International keynote speaker at nexxworks and author of China’s New Normal, Pascal Coppens spoke at this year’s Global DIY Summit about the changing face of innovation in China.

Pascal Coppens T

he face of the Chinese competitor has visibly changed in the past five years

due to a variety of factors.

Years of foreign investments have allowed China to develop into a manufacturing powerhouse rich in technological learning opportunities for local companies. Leaders among these companies have moved up the capabilities ladder from producers to creators. Chinese innovation is visible in internet business models, telecommunications, software, artificial intelligence, new materials, consumer

products, high-end

equipment, and green technologies. Innovative Chinese companies such as Huawei, ZTE, Alibaba, Tencent,

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and Baidu are becoming household names outside China. The transformation is quick and surprising, the new face clearly different. In the theatre of business, Chinese performers are undergoing a

rapid transformation of their

own as they seek to evolve from backroom producers to the world’s leading face of innovation. Pascal Coppens says: “The ‘normal’ that is actually not normal at all. And this is about innovation and how China is setting the standard for innovation today. Now I’m going to start in 1991, a long time ago, I was young, naïve… beautiful,” he laughs. “I travelled through the country for two months, [it was] an amazing experience. With my backpack, as a student, I

saw everything. This is the moment I truly fell in love with the country. I fell in love with China - but more so with the people. I fell in love with their energy, their passion, their determination, their resilience, their dreams and their hopes. And today, almost 30 years later, it’s still exactly the same.”

Pascal says that for people travelling China back in the 90s, the Chinese came up with ways to explicitly keep tourists and local people apart, ashamed to the world the real China, which at the time was living in extreme poverty. “As a tourist, you couldn’t stay

in every place, you had to stay in specific hotels and these were called ‘hotels for aliens’ and so as an alien I felt instantly at home in my host country,” he jokes. “And they even figured out that they would give us a special currency called the foreign exchange currency or FEC. Basically it was a currency that only foreigners could use back in the 90s.

And that was basically to separate us from the Chinese.”

A cashless society There was

so much fake money

in China, and not only was there that but it was also unsafe to walk around with all that money on you. So, it’s no surprise that when mobile payment came along the whole of China jumped on that train. Now, if you look at mobile payment today, it’s already 80 times bigger than in the US. It’s not just 80 times bigger, it’s almost half of the population using it every single day. In cities like Shanghai or Beijing, I never carry cash around and nor do my friends. You don’t need it anymore. 80-90% of people in the big cities are using mobile payment. It’s just normal,” he states. “This starts at a very young age, so here’s a girl in her local store paying with her smart watch like it’s the most normal thing in the world. Now, imagine that same girl coming to Europe in the next five

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