Coronavirus: Lessons from Chinese companies


A US Centers for Disease Control computer rendering of Covid-19, the strand of coronavirus that’s currently wreaking economic havoc around the world

It was Axios, the US news website, that suggested there were lessons for American companies to learn from their Chinese counterparts in lockdown.

But in actual fact, Chinese companies could be seen as a template for others, everywhere.

As Philipp Carlsson-Szlezak, the Boston Consulting Group’s chief economist, told Axios, the lessons from China are abundant. The main ones can be summarised as follows: Redeploy, Reorient, Ready for Rebound.

In essence, Chinese companies did the best thing possible in the unique circumstances posed by the pandemic and lockdown conditions:

  • They redeployed. Rather than laying them off, several Chinese companies found ways to redeploy workers. Axios says one company speedily retrained staff as online influencers in order to expand online sales.
  • They reoriented. Rather than agonising over lost demand, many Chinese companies started to parse changing consumer behaviour and to think about which of those might change forever.
  • They readied for the rebound. It’s readiness for change that marks out winners from losers. According to Mr Carlsson-Szlezak, “For many Chinese companies … it was not easily predictable how soon a rebound would be underway”. But they tried to prepare for it, to be well ahead of the curve.