Monday, May 30, 2016
Having a brand that stands for quality at an acceptable price is a big deal here, because this country is cheap, cheap the way many Americans were if they grew up in the Great Depression. Last fall, I went by my local Cybermart to get a Mii4, then the hottest Chinese phone since the Mi3. I'd gone there straight from a meeting so I even looked like a businessman instead of a nerd, and I rolled up to a second-floor booth selling Xiaomis and got the attention of the lady behind the counter. I am a bald white guy. I speak pidgin Mandarin with a flat Midwestern accent, and I was in a suit - the only way I'd have looked like an easier mark is if 100 yuan notes were spilling out of my pockets like in cartoons. I announced that I wanted to buy the priciest phone any Chinese company has ever produced. The lady behind the counter looked at me and said, in English, "You don't buy that phone. Too expensive." China is cheap like that. Even people paid to take your money are offended if they think something costs too much. Tell me the next time that happens to you at Best Buy.
-Clay Shirky, Little Rice: Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream