FINDING THE NEXT ‘STAR INDUSTRY’
While China has been able to stand toe to toe with foreign tech Goliaths, it’s going to take something more to push China’s economy to the next level, Ramasamy says. What will it take? A “star industry.” Even though China opened itself up to the rest of the business world in 1978, growth didn’t soar until 1991, Ramasamy explains, when China latched onto the mobile phone industry. “The single most export or item for China is still the mobile phone,” he says. “As that industry grew, so did China.” The mobile phone is a star industry. Other star industries have been automobiles and telecommunication technologies.
“How can a country become the great country? It has to be the cradle of that star industry,” Ramasamy says. “Why is the U.S. such a powerful country? Because all the star industries in the past have come from the U.S.”
Gosset says it doesn’t have to be — and shouldn’t be — a them-versus-us mentality. “I don’t think China wants to lead. But it doesn’t want to be led,” Gosset says. “This is why we can be co-creators of the 21st century. Can we look at ourselves as co-partners, co-designers, and co-creators of a new 21st century?”
For many of the starry-eyed boot campers, seeing the place they had dreamed of was special, regardless of opportunity. “Shanghai is very vibrant. It’s at the pulse of time. Everything is changing and it’s very fast-paced,” Susanne Fischer says. “I really think this is where the business opportunities are going to be.”
While tech giants continue to spar over China’s massive market — Facebook hired a top WeChat executive days ago — Gosset’s parting advice likely rings true for the world at large.
“My modest advice on China: For those who are coming from the U.S. or Europe, please know that you and I have many misconceptions about China,” Gosset tells the assembled boot campers on the fourth day. “Therefore, we do not understand the China factor. Let us unlearn. Unlearn the misconceptions we have over China. And let us relearn the more accurate China.
“For the Chinese present in the room, I just want to tell you that of course you have many misconceptions about the world. Therefore, when you look at the world, I hope that you are ready to unlearn about Africa, about the Muslim world, even about the United States. And you relearn in a more nuanced and intellectual way.”