Seeing the Unseen - INSEAD professor’s new book decodes Chinese tech giants global venturing

Europe, Asia, Middle East, Americas
21 September 2022

A new book written by Guoli Chen, Professor of Strategy at INSEAD, and his co-author Jianggan Li, founder and CEO of Momentum Works, deciphers the meteoric rise of Chinese tech companies across the world and offers lessons and understanding of global strategy and implementation.

Alibaba stock price movements had unsettled investors globally; venture capitalists are always on the constant search for the next Meituan, Pinduoduo or Tik Tok.  The founders of these companies seem to demonstrate similar traits – they typically have a “tenacity to rough it out,” the “courage to venture into the unknown,” and the “vision to take their companies to new heights.” However, the same can be said about Silicon Valley founders, or any successful entrepreneur.

What gives Chinese founders and their companies the advantage in becoming multi-billion global enterprises? How do their leaders set strategies? How do they motivate their people? How do they move so fast and defend their turf in China’s hyper-competitive tech market? When they expand overseas, how do they determine what they keep and what they need to let go of? And most importantly, what do these things mean to you as a competitor, investor, regulator, or even as an executive or customer of such companies?

The authors interviewed current and past executives and founders of over 20 top companies and answered these questions in their new book Seeing the Unseen: Behind Chinese Tech Giants’ Global Venturing. They delved into the fascinating world of Chinese logic that shapes how tech leaders make and implement decisions, many of which are seldom seen outside China.

According to Professor Guoli Chen, “This book is about the past, present and future of Chinese tech giants. We try to understand the history of the rise of Chinese tech giants, to untangle the current leadership challenges in their global venturing, and to discuss the forces shaping the future of internet firms of broader Chinese communities”.  

The lessons learned are summarised into a unique framework that touches on People, Organisation, and Product and Leadership (POP-Leadership).

  • How Chinese history, folklore and Mao Zadong’s political strategies have shaped the strategies of Chinese tech leaders, even today
  • The mindsets of Chinese tech and internet companies and how they have evolved over the last two decades
  • The unique business culture and leadership styles that steered these companies through uncertain and ultra-competitive periods
  • How Chinese companies structure their organizations and products and how they remain agile as they scale
  • The limitations of Chinese POP-Leadership, and what these companies must shed to keep up with international players in global markets
  • How Chinese POP-Leadership is now becoming international, and how international players are leveraging these learnings
  • How the worldwide expansion of Chinese companies will alter the business landscape in the coming decades

 

Praise for Seening the Unseen

Seeing the Unseen shows how Chinese tech companies have rapidly become big global players. The book vividly illustrates the distinct strategies, practices, and leadership styles behind their global success. It is thought-provoking and is filled with insightful lessons and interesting examples. The book is a must-read.” —W. CHAN KIM, The BCG Chair Professor of INSEAD; co-director of INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute, the world’s #1 management thinker by Thinkers 50

This book connects the unique experiences of Chinese entrepreneurs from different generations and brings to life real insights and practical lessons for explorers, investors and other stakeholders.” —EDDIE WU, Chairman, Vision Plus Capital; co-founder, Alibaba Group

The Chinese technology industry has risen from copycat to world-leading, yet many in the West don’t understand the business models and leadership strategies of these companies. Seeing the Unseen is an essential guide to the unique characteristics of these firms and provides important lessons for all businesses competing in China and globally.”—CHRISTOPHER MARQUIS, Sinyi Professor of Chinese Management at Cambridge Judge Business School; co-author of Mao and Markets: The Communist Roots of Chinese Enterprise

So much has been written in the press about Chinese tech giants, yet these companies are still little understood by the outside world. Seeing the Unseen expertly weaves history, environment, people, culture, and leadership. An insightful and compelling read.” —KEITH ZHAI, Senior Correspondent, The Wall Street Journal

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About INSEAD, The Business School for the World

As one of the world’s leading and largest graduate business schools, INSEAD brings together people, cultures and ideas to develop responsible leaders who transform business and society. Our research, teaching and partnerships reflect this global perspective and cultural diversity.

With locations in Europe (France), Asia (Singapore), the Middle East (Abu Dhabi), and now North America (San Francisco), INSEAD's business education and research spans four regions. Our 165 renowned Faculty members from 42 countries inspire more than 1,500 degree participants annually in our Master in Management,  MBA, Global Executive MBA, Specialised Master’s degrees (Executive Master in Finance and Executive Master in Change) and PhD programmes. In addition, more than 11,000 executives participate in INSEAD Executive Education programmes each year.

INSEAD continues to conduct cutting-edge research and innovate across all our programmes. We provide business leaders with the knowledge and awareness to operate anywhere. Our core values drive academic excellence and serve the global community as The Business School for the World.

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