In May-July 2007, the Asian Wall Street Journal surveyed some 2,477 executives and professionals, to find China’s most admired firms, and asked respondents to rate Chinese companies on five attributes: 

* responding to customer needs
* corporate reputation 
* management’s long-run vision
* quality of products and services
* financial reputation of firms.

Among the winners: Qingdao Haier, an appliance maker now campaigning to make Haier into a powerful global brand, as Sony did in the 1970s; and Lenovo Group, the company that bought IBM’s PC division, moved its headquarters to New York, left Stephen Ward as its CEO, and is now rapidly becoming a powerful global player.  

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Chinese business leaders approach innovation differently than in the West: by aiming to boost revenue, not costs, and by making incremental rather than fundamental improvements.” Chinese innovators often seek ways to adapt global products to local market needs, in ways that foreign firms cannot. For instance, the head of Qingdao Haier ordered that his firm’s washers be capable of cleaning vegetables – a common practice in China, not so common abroad. 

Take, for instance, This is a search engine. In China, 60% of Internet searches use Baidu, rather than Google. Defeating Google is no easy task. Baidu does it, in part, by using a different corporate structure. According to the WSJ, some 60% of Baidu’s employees are in sales and marketing (the comparable figure for Google is about 40%). And Baidu employees’ average age? Believe it or not: 26. Many of their innovators are high school students, whizzes at computers, who are too young to formally hire.  

China Merchants Bank found ways to tap into the growing middle class.  Focus Media Holding Ltd. slashed through media clutter by simply placing ads in elevators (nowhere to run in an elevator)….

Here is the list of China’s most-admired firms, by category:
Overall: 1. Qingdao Haier, 2. China Merchants Bank, 3. Lenovo Group
Innovation:  1.  2. China Merchants Bank  3. Focus Media Holding 
Long-term Vision:  1. Lenovo Group 2. Qingdao Haier 3. China Merchants Bank
Quality:  1. Qingdao Haier 2. China Merchnats Bank 3. Wuliangye Yibin
Corporate Reputation: 1.  Qingdao Haier 2. Lenovo 3. Baoshan Iron and Steel
Financial Reputation:  1. PetroChina 2. China Mobile 3. China Merchants Bank