The un­ques­tion­able 2015-16 Chi­nese cor­po­rate hero is…

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS - By SIVA SANKAR Con­tact the writer at siva@chi­nadaily.com.cn

It’s been a year since I’ve re­lo­cated from In­dia to work in China. I’ve an old habit of men­tally track­ing business groups and their bosses, and fig­ur­ing who’s the tallest of them all.

Ev­ery year, in­my­mind’s eye, the clear win­ner of the fan­tasy com­pe­ti­tion re­ceives the “Busi­ness­man/Cor­po­rate of the Year” award.

The method­ol­ogy used is ut­terly un­sci­en­tific, ar­bi­trary and down­right mad — notmy words but a sum­mary of what oth­ers, par­tic­u­larly fel­low jour­nal­ists, say on WeChat and What­sApp.

But, the one-and-only judge’s de­ci­sion is fi­nal. Too bad if you dis­agree (but you may well agree). Read on only if you must. Any in­jury to your sense of jus­tice and fair play would be en­tirely self-in­flicted.

And the 2015-16 award goes too… But first, the con­tenders:

1) Alibaba / JackMa: Online sales fes­ti­vals like Sin­gles Day are crazy, fun. Dig­i­tal pay­ment sys­tems, startup fund­ing, cross-bor­der e-com­merce, over­seas in­vest­ments, buy­out of SCMP, ini­tia­tive for a world dig­i­tal plat­form for cross-bor­der e-com­merce by small busi­nesses… have all made head­lines. But share price woes on the NYSE, early be­liever Soft­Bank’s sale of part of its Alibaba stake, and a US SEC probe into pos­si­ble vi­o­la­tion of se­cu­ri­ties laws have dented the be­he­moth’s image.

2) Didi Chux­ing: Swift na­tion­wide ex­pan­sion, Ap­ple’s $1 bil­lion in­vest­ment, fol­lowed by ca­pit­u­la­tion by its bit­ter, dol­lar-bleed­ing ri­val Uber have made Didi a wor­thy con­tender, but not a win­ner. For, when con­fu­sion over the le­gal­ity of ride-hail­ing arose, Didi didn’t ex­actly display proac­tive lead­er­ship of a fledg­ling in­dus­try.

3) Gree, Midea, Haier, Hisense, TCL and DJI: These ap­pli­ance and gad­get mak­ers showed re­mark­able ca­pac­ity for in­no­va­tion and panache in ward­ing off com­pe­ti­tion from Ja­pa­nese/for­eign firms. Be it in­tel­li­gent prod­ucts, web-con­nected fac­to­ries, cus­tom­ized pro­duc­tion, mul­ti­pur­pose drones or cook­ers for spe­cific va­ri­eties of rice, they have done it all. But brand­ing at a global level isn’t still their strength.

4) Huawei: Clearly gave both Ap­ple and Sam­sung some sleep­less nights, and over­tookXiaomi in China. Not a world-beater yet.

5) Xiaomi: Seems to have lost its plot. Smart­phone ship­ments are down. Di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion into ap­pli­ances, PCs and sup­port for new star­tups aren’t ex­actly reap­ing rich div­i­dends yet.

6) Len­ovo: Af­ter the IBM deal and foray into smart­phones, hasn’t re­ally done any­thing earth-shat­ter­ing.

7) LeEco: Gad­gets, de­vices, con­tent, apps, elec­tric driver­less ve­hi­cles — it’s into too many things, but is yet to gain the crit­i­cal mass of a con­glom­er­ate.

8) Baidu: Talk of Google’s re­turn to China hasn’t en­er­gized China’s in­ter­net search gi­ant. Its Uber in­vest­ment lost its sheen as Didi pros­pered. But Baidu be­strides web search like a colos­sus.

9) Ten­cent: The all-in­clu­sive WeChat is the envy of What­sApp, Line and SnapChat. Alibaba’s share woes made Ten­cent Asia’s big­gest tech firm. Big-ticket in­vest­ments in gam­ing, mu­sic and au­tonomous­e­lec­tric cars have re­flected an ap­petite for cor­po­rate glory.

10) SOEs (power, steel, coal, auto, rail­way and air­craft com­pa­nies): They cut huge deals glob­ally, or sewed up ex­pan­sion or joint ven­ture plans; started mak­ing things lo­cally; valiantly fought the over­ca­pac­ity demons; some even re­turned to prof­itabil­ity, with steel firms up­grad­ing prod­ucts to sup­ply to the auto in­dus­try that saw joint ven­tures with global giants on one side and ad­vent of e-ve­hi­cles on the other.

11) Fo­sun, Vanke, An­bang: Hit head­lines, but not al­ways for the right rea­sons. Al­so­rans.

12) Dis­ney Shang­hai: Opened in June, madea me­dia splash and a pos­i­tive im­pact on Shang­hai realty. De­serves more time be­fore be­ing judged.

By the way, tele­com firms and banks didn’t qual­ify this year. So, the win­ner is… Wang Jian­lin/Dalian Wanda Group: Wang-led Wanda has hit the global head­lines through­out the last 12 months. Con­sider: buy­out of Hol­ly­wood film stu­dio Leg­endary, over­seas cin­ema chains and Euro­pean foot­ball clubs; cre­ation of in­fra­struc­ture like soc­cer acad­e­mies; spon­sor­ship of coach­ing camps; part­ner­ship with FIFA; set­ting up of theme parks to ri­val Dis­ney and Univer­sal; clever delist­ing of prop­erty arm from the Hong Kong bourse to relist in Shang­hai; gam­ing for­ays; and amid all this, find­ing time for an English book, lux­ury home shop­ping in Lon­don, phi­lan­thropy and spark­ing an online buzz with com­ments on how to make bil­lions (by mak­ing small mil­lions over and over again).

The world rec­og­nizes Wang and Wanda. You’ll agree and see there’s method inmy mad­ness, won’t you?

ZHU XINGXIN / CHINA DAILY

Wanda CEO Wang Jian­lin at a con­fer­ence in Bei­jing.

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