, the same company buys the same report from him on the market for a particular product in China. That is because each year the company in question sends a new executive to China with instructions to break into the local market, who soon departs in despair—having failed to find an opening given the (brief) time and (insufficient) resources allotted.

Mr French’s customer is not alone. China accounts for less than 2% of the global sales of drugs giants such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Bayer, estimates IMS, another research firm. Procter & Gamble (P&G), a consumer-goods giant, is reckoned to generate only a bit over $3 billion annually in China, less than 5% of its overall sales. Unilever is thought to sell less than half as much; its local operations are barely profitable. AIG, an American insurance firm, was founded in Shanghai and has won greater access to China than many of its competitors. But its operations are still restricted to just eight cities. Analysts suspect its revenues in China are less than in Taiwan, a country with 2% of the population and stiffer competition.

The promise—and frequent disappointment—of doing business in China has been a common theme since at least the 19th century, when weavers in Manchester were said to dream of adding a few inches to every shirttail in China. Thanks to recession at home, foreign firms are keener than ever to capitalise on China’s growth. But Europe and America’s exports to China have remained broadly flat over the past year and amount to less than 7% of the total, even though shrinking exports to other countries flatter the figure. Even if the Chinese economy grows by the official target of 8% this year, the impact on Western firms’ total sales would be little more than a rounding error, says Ronald Schramm, a visiting professor at the Chinese European International Business School.

Many foreign firms, of course, are doing well in China, especially at the two extremes of the value chain: things like luxury goods, fibre-optic cable and big aeroplanes on the one hand, and oil, ores and recyclable waste on the other. But in between, both explicit legal impediments and hidden obstacles continue to hamper access to Chinese customers, despite China’s promises of reform when it joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2001. Publishing, telecommunications, oil exploration, marketing, pharmaceuticals, banking and insurance all remain either fiercely protected or off-limits to foreigners altogether. Corruption, protectionism and red tape hamper foreigners in all fields.

Recent reports from three lobbies for foreign businesses, the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, the European Chamber of Commerce in China and the US-China Business Council, bear out this gloomy view. Their biggest gripes have nothing to do with typical business concerns, such as the availability of good staff or high costs. Instead, they complain about subsidised competition, restricted access, conflicting regulations, a lack of protection for intellectual property and opaque and arbitrary bureaucracy.

To operate in China, the Council itself must provide documents from America’s State Department, the Chinese Embassy in America, the cities of Washington and Shanghai, the local tax authorities and the local branch of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce. It takes six months to obtain a one-year licence. At least there is an established procedure, albeit a costly and cumbersome one. Others are not so lucky: upon joining the WTO, China agreed to allow foreign firms to compete to offer booking systems to local airlines, but according to the European Chamber it has not yet produced the necessary regulations.

Local officials go to great lengths to protect companies on their patch, often by giving them preferential access to land or credit, or by easing bureaucratic constraints for them. All the red tape would at least provide plenty of work for multinational law firms, were they permitted to employ Chinese lawyers—which they are not. The government, by dint of its control of the media, also controls advertising rates. That makes the cost of reaching a consumer in China higher than in many Western countries, although the potential rewards are much lower since most Chinese are so much poorer, says Tom Doctoroff, the boss of JWT, an advertising firm. There is little reliable business news (see article).

Firms that have managed to overcome these obstacles tend to produce locally in China; their products are perceived to be of high quality (few foreigners succeed by undercutting prices) and they have invested tremendous amounts of time and effort building distribution networks and raising awareness of their brands. Take Goodyear, an American tyremaker. It has had to find local partners for all of its 760 dealerships in China, who in turn had to obtain permits from the authorities. It has got around the state monopoly on advertising by deploying its trademark blimps, and pre-empted objections to that by using them to advocate a worthy cause: safe driving.

As always, there are local tastes to consider too. Chinese consumers seem to have even more of a taste for variety than most. P&G produces its Crest brand of toothpaste in a mouth-watering array of flavours, including lemon, tea, strawberry, salt and honey. A similar proliferation of offerings has served Nokia, the world’s biggest handset-maker, well too.

One strategy that has brought success to several foreign firms has been to charge high prices—a surprise, given that earnings in China remain quite low. A survey by the Nielsen Company concludes that Chinese believe that foreign brands are more expensive, even when they are not. That suggests that they should aim to compete on quality rather than cost. At any rate, Apple, General Motors and Levi Strauss all sell certain products at higher prices in China than elsewhere. So do many luxury brands. But relatively few foreign firms have managed to reap such rewards.

 

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