Editorial: Patience and innovation

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

Dear reader,

Last week saw a long-standing record broken: Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen won the longest game ever played in a Chess world championship with 136 moves played over 7hr 45min against Ian Nepomniachtchi during the FIDE World Chess Championship 2021 at the Dubai Exhibition Centre. Like the EXPO, the match was originally scheduled for the latter half of 2020, but was postponed until 2021 because of the CoViD-19 pandemic. The record holder before had been for more than four decades two Russian players: Viktor Korchnoi and Anatoly Karpov, who needed 124 moves during Game 5 of the World Chess Championship 1978 to reach a draw. 

Among the eight candidates who fought in the Candidates tournament before for the right to challenge the reigning Norwegian champion were two Chinese players, who however finishing only in fifth and eighth position.

Patience was the main virtue that helped the world champion last Friday to assemble small advantages to a final win. The same virtue is preached by all consultants when it comes to Western companies entering the Chinese market.

Thirty years ago, in 1991, FAW-Volkswagen Corporation Ltd. was established in Changchun, creating the Volkswagen Group’s second joint venture in China after the first one, named Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive Co., Ltd., which was established already in October 1984 in Anting, near Shanghai. Anting produced large numbers of Santana, which became ubiquitous as the first mass-produced car in China. In the first years, the German management was surprised to learn that the workers had to be given life chicken as a bonus for Chinese New Year and that the workers had no storage for them other than keeping them for several days within the car factory until the time to slaughter them had come.

Fast forward to now and China is the market that sees the largest sales numbers in the world. Even in 2020, Volkswagen Group China delivered 3.85 million vehicles to customers in the Chinese Mainland and in Hong Kong SAR, made possible by the almost 100,000 employees in the country. For the VW brand, China is responsible for 50% of all sales worldwide, for the whole group this percentage reaches 40%.

Alas, patience has not been enough to succeed. Unlike Chess, global technological development is not based on fixed and stable rules, but is moving forward with increasing speed. The electric car model ID.4 has been criticized as being inferior “even” to Chinese models and sells in China only 10% of the number of cars compared to the competing Tesla models.

Patience and innovation need to go hand in hand. Chess players start with well-established opening moves, but in important games, the champions will come up with a carefully researched innovation after the first dozen or so moves. In the 136-move game of last week, this moment actually came already with move number nine. 

VW and the tourism industry need to learn from that example: Patience is needed in the waiting for the restart of China’s outbound tourism, but innovation is also needed in offering the right kind of services for the changed and further changing expectations and needs of the Chinese travellers.

To become a Grandmaster in Chess, you have to spend a lot of time and effort to prepare for the tournaments, as a carmaker, you better prepare for new technologies in time. Likewise for the tourism service providers, eagerly awaiting the new Chinese wave of visitors, it is necessary to be prepared. Please allow your humble editor to recommend the newly updated CTT China Tourism Training Edition 2022 series as the perfect online tool for individuals and organisations to do these necessary preparations.

As always, all best wishes from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the entire COTRI WEEKLY team!