American Companies That Failed in China
For decades, China has been a top priority for American companies looking to expand.
This is because the country’s middle class is simply enormous, growing from 3.1% to 50.8% of the country’s total population between the years 2000 and 2018. According to Brookings, there are now at least 700 million people in China’s middle class, and this group has never had more disposable income to spend on consumer goods and services.
Despite the size and potential of the market, China is not an easy place for foreign businesses to enter. As this infographic shows, many of America’s biggest names eventually admitted defeat.
Companies by Tenure
The following table lists the tenures of every company included in the graphic.
It’s worth noting that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, still maintains a physical presence in China. Google’s services were banned by the Chinese government in 2010.
|Company||Enter Date||Exit Date||Tenure in months|
|eBay||July 2003||December 2006||41|
|Amazon||August 2004||July 2019||178|
|Yahoo!||September 1999||November 2021||266|
|Best Buy||May 2006||March 2011||58|
|The Home Depot||December 2006||September 2012||69|
|January 2006||March 2010||50|
|Forever 21 (1st attempt)||June 2008||June 2009||12|
|Forever 21 (2nd attempt)||December 2011||April 2019||88|
|Forever 21 (3rd attempt)||August 2021||Ongoing||Ongoing|
|Groupon||March 2011||June 2012||15|
|Uber||July 2014||August 2016||25|
|Macy's||August 2015||December 2018||40|
|February 2014||October 2021||92|
Dates were gathered from various media reports and sources. There may be small deviations from when a company actually entered or exited.
The reasons for why these companies withdrew are surprisingly similar, and can be broken down into two broad categories.
Retailers Fail to Adapt
Failing to adapt to the cultural differences of Chinese consumers is a common mistake. Here’s how two American retailers learned this lesson the hard way.
Best Buy struggled because Chinese consumers were not willing to pay a premium for brand-name electronics. Local retailers could often source similar (or counterfeit) goods for much cheaper, and undercut Best Buy’s prices.
“Why buy a Sony DVD player or Nokia phone at Best Buy when you can pay less for the exact same product at a local store?”
– Shaun Rein, China Market Research Group
Best Buy also made the mistake of bringing over its large flagship stores, which were out of reach for most consumers. Due to severe traffic congestion, locals preferred smaller shops that were closer to home.
The Home Depot expanded into China around the same time as Best Buy, but unfortunately it was another cultural mismatch.
Home Depot failed to acknowledge that “do it yourself” repairs are not a strong cultural match for China. Labor costs are relatively low, so rather than do the work themselves, many homeowners prefer to rather hire someone else to do it. On the other side of the equation, the American brand failed to win over contractors doing the repairs and renovations.
The Home Depot’s product offerings were also left unchanged from America, making them a poor match for local tastes. As a point of comparison, IKEA has had a presence in China since 1998, and continues to open new stores to this day.
Tech Firms Clash with Regulators
Uber’s experiences in China make a good case study on how American tech firms struggle to succeed in Asia’s biggest economy.
For starters, breaking into the Chinese market was incredibly expensive. Uber spent billions on subsidies to attract customers and drivers, and losses were quickly piling up. To make matters worse, domestic rivals like DiDi were also handing out subsidies.
On the operational side, Uber ran into several hurdles. To avoid issues with China’s data localization laws, the company needed servers on Chinese soil. Its navigation provider, Google Maps, also had limited accuracy in the country. This left Uber with no choice but to partner with Baidu, a Chinese tech company.
The final straw, however, was likely a set of impending regulations which targeted the ride-hailing industry. Under these rules, Uber risked losing control of its data, and would need both provincial and national regulatory approvals for its activities. Even further, subsidies would also no longer be allowed.
Uber realized that doing business in China was unsustainable, but its exit wasn’t exactly a failure. In 2016, Uber sold its assets to rival DiDi and took an 18.8% stake in the company. Ironically, DiDi is now embroiled in a conflict with Chinese regulators over its listing on the NYSE.
The Tech Fallout Continues
Since Uber’s departure, the Chinese government has increased their grip over the tech industry. This has driven more American firms out of the country, including Yahoo and LinkedIn, which is now owned by Microsoft.
Both firms announced their withdrawals in 2021 and were rather clear about why they made the decision. Yahoo cited its commitment to a “free and open” internet, while LinkedIn says its decision was due to a “considerably more difficult operating environment and higher regulatory requirements”.
Given the geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China, companies that generate data (often seen as a national security concern) are likely to continue facing regulatory hurdles.
Outside of tech, China is still a massive opportunity for American businesses. By 2027, the country’s middle class is expected to reach 1.2 billion people, or one quarter of the global total.
Ranked: The Top 50 Most Visited Websites in the World
In this visualization, we rank the top 50 websites that receive the most internet traffic, from Google to CNN.
Ranked: The Top 50 Most Visited Websites in the World
Estimates vary, but there are upwards of two billion websites in existence in 2023.
