The main thing that China lacks is confidence in its ability to compete internationally. Notice I said “confidence” not actual potential. China has already amply demonstrated potential, it just doesn’t fully push outwards in its ambitions.
Traditionally, China has lacked soft power, especially proportional to its economic and military might. However this dynamic is rapidly changing in just the last few years. We’ve seen the explosive popularity of key Chinese IPs:
TikTok (Douyin in Chinese)
And yes, even Li Zi’qi (nearly 15 million subs on YT)
All these IPs are very new. With the exception of AliExpress, they’re less than a few years old.
But this is only a trickle of what China has to offer, the vast majority of potentially explosive Chinese IPs are held back from a simple lack of desire to reach beyond China.
The best example is Taobao, the Amazon of China:
Amazon has around 310 million users worldwide.
Taobao has over 700 million users in China alone.
The problem is that Taobao is only in Chinese. In fact, it’s really only fully functional on a smartphone (Chinese rarely use full PCs).
However, Taobao is vastly cheaper than Amazon. If the developing world had full access to Taobao in their local language, the platform would explode.
This lack of an English feature is so perplexing that it’s led to a cottage industry of people helping non-Chinese speakers buy stuff on Taobao:
Going back to TikTok, did you know that it has a massive competitor in China? It’s called Kuaishou, and many claims it’s better than TikTok. It recently had its IPO in Hong Kong:
However, despite its enormous success in China, the app has made no real moves to go international. For one thing, it needs to take a lesson from TikTok and invent a name that’s easier to pronounce for non-Chinese speakers. Maybe “FastOne”?
There are dozens of other Chinese IPs like these that would dominate internationally if only they bothered to make the effort. The problem is that the Chinese market is so huge, that just managing it alone is a colossal feat. And the investment needed to sell a Chinese IP abroad is so great, as to not be worth the hassle.