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Media is fascinated by US-created chatbots.

Part of this fascination comes from apparent confirmation that the United States is a world leader in these areas. It’s a narrow viewpoint of the world that ignores the developments already in place in China.

It’s useful to explore this a little further because if those entering the quickly opening China market subscribe to this view that China is digitally behind the times then they put themselves at a disadvantage. Understanding this digital landscape offers advantages to NT exporters.

Arnold Ma, CEO at Qumin, provides a few examples of Chinese smart AI driven applications that are in widespread use. Fadada is an AI-trained service that is able to review any contract within minutes and provide complete risk evaluations. The potential for this is only under discussion in Western economies, but already in use in China.

The chatbot Plato has been trained with a billion-plus samples of both Chinese and English. It is an efficient dialogue generator.

Meta Sota creates high-quality text and is able to rewrite entire articles. Caiyun Xiao Meng claims to be able to generate a work of fiction once given a title or an opening paragraph.

The written word is an obvious target for AI and Mujicv speeds up the process of formatting and designing CVs. Huawei takes on the repetitive task of coding with the Pan-Gu Coder. This delivers text-to-code generation and is able to efficiently solve coding problems.

The AiZH art and image generator produces a picture based on the user typing in a short description. It may be a revolutionary GPT concept in the West, but much of it is old hat in the China digital landscape.

NT exporters can use these digital tools to prepare contract agreements, work more easily with on-screen translators and develop promotional material and graphics. Many barriers have been reduced, and the post-covid China market beckons, but like the digital universe, there have been significant changes in China business.

The solution for tourism and international student operators is easy because it’s largely a matter of
picking up from where things were left off as covid started. For other businesses, the situation can be more complex because the focus of domestic demand in China has changed.

Just before covid, President Xi outlined what he called the dual-circulation strategy. The intention was to reduce China’s reliance on the export segment of the economy. It required stimulation of domestic demand, and the partial replacement of demand for foreign goods with demand for domestically produced goods. The shift was accelerated by covid lockdowns, which saw a massive increase in online ordering of locally available goods and services.

The lifting of covid restrictions opened the way for the return of more foreign goods, but now they face a better range of established domestic competitors. The foreign premium that could be applied pre-covid has been eroded in most sectors, apart from the high-end premium products.

Breaking into this market with a product or service that is largely commoditised becomes significantly more difficult. The question now is whether the foreign cachet once attached to products is enough to continue to gather market share in an economy that has become more domestically focused.

The answer often lies in creating a premium product – with an associated higher price – by adding features that appeal to increasingly environmentally conscious domestic buyers. Many China products are already displaying their green credentials verified with QR code blockchains.

One New Zealand manuka honey producer provides an example of how a commoditised product can be turned into a premium product by something different. Their strategy provides pathways for NT exporters with products as diverse as fish, beef jerky and natural bush cosmetics. 

The company made GPS Hive tracking accessible by the consumer so the buyer could be sure that every drop of their Bee+ Manuka honey was as pure and natural as possible.

They repositioned the product as a luxury wellness product to ride the resurgence of wellness-based gift-giving in China. The product boxing reflected this aspiration in a way that other Mankua honey packaging
did not. 

They believe there is a shift towards luxury priced gifts with a health and wellness benefit, such as ginseng and honey. A wellness gift says “I care about you, your health and future” – and that’s a powerful message in a post-covid world.

China is a crowded marketplace, but the competitive crowd also includes covid-enabled and now well-established domestic brands that have changed consumer trends. This presents new challenges for foreign companies looking to do business in China because the power of the foreign premium has diminished. 

Those re-engaging with China, or those starting their first engagement, need to discard the media myths that suggest that the most advanced AI applications are to be found in the US and that China is a mere follower. 

The challenge for NT exporters is to use the advanced digital landscape to maximise the opportunity to market and position themselves as suppliers of premium products so low-supply volume becomes a feature, not a fault.