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Notes from Fortune Global Forum 2017 in Guangzhou

8 December 2017

Notes from Fortune Global Forum 2017 in Guangzhou

By Jex Ng, Managing Director, JLL South China

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Attending the Fortune Global Forum 2017 held on December 6-8 in Guangzhou was truly an inspiring experience, especially since South China has been recognised internationally as an important player in leading global economic development.

Innovation and Globalisation
China’s active involvement in today’s world of innovation is indeed unprecedented. Not only have innovations spawned in various fields and sectors on a scale unparalleled, some enterprises and research institutions have already developed into industry-leading innovators of the world. The market’s depth and width is expanding with the rising middle class, which is now calling for more innovative business models, products, and services. The Fourth Industrial Revolution driven by advances in artificial intelligence and information technology will inevitably push for a global reform in industrial structures, as innovation does not discriminate gender, age, region, or nationality. To me, it is great to see China taking initiative in promoting global collaborations, for I do believe that innovation and globalisation go hand in hand: innovation connects the globe, and globalisation makes innovation without limit.

Internet Economy
Technological advancement has become an essential reason why world-class enterprises invest in China nowadays. Notably, more and more start-ups from overseas are also beginning to enter the Chinese market, for in comparison to many foreign countries, China could provide higher asset-light production capacity, more financing opportunities, strong R&D capabilities, and an immense talent pool. The CEO of Apple Inc., Tim Cook, noted that there are approximately two million Chinese iOS app developers for the App Store, which shows why China might be the most innovative entrepreneurial platform in the world. Indeed, with entrepreneurial success stories like Didi Chuxing, Mobike, and OfO, the booming sharing services in China are guiding the country on its way to becoming a global hub of the sharing economy.

What’s more, the Internet economy is helping traditional businesses regain vitality. We may have known that China’s e-commerce has been bustling for many years, yet brick-and-mortar new retail stores such as Hema Supermarket and YH Super Species are now rising as a popular business model among 1st and 2nd tier Chinese cities, with the assistance of big data analytics and new IT and AI tools. In the age of the Internet of Things when non-stop progress in wireless connectivity and artificial intelligence are being made, I am sure China will have plenty more to offer in regards to novel business ideas.

The importance of South China’s role in China’s economic development is witnessed. Once hailed as the “World’s Factory”, South China has over 30 years of manufacturing history and a rich base of manufacturing. A shift of economic focus to technology and innovation in recent years has allowed this region to produce several brand names of the tech world like Tencent, Huawei, DJI, etc.

Future of Work and Employment
Since the Fourth Industrial Revolution is already beginning to reshape the way we live, it is impossible to be unaware of the potential impact of AI and automation on the future of work and employment. In my view, the biggest challenge in cultivating professionals of the future lies in the fact that uniform, single-faceted jobs will soon be replaced by positions requiring diversified skillsets. In this regard, fields and positions will need to be redefined, for the boundaries separating different lines of work are becoming increasingly indistinguishable. As collaboration and integration are particularly emphasised in this new era of work, the traditional type of office space where duties are defined by spatial separations is very unlikely to appeal to the needs of new businesses and professions. How to better facilitate interactions between professionals of different nature in a workplace? How to promote the interchange of knowledge and resources with the effective use of space? These are the type of questions that needs to be answered by all office space in the not-so-distant future. Co-working has been evolving very rapidly in China recently. With the development of the Internet economy led by technological revolution, we should expect to see more and more new assets and services emerge in a variety of fascinating modes and forms very soon.

New Generation and Consumers
​ Apart from the new generation’s demand for upgraded working environment, they are transforming China’s economy by introducing new entertainment needs. “Fan economy” may not be a phrase exclusive to China, but it aptly describes certain consumption behaviours of the Chinese Millennials. From virtual garments for mobile game characters to memberships for video streaming services, the young generation are more eager to show individual personalities and obtain emotional satisfactions in interactions and socializing through the products and services for which they are paying, as they tend to seek group identity and a sense of belonging from these spending activities. The potent combination of urbanization and Internet coverage breaks geographical limitations, and has hence created a massive new consumer market where experience-oriented content consumptions have been stimulated by social and virtual entertainment needs.

With the rise of China’s new generation and their evolved consumption habits, the ever-changing needs of consumers in this day and age are something to which all businesses need to adapt and react in order to stand out. Without exception, the real estate industry should take notes – experience-oriented, human-centric services will be key to the industry’s future success.