Shaun Rein
Shaun Rein

China veteran Shaun Rein is on a book tour for his latest one The End of Copycat China: The Rise of Creativity, Innovation, and Individualism in Asia. A report from the Business of Design Week 2014 at “Rein is born to be on stage, his speech is just enjoyable and enthralling.”


Rein is born to be on stage, his speech is just enjoyable and enthralling.

He starts his speech introducing his new book, the best-selling business guide ‘ The end of Copycat China”, and addressing the audience with “China is not innovating, gdp is dropping till several years, Chinese innovation happened hundreds of years ago, they have invented compass, banknotes, but what about the last 30 years?” Than he engage the audience asking if anybody can come up with some recent Chinese innovation.

What sounds like a strait accusation to China, suddenly turns into an analysis  of the state of the art and of the challenges at the base of China’s future.

Regulation: The innovation development  has moved from USA to Europe, Japan, Korea, and now China. Development and innovation’s  history repeats itself. Charles Dickens in 1842 says  about Europe: “I spoke as you know, of international copyright … my blood so boiled as I thought of the monstrous injustice”.

China is facing a wide range of  limitations like Government censorship, regulation & copyright protection. He gives the audience a personal experience. Being american, he loves the food chain Subway, and see it as a homey, safe brand.  Unfortunately, he discovers that in the whole China, only a couple of dozens are original, all others are copies. Every year the Subway brand takes the case to Court, the Court admits the fraud, but nothing happens.

Something is changing. Chinese are investing billions in brands and are asking out laud to the Government for regulation.

Why is China changing now?  

Pollution: Pollution is a more and more severe problem and is changing how people think in China. They care more about health and travel than fashion. “Who care for a LV bag if I die for pollution”. The new business is moving towards heathy life. Escaping or staying home is the new trend, so traveling and home decoration are booming.

Creativity: Nationalism is raising, 9 out of top 10 Alibaba sales are Chinese brands. Western brands must understand the transformation and truly do products for Chinese consumers, not just use Chinese models. In fact, more and more people are looking for Chinese brands to announce themselves, hence, Design is going nostalgic. The outcome is an emerging rush to art and craft industry, making products  ‘for Chinese made by Chinese’.

Urbanization: The effect of industrialization is the migration of people from the countryside to the cities. This is a big issue for the Chinese Government. In the last decades, migrants have saturated any possible and impossible space in the cities. Now The Government has entered in action to correct and stabilize the situation. The political strategy rely on two main points, renovate and relocate.  People are relocated in satellite cities built by selected big developers with eco-friendly knowhow, and city centers, once cleared,  are entering a phase of transformation and modernization.

Corruption crack down: The effect of corruption in the Chinese economy is no longer sustainable as it affects and delays  the development.  To face the change on salary e life cost, the Government is taking serious actions to crack down corruption as the only way to push companies innovating. China is evolving from ‘Copycat’ to ‘Innovation for China’ stage, small and big Chinese venture capitalists are investing in biotech and mobile and, ‘Invention  and Innovation is most about business innovation’, business can’t evolve in a corrupted environment.

Once China will complete the ‘Innovation for China’ stage than will be ready to evolve into the ‘Innovation for the world’ final step.


Shaun Rein

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Shaun Rein 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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