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Li Ning as China Law Metaphor

China law foreign businesses

Adidas pays around $80 million sponsor the Olympics and yet Li Ning gets to carry in the torch, figuratively burning much of that $80 million. This is so analogous to the legal treatment foreign companies get in China.

China laws are generally the same for both foreign and domestic companies (at least for those industries in which foreign companies are allowed to participate as Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprises, or WFOEs), but when push comes to shove, it certainly helps to be Chinese.

Now before anyone writes in to say this is true in every country in the world, let me say that I know this, but it differs by degree and it is the degree that matters. There are certainly worse places in the world than China for foreign companies (including many countries generally considered better), in terms of legal treatment, but there are also certainly a lot of better places.

UPDATE: In a post entitled, Branding Gold, the Black China Hand reminds us of how Li Ning previously tried to get CCTV commentators to wear Li Ning clothing while televising the Olympics and astutely speculates about a potential link between Li Ning backing down on the clothing in return for getting opening ceremony honors.

ADDITIONAL UPDATE: Danwei does a nice job covering Li Ning’s usurpation of Adidas in a post entitled, Li Ning lights China’s Olympic flame. [link no longer exists] Danwei sees Li Ning’s lighting the flame as carrying the strong message “We are China, we’ve been around for ages, and we do things our way.”

9 responses to “Li Ning as China Law Metaphor”

  1. I can hear the Chinese saying that in typical American style, everything has become an issue of money. Li Ning was a national icon in the 80s, and remains to date the most famous Olympian in China. Are we reading too much into this? Maybe not everything is about the money…

  2. Would the CEO of Adidas or Reebok be willing to subjected themselves to a month of daily 5 hours midnight training hanging themselves 70 feets above the ground supported by only two wire just to save $80 millions dollars?
    I checked both Chinese and English medias coverage and Li Ning are barely mentioned after the first day of the event. I don’t think he’s getting $80 millions dollars worth of free press out of the act.
    Reading this behind a great performance by one of the biggest sportstar in China is just too much.
    Oh, the econemy and risk simply doesn’t pan out looking at this as investment/marketing. Let’s consider briefly of this as a company trying to pull a free ride on the marketing. The risk of anything going wrong will ruin the entire brand and company. Having the 40+ CEO attempting a 3 minutes running on the air in front of billions of eyeballs is a very risky proposition and from the monetary point of view, it’s a bad investment. There is a good reason Hollywood use Stunman for their actors.

  3. I am very happy that the Olympics are finally here for China and the Chinese are very happy and proud. But everytime I hear about Li Ning and see a Li Ning store, I cringe. Could you explain IPR laws in regards to what is a violation? And please use Nike and Li Ning as an example. It is nice to see someone become successful, but to become successful by stealing or copying another famous or established companies brand name (be it American, European, or Chinese) is wrong!

  4. Dan is absolutely right. After stopping everyone else from using ambush marketing techniques to undermine the official Olympic sponsors, BOCOG and Li Ning pulled off a brilliant ambush marketing stunt.

  5. “Are we reading too much into this? Maybe not everything is about the money…”
    Yes, you are right, AF. It is about more than just about pure money: It is also about brand awareness, market share, increasing international profile.
    So curious as to what Adidas is saying to the IOC right now.

  6. lining was choosed is just because he has ever won several gold medals for China and is a hero of would be quite strange if the driector choose a guy from adidas to carry the last leg of the torch.

  7. This is terribly unfair. The honor of lighting the torch normally goes to someone among a country’s most successful Olympic sports heroes – Ali in 1996, etc. Li Ning gave a poor country, China pride in the 1984 LA Olympics destroying forever the Russian-Japanese-US grip over men’s gymnastics. He was a natural choice, as he would have been in any other country hosting the Olympics. Might be payback from a grateful nation to an athlete who has given a once-dirt-poor-country great pride. How many Olympians of this stature have translated Olympic triumph into great economic success? Mark Spitz? Mary Lou Retton? Greg Louganis? Li Ning exemplifies the ultimate American Dream- athletic icon, economic success- only in China!

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