I want to know and ... to be sur­prised by what I read

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By LIZ CARVER

When it comes to busi­ness re­port­ing, what I would re­ally like is to read some­thing fresh, some­thing that will give me new in­sights into China and how it works.

Just for ex­am­ple, I have al­ways wanted to read more about the hun­dreds of listed com­pa­nies that never seem to get any cov­er­age, at least not in the English-lan­guage me­dia. Many must have dis­tinc­tive niches and in­no­va­tive ideas.

Scan­ning just the ranks of list­ings more or less at ran­dom on the ChiNext board, which was in­tended to be China’s ver­sion of the Nas­daq, I won­der what con­di­tions are like for DayuWater, BlueFo­cus Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Sun­grow Power Sup­ply or Zhong­tai Cryo­genic?

Sure, their names pro­vide a clue as to what they do. But en­ter­pris­ing re­porters should spin the sto­ries of ob­scure com­pa­nies into com­pelling nar­ra­tives about lit­tle-known in­dus­tries, us­ing anec­dotes and un­der-re­ported statis­tics.

Small busi­nesses may be the hope of the coun­try when it comes to job cre­ation, es­pe­cially for new grad­u­ates who find it tough to get into es­tab­lished com­pa­nies. Small com­pa­nies and star­tups have no­to­ri­ously high fail­ure rates.

But when I walk around Bei­jing and ob­serve the store­fronts, it seems like most small firms have in­cred­i­bly short lives. If you look at any given store, youmay see a dif­fer­ent busi­ness ev­ery few­months. I can­not help but won­der whether it is the same en­tre­pre­neur just tak­ing ad­van­tage of one fad af­ter an­other, hop­ing to find some­thing that works.

In­dus­try cov­er­age is largely limited to the usual top­ics such as tech­nol­ogy, en­ergy, tourism, cars and re­tail. Smartphones are hot and ev­ery­one wants a car. I get it.

But in a coun­try where there are said to be 300 mil­lion peo­ple who play (not just watch) bas­ket­ball, why is sports busi­ness a sorely ne­glected sub­ject? There must be li­cens­ing deals and sports mer­chan­dis­ers worth cov­er­ing. How much are Chi­nese peo­ple spend­ing on their fa­vorite recre­ational and spec­ta­tor sports?

Chi­nese chil­dren no longer make do with the sim­ple games their par­ents played. Who are the prom­i­nent toy pro­duc­ers and de­sign­ers, and how do they tar­get their cus­tomers?

China un­doubt­edly has a nan­otech­nol­ogy in­dus­try, but who are the key play­ers and what prod­ucts do they of­fer?

I have read that there are 5,000 com­pa­nies in China mak­ing sta­tionery prod­ucts. And here I thought that pa­per had be­come ob­so­lete. Nowthat “no­body” uses cal­en­dars and e-books are the only way to read, how many of th­ese com­pa­nies can pos­si­bly sur­vive in their tra­di­tional in­dus­try?

Do not tell me any more about the economies of a hand­ful of fa­mous cities such as Bei­jing and Shang­hai. I would like to know what drives some fifth-tier city.

Gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives that af­fect or tar­get spe­cific in­dus­tries tend to be re­ported when they are an­nounced, of­ten with lit­tle or no fol­low-up. When the gov­ern­ment an­nounces tax breaks for an­i­ma­tion com­pa­nies, for ex­am­ple, what ac­tu­ally hap­pens? How­many of th­ese com­pa­nies ben­e­fit from the ini­tia­tive, and how does it af­fect their op­er­a­tions and fi­nances? Would they have sur­vived or pros­pered oth­er­wise? I never seem to read about that.

And by the way, who are some of the “other” eco­nomic thinkers of China? I do not mean just the prom­i­nent an­a­lysts and of­fi­cials who are quoted ev­ery­where, ev­ery day. There must be hun­dreds of pro­fes­sors toiling away, pro­duc­ing re­search that pro­vides in­ter­est­ing in­sights but that is rarely dis­sem­i­nated be­yond Chi­nese-lan­guage aca­demic jour­nals. I would like to know what is on their minds. Con­tact the writer at liz­carver@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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