Tom Doctoroff

One of the major misconceptions about China is that the country and its citizens will become more like us, the Americans, writes Fortune. Wrong, says China watcher Tom Doctoroff in his latest book What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism and China’s Modern Consumer. A review in Fortune. 


Doctoroff argues, provocatively, that countercultural manifestations like China’s celebrated political dissidents and contemporary artists, as well as its burgeoning online media and lively underground rock scene, are not signs of a society in process of becoming more liberal, as Westerners understand that term.

“Sorry but no,” Doctoroff ripostes. “Self-expression is not equal to independence of thought. Chinese society has never celebrated the liberation of individual potential that, in any way, smacks of rebellion. Creativity — and, make no mistake, mainlanders are capable of wonderful originality if they feel safe enough to pursue it — exists in a bottle, placed up high, out of reach of ordinary citizens.”

A related insight is that most Chinese companies are places where innovation goes to die, which explains why the country has yet to produce a market-defining product or a world-beating international brand, despite its extraordinary manufacturing prowess. This relates to the intensely conformist nature of Chinese society, where the clan, not the individual, is the basic productive unit of society.

More in Fortune.

Tom Doctoroff is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

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