NEW YORK (
) -- I have been on a two-week trip to China since last weekend. Before I left, I asked several American colleagues if they had any questions they'd like me to ask the "real" Chinese about their perceptions of both China and the U.S.
On Monday, I met with a group of my followers on the Twitter-like
Weibo service. The event was informal and meant simply to be an exchange of ideas. There were representatives from tech firms, resource companies, and Chinese Internet firms.
Here is a summary of their comments to several of my questions:
Q: Do you worry about a U.S. default weighing on China or China's investment in U.S. Treasuries?
A: No. In general, they thought that the U.S. would be forced to take action in order to protect its own self-interests and those of U.S. Treasury holders. They also thought most average Chinese made no link between the U.S. debt and their own economic interests.
Q: Do you worry that there will be an economic crash in China caused by itself?
A: No. Americans don't understand that the Chinese take a long view to their investments. If their stocks were to drop suddenly, the Chinese would likely stick it out with the stock as opposed to Americans who would immediately sell it.
Q: Do you think the next Chinese president and premier will be more conservative or more permissive?
A: More conservative.
Q: What do you think of the way Jack Ma of Alibaba handled the transition of Alipay, negatively impacting
A: Most educated people think that Jack Ma didn't do the right thing in the transfer. They can't understand why he would do such a thing. This has seemed very suspicious from the start.
Q: Why do you think so many American companies fail when they come to China?
A: The most important point is that the U.S. company imposes a top-down management structure that is too rigid for the local management team. The companies which win are generally the ones who have given their team total autonomy to run their businesses the way they see fit for the local market. When the Americans put what they know has worked in the U.S., they tend to force local Chinese to follow orders, which isolates them.
Q: What about the Chinese government? Do you think it favors local companies?
A: The government definitely seems to want to regulate this sector. It wants to protect Chinese Internet companies, but we don't think it unfairly favors local companies over foreigners. The biggest reason for the failure of U.S. companies in China is definitely their own approaches to entering the market. They need to learn how to localize.
Q: Do you think big Chinese companies like Sina,
or Alibaba Group will look to expand outside of China in the coming years to grow their market sizes?
A: No, not really. It would be quite different for them to compete in mature markets like the U.S. where there are already so many players. They are more likely to just be content with their positions in China and seeking to find new revenue sources here that they haven't tapped.
Q: What do you think of all the charges of poor corporate governance against some of the Chinese companies that have been accused of fraud or corruption?
A: It is a big problem which the government must take steps to eliminate.
Q: Why do the state-owned enterprises seem to have so much difficulty with corruption?
A: These are very large companies with very large revenues and profits. They never have to worry about going to the banks for loans or funding new projects. They often get preferential interest rates from the banks when they do get loans. That culture allows there to be expectation of profits and certainty of future money coming in. And that can lead people to take chances skimming money here and there at the companies.
Q: What is it like for smaller companies in China these days to get loans?
A: It's actually more more difficult for smaller companies to raise capital these days compared to the state-owned enterprises. There are many stories you hear now about smaller companies, especially in the smaller cities, having to pay 20%-to- 30% interest rates from underground lenders now because they can't get approved for bank loans for new projects. This is another project that the government must address.
At the time of publication, Jackson was long Yahoo!
Eric Jackson is founder and president of Ironfire Capital and the general partner and investment manager of Ironfire Capital US Fund LP and Ironfire Capital International Fund, Ltd. You can follow Jackson on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ericjackson or @ericjackson