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Minh-Ha Nguyen, an Egon Zehnder consultant in the technology and digital practices, says that while China’s technology industry was previously seen as only capable of copying Western products, today, Chinese tech companies have become leaders in innovation. “Start with the fact that ‘Made in China’ inventions are now being exported around the globe,” says Nguyen. In mobile ecosystems and mobile payments, China is well ahead of the U.S., in part because the country leapfrogged landlines and went straight to mobile phone adoption.

Chinese innovations with global audiences range from the Shanghai-founded video social networking app to WeChat, the “super app” that combines social media, mobile payments and shopping. China’s retail and artificial intelligence innovations are continuing their growth as well, with Alibaba’s acquisition of Intime Retail and the Chinese government’s intention to dominate AI industries by 2030. 

One implication of this newfound strength is the growing war for Mandarin-speaking tech talent. At Egon Zehnder, we have learned in much of our work with many of the leading Chinese tech giants and startup unicorns what type of talent is likely to thrive in China, which prioritizes the more nuanced “soft” skills of adaptability, flexibility, and potential rather than simply the “hard” skills of language fluency and past work experiences.

Silicon Valley could benefit from learning more about the companies and innovations coming out of China. It’s been just three years since China shifted from copycat to innovation leader. Just imagine what the next three will bring.

Full Story: Commentary: Why Silicon Valley Can’t Get Complacent About China in Fortune (6 December 2017).

Minh-Ha Nguyen, Egon Zehnder, New York

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