If we were to rank all of these websites according to their traffic numbers, we would see a classic power law distribution. At the low end, the vast majority of these websites would be inactive, receiving little to no traffic. On the upper end of the ranking though, a handful of websites receive the lion’s share of internet traffic.
This visualization, using data from SimilarWeb, takes a look at the 50 websites that currently sit at the top of the ranking.
Which Websites Get the Most Traffic?
Topping the list of most-visited websites in the world is, of course, Google. With over 3.5 billion searches per day, Google has cemented its position as the go-to source for information on the internet. But Google’s dominance doesn’t stop there. The company also owns YouTube, the second-most popular website in the world. Together, Google and YouTube have more traffic than the next 48 websites combined.
The power of YouTube, in particular, is sometimes not fully understood. The video platform is the second largest search engine in the world after Google. As well, YouTube has the second highest duration-of-visit numbers in this top 50 ranking. (First place goes to the Chinese video sharing website, Bilibili.)
But Google and YouTube aren’t the only big players on the internet. Other websites in the top 50 ranking include social media giants Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. In particular, TikTok has seen a surge in popularity in recent years and is now one of the most popular social media platforms in the world.
Here’s the full top 50 ranking table form:
|#1||google.com||85.1B||Search Engines||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#2||youtube.com||33.0B||Streaming & Online TV||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#3||facebook.com||17.8B||Social Media Networks||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#4||twitter.com||6.8B||Social Media Networks||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#5||instagram.com||6.1B||Social Media Networks||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#6||baidu.com||5.0B||Search Engines||🇨🇳 China|
|#7||wikipedia.org||4.8B||Dictionaries & Encyclopedias||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#8||yandex.ru||3.4B||Search Engines||🇷🇺 Russia|
|#9||yahoo.com||3.3B||News & Media Publishers||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#10||whatsapp.com||2.9B||Social Media Networks||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#16||yahoo.co.jp||2.1B||News & Media Publishers||🇯🇵 Japan|
|#17||netflix.com||2.0B||Streaming & Online TV||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#18||tiktok.com||1.8B||Social Media Networks||🇨🇳 China|
|#20||reddit.com||1.7B||Social Media Networks||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#21||office.com||1.6B||Prog. & Developer Software||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#22||linkedin.com||1.6B||Social Media Networks||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#23||dzen.ru||1.4B||Faith & Beliefs||🇷🇺 Russia|
|#24||samsung.com||1.4B||Consumer Electronics||🇰🇷 S. Korea|
|#25||vk.com||1.4B||Social Media Networks||🇷🇺 Russia|
|#27||turbopages.org||1.3B||News & Media Publishers||🇷🇺 Russia|
|#29||naver.com||1.2B||News & Media Publishers||🇰🇷 S. Korea|
|#30||bing.com||1.2B||Search Engines||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#31||microsoftonline.com||1.1B||Prog. & Developer Software||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#32||discord.com||1.1B||Social Media Networks||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#33||twitch.tv||1.1B||Gaming & Accessories||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#34||bilibili.com||1.0B||Animations & Comics||🇨🇳 China|
|#35||pinterest.com||1.0B||Social Media Networks||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#36||zoom.us||985.9M||Computers Electronics & Tech||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#38||qq.com||907.1M||News & Media Publishers||🇨🇳 China|
|#39||microsoft.com||902.3M||Prog. & Developer Software||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#40||msn.com||870.8M||News & Media Publishers||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#41||globo.com||840.1M||News & Media Publishers||🇧🇷 Brazil|
|#42||duckduckgo.com||839.0M||Search Engines||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#43||roblox.com||795.7M||Gaming & Accessories||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#44||quora.com||775.9M||Dictionaries & Encyclopedias||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#45||news.yahoo.co.jp||749.1M||News & Media Publishers||🇯🇵 Japan|
|#47||aajtak.in||724.1M||News & Media Publishers||🇮🇳 India|
|#48||nytimes.com||702.2M||News & Media Publishers||🇺🇸 U.S.|
|#50||cnn.com||684.9M||News & Media Publishers||🇺🇸 U.S.|
Notable companies that have fallen out of the top 50 since our last version of this visualization are Walmart and PayPal. Notable entrants into the top 50 are Samsung and the New York Times.
The Geography of the 50 Most-Visited Websites
The United States is still home base for many of the world’s biggest websites, taking up 30 spots on this ranking. Of these 30 websites, half are operated by Big Tech companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet, Meta, and Netflix.
Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea round out the top five.
Things get interesting in the “other” category, which includes six websites. Two spots are taken up by Aaj Tak and Globo, which are large media publications in India and Brazil, respectively.
The remaining four websites—XVideos, PornHub, XHamster, and XNXX—specialize in adult content, and are located in a variety of countries. These are often referred to as “tube sites” since they are built on the YouTube model.
Realsrv, the only adult-oriented site in the top 50 located in the U.S., is interesting to delve into as well, since it’s far from a household name. The website essentially supports advertising efforts by redirecting users away from the content they were viewing over to another page (generally premium adult content). This is one of the key ways that adult websites earn revenue.
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