Rana Mitter and Elsbeth Johnson in the Harvard Business Review:
When we first traveled to China, in the early 1990s, it was very different from what we see today. Even in Beijing many people wore Mao suits and cycled everywhere; only senior Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials used cars. In the countryside life retained many of its traditional elements. But over the next 30 years, thanks to policies aimed at developing the economy and increasing capital investment, China emerged as a global power, with the second-largest economy in the world and a burgeoning middle class eager to spend.
One thing hasn’t changed, though: Many Western politicians and business executives still don’t get China. Believing, for example, that political freedom would follow the new economic freedoms, they wrongly assumed that China’s internet would be similar to the freewheeling and often politically disruptive version developed in the West. And believing that China’s economic growth would have to be built on the same foundations as those in the West, many failed to envisage the Chinese state’s continuing role as investor, regulator, and intellectual property owner.
Why do leaders in the West persist in getting China so wrong?