Scott Kronick left home comforts to set up Ogilvy & Mather’s office in China over twenty years ago. Since then he has advised the world’s leading multinationals at the highest commercial and political levels and now leads an organization of 300 across 6 offices. A new expert on Imperial Tours’ roster, we asked him for his inside view of China.
Imperial Tours (IT): We all know there are many misperceptions and inaccurate myths about China. Which exasperates you the most?
Scott Kronick (SK):There is a saying that people who are here for a week can write a book, people who visit for a month, can write an article and people here for years can barely explain the many intricacies of China in a sentence. There are so many China narratives. If you are someone that deals in just black and white, China is a hard place to live because there are so many ambiguities. The biggest issue I have is with people who try to explain China is one way or another and are quite convinced of their positions when there are really many narratives about China. For example on one hand people could argue China is a developing country. And there are many proof points to make that argument. Others can argue that China is very much a developed country. There are many proof points for that too. It really depends on what lens you are looking at this and both positions are both right and wrong. The myth that China is one way or another is what exasperates me as I believe there are many ways to explain China and it depends on many different factors.
IT: What is the next technological horizon that China will reach before the rest of the world?
SK: I think we need to watch for the advent of 5G, cloud services and autonomous driving. I think you are going to see China take the lead in many of these areas.
IT: What do you see as the three biggest differences between the China of 1995, when you first arrived, and the China of today?
SK: I think the biggest difference is the mindset of the people. As China has opened itself up to the world, people have been exposed to much more and they have become more sophisticated and experienced. Given that China has one of the largest outbound travel markets, it is only natural that people are getting more global exposure and this in turn has had a huge impact on how consumerism has evolved in China. In my line of work, I think one of the biggest things I have taken note of is that the modern Chinese consumer is much more discerning, more brand aware and increasingly more demanding, and that wasn’t the case in 1995.
IT: To what extent these days does China still react to trends coming from other countries or are you now starting to see China as something of a trend setter?
SK: Historically much of China’s innovation came from ideas originating elsewhere, but that has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. Particularly in technology and biotechnology, there is a ton of innovation taking place in these sectors. Just look at the online payment solutions business, China is more advanced than anywhere in the world and this has taken place only in the last several years.
IT: If you were traveling to China for the first time – what would be the top thing you would want to do?
SK: Of course the Great Wall is a must see, perhaps a hike on a less developed part of the Wall is a very special thing to do. But, I couldn’t just pick one thing. I would also say the food in China is so distinctive and diverse. I love Chengdu for its food, for the Panda reserve and for the warmth of the people. That would also be a must see. I also love walking around the cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an and Chengdu have so much to offer.
IT: What drives your passion for China? Why have you stayed in Beijing for so long?
SK: Working in China is like a drug. Every day you learn something new. There is such ambition and optimism you feel the future is being created every day. I love that.