This week in Visual Capitalist is an infographic on American companies that failed in China. Which made me wonder… what are the biggest Chinese companies and have any of them succeeded at expanding in the United States?
So what are the biggest Chinese companies? There are two ways to answer that question. The Wikipedia answer, which includes the government-owned corporations like the power grid and state oil company, and the list of largest public companies, which are just the largest for-profit companies. None of the government-owned companies operate outside China, so that makes the choice easy.
Looking through the top 30 companies, do you recognize any brands? I know of Tencent and Alibaba and I’ve heard of PetroChina and BYD but I’ve never bought any products with these brands, nor any of the brands from the top 100 companies, nor do I have any apps on my phone from Tencent or Alibaba or any of these brands either.
Digging further, this old article by the Washington Post explains why Chinese brands fail in the United States. I found a half dozen other similar articles that basically say the same thing.
Rather than trying to crack into the United States, it seems instead the Chinese companies buy existing brands in the U.S. and Europe that have already succeeded at that near-impossible challenge. Volvo is owned by is Geely, #84 on the list of public companies. IBM-branded computers are actually Lenovo, which isn’t in the top 100.
And while the infographic makes it feel like every American brand has failed in China, that is far from true. There are dozens of articles explains how American brands are “hot” in China, but the first to name brands by name is 9 most popular USA brands sold in China: General Motors, Apple, Nike, Starbucks, Microsoft, KFC, Gillette, Coca-Cola, and Intel.