Chinese Business Opportunities

sign reading "Grass has life. Please hold your foot."


Here are three hot business opportunities for anyone entrepreneurial enough to take them. I’m not taking them because I’m an idea person, not an entrepreneur.

Beds: More and more Western tourists are traveling to China, yet the hotels still use Chinese style (i.e. very hard) beds. Many Western hotel chains are already here; I’ve seen a Holiday Inn and a Crowne Plaza, for example. All a hotel chain would have to do to attract a bigger proportion of the Western market is advertise that they offer Western-style beds. Since much of the tourist market right now is Chinese, all you would have to do is buy a few Western mattresses for a few rooms in each hotel. Then as the Western market share increases, designate more rooms as Western. So your investment would be gradual. My cut: 1% of your net increase in profits for the first ten years starting from the baseline profit of the year before you instituted the Western bed campaign. You don’t expect me to give these ideas away for free, do you?

Toilets: This idea would take significant initial investment, but would be sure to return large profits. Western tourists are begging for Western-style toilets and would be happpy to pay for them. They’re risking urinary tract infections by simply holding it in all day until they get back to their hotel rooms. Start by buying a concession in or very near the Forbidden City in Beijing. Install Western-style sit-down toilets. Publicize your guarantees: clean, non-smelly, sit toilets, supplied with toilet paper, with working flushes, hot and cold running water for hand-washing, and paper towels and air dryers available for hand-drying. Charge for the privilege of using them; Western tourists (especially women) would gladly pay a euro or so to use them over standard Chinese toilets. So would many middle-class Chinese women (I’ve seen them holding handkerchiefs over their noses and mouths as they enter standard toilet facilities.). Once the concession in Beijing takes off — and it will — open more branches near any site where tourists are likely to go. Publish flyers with lists of locations and the tourists will plan their days around where they can make toilet stops. Issue a card where visits could be checked off and every tenth visit is free. My cut would be 1% of net profit for the first 25 years.

sign reading "Within 200 meters, notice the rockslide please is run about by cliff."


English: This idea won’t make any actual profit, but would finance a long trip around China for anyone with fluent English and passable Chinese (Mandarin). You could travel from place to place with very little expenditure by trading your knowledge of English for room and board. Approach hotels with a CV of your credentials and offer to rewrite their signs, brochures, etc. into correct English. In exchange, require them to provide you with free room and board for a few days. Offer the same at popular tourist destinations in exchange for free admission. The only problem with this plan is that it would eliminate one of the greatest charms of traveling here: reading the garbled English on the signs. I can’t take a cut here, so this idea is free for the taking.

One Comment

  • Susan

    August 29, 2010 at 2:02 am

    My mother, a native Chinese who fled the Communist takeover of China, has always been so insulting of the Communist government in mainland China. She said when she was a little girl, she was raised with good manners–and she said manners all had to do with one’s education/upbringing. She told me that when the Communists took over and sent the educated into the agricultural fields and barren lands and the uneducated into the cities and universities, then everything was turned upside down. (Did the Communist government do that as a way to promote “fairness” and “equality”?) Anyway, it seems there were plenty of people with “no manners” who educated one or two whole generations of mainlanders. Additionally, if the Chinese had to put emphasis on one aspect of “good manners” over another, perhaps they had focused on good manners that show respect toward the older generations, and less focus on how they treat themselves or their younger generations. I’m not a sociologist, so hopefully someone else can comment on this. It seems there has always been a difference between the city mouse and the country mouse. In some societies, younger generations may mimic the habits and values of their older generations, so if an entire generation of Chinese watched their parents not being polite to their peers and failing good hygiene and table manners, then that is all they would be accustomed to and able to mimic. Perhaps they have not had sufficient exposure to the habits of foreigners and other cultures. From what I hear, China needs a major re-education campaign to teach everyone good personal habits, good manners in public, fairness, respect for other cultures and ethnic minorities, and new/better codes of conduct. The Chinese need a publicly-funded campaign to re-educate their citizenry about cleanliness, hygiene, and polite manners. My mother recently heard of a Chinese couple (friends of friends) whose husband traveled to China from Texas for a business conference(?). They had, like my mother, fled the Communist revolution to establish a family life here in the USA; they had immigrated here in their twenties. More recently, the husband observed what you did — seeing mainland China from a Westerner’s eyes (so to speak) and he immediately called his wife in Texas and they mutually decided to sell everything right away and relocate back to China to set up a business to teach the Chinese business community Western manners, habits, expectations. But a single couple cannot do it alone…there’s enough opportunity for many people to do that, and do well for the rest of their lives!


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