Burning Man is a Vacation from Ego

“Is Burning Man over-rated?”

This question has been lingering in my mind during the first afternoon and the second morning of Burning Man, when I looked at the dusty desert, the African-like infrastructure, the nomadic tents in disarray, and the people of all colors dressed in strange costumes.

“Is Burning Man over-rated?”

Seven days from now, if someone asks me that question again, my answer will be a resounding, “Fuck you, you mother fucker!”

The Guardians

Burning Man is the guardian of humanity’s diversity. The most extreme, to the point of being considered evil, ideas are religiously guarded here. Ideas and behaviors about Nudity, Sexuality, Bondage, BDSM, Drugs, LGBTIQ, and many other ideas and behaviors that are not allowed in the mainstream (default world) are preserved and developed here.

Of course, it’s not a good idea for these ideas to spread easily to the whole world, and some of them maybe have to be confined to a small environment because most human societies aren’t ready for it yet. e.g. open nudity, sexuality, complete de-commercialization, breaking all the rules and boundaries, for many societies with a low level of productivity, would bring about a humanitarian catastrophe such as a mass starvation, but there has to be someone in the world to experiment and develop these ideas to prepare for the future form of human society.

So, Burning Man is kind of like a laboratory where humans keep the smallpox virus. These viruses can’t be spread, but they can’t be eliminated either. Because once eradicated, biodiversity is harmed. Many of the deviant behaviors that the hippie community has been guarding for 30 years, such as LGBT, are now being accepted by more and more of society. Perhaps some 

of the other ideas that are guarded now will become mainstream somewhere, sometime in the future.


To summarize, my 7-day Burning Man experience has greatly broadened the boundaries of my own world.

I have absolutely no idea what the impact of this will be on me. It must not be ‘better’ in the traditional sense, just ‘more diverse’.

If you look at it from the default world’s point of view, these practices teach people to be ‘bad’. Because it is too avant-garde, too egotistical, too intense. With its acceptance of nudity, its understanding of the LGBT and SM communities, its embrace of a new social form, the Burning Man experience is by no means guaranteed to turn myself into better people, or at least, worse person before we become better person.

It makes me go from being familiar to being unfamiliar with the world around us, from taking for granted the rules and conclusions of everyday life to being far removed from them. It doesn’t teach me anything new, it just changes the way I look at the world. Once this sense of alienation from the world of absence is created, there is no way to get back, just as there is no way to return to “innocent” once it is lost, and there is no way for a language to become unknowable once it is learned. The process is profound and irreversible. One of the most essential questions is: What is good? What is bad? When this criterion is rethought, everything in the default world needs to be rethought all over again. I had no idea where this path would take me until now.

In the movie Black Swan, Nina is a good girl who can perfectly portray the White Swan, but she lacks the kind of evil inside her that the Black Swan needs. Eventuallythrough drugs, jealousy, seduction, betrayal, and attack, she ends up forcibly kissing the male art director and biting his lip bloody, exploding the wildness that has never been awakened within a good girl. Having become a ‘bad girl’, she is finally able to switch between the roles of Black Swan and White Swan with ease, and becomes a more complete person.

While Burning Man also gives the power of the White Swan, what is so unique about it is that it gives the participants the power of the ‘Black Swan’, the power to betray, to destroy, to oppose, to let go of oneself. We can summon and use this evil, destructive power, and we ourselves can become that vicious incarnation with the skull on our chest. Burning Man is a place where the evil power of the ‘Black Swan’ in my body grows and explodes. This is something I never expected before I traveled to Black Rock City.

What I experienced in Burning Man I never thought was the only correct solution to the world. No extreme is the only solution to the world. Should we always brake, or should we always hit the gas? Is it more correct to steer to the left, or to the right? There is no answer to such questions, because there is no one solution that is always correct. The only correct solution is what to do when you should do it.

However, after expanding the boundaries of whatever we do, or after maximizing each of the two opposites, it gives us more space, and choosing the most appropriate point within that space is our own freedom. The yin and yang in the bagua diagram, black needs to be absolute black, and white needs to be absolute white, with black and white in some kind of balance, is the way the world works. The world is balanced by two forces: and the stronger each of these two forces is, the greater the space of freedom that can be pulled apart in the center. The best sports cars have strong engine and good brakes, and both of these levels are pulled to the extreme to allow for a better ride, whereas a broken car, just doesn’t pick up speed even when you put the gas in, and doesn’t slow down when you slam on the brakes, so the person who drives a broken car has less freedom than the person who drives a good car.

Burning Man pushed these boundaries. The farther the boundary is pushed, the more inner freedom we get.

Humanistic Reflections on Burning Man

Burning Man is a place where the ego of an individual is systematically removed. This ego is tightly connected to the default world, and we enter with our ego and spend 8 days letting it slowly melt away. On the NV-447 highway from I-80 to BRC, I kept complaining, “Why cannot they run Burning Man in beautiful mountains and lakes?” Now I know why.

Being inside a desert (not strictly a desert, just a lake bed that dries up in the summer), a place that is uninhabitable for humans, sandy, hot, and doesn’t offer any of the services provided by modern civilization creates a feeling similar to that of a village on the surreal planet of Tatooine, where the SkyWalker grew up in Star Wars. This feeling is much like the external conditions of the outdoors, and gives a sense of relaxation much like the outdoors, causing our everyday thoughts to stop. When thoughts stop, perceptions intensify, slowly shifting from the Thinking mode to the Being mode.

When entering the gate, the old burner would ask all the new burners to roll on the dusty ground. The dust in Black Rock City is as fine as prickly heat powder, and once it gets on, it doesn’t go away easily. Once you are covered in white dust, a part of your ego will be loosened. While the love of cleanliness is a modern aesthetic, rolling around in the wilderness is something that has been hidden in the human body since ancient times. This ritual awakens ancient preferences and dissolves the mind’s thoughts.

I was one of the very ill-prepared types. I only bought a top and pants from Reno, and then rushed into Black Rock City in shorts. When I arrived, I realized that most of the people there dressed up in costumes that they wouldn’t wear in the default world, and I became an avatar of myself, so I simply wore pants and went topless, and I felt like I was part of the world. After I changed my appearance, another small piece of ego on my body seemed to be loosened.

Extremely poor living conditions make people put their attention more on the spiritual level. Monasteries, practitioners know the truth in this. The material scarcity, rather than making one feel out of place, seems to have the strange effect of making one feel a greater sense of freedom. No matter what it is like in the default world, the experience here is similar: tents/caravans, toilets that don’t flush, dust in the sky, riding the cheapest bicycles, no cell phone reception or WIFI, and this is also a sense of equality. A sense of equality is hard to create in one’s own head, and the details of the default world reinforce this inequality, from the obvious, such as the different classes of airplanes, to the order in which the names are listed, all of which are reminders of the inequality of human beings. Being prettier and more successful than everyone else is a lingering pressure at all times, weighing heavily on everyone’s mind. And here, the environment creates a world where this pressure is removed and one returns to the original, pure human condition. One’s own ego continues to fall off.

People we meet on Burning Man, even groupies who have been together for 8 days, can all just talk and dance together without asking each other what they do in the default world. For new acquaintances, we only want to know the playa name, not the real name. This is obviously not the norm for a society that is likely to last long, and we can only think of this week as a vacation, but one in which we get a peek at the shape of a new kind of society, and the changes within ourselves inside that world. This experience breaks something that will act on our world of absence in the long run.

Burning Man is a vacation away from ego

Burning Man is like a masquerade where everyone meets without their identity in the default world. But unlike a masquerade, where you put on a mask to hide your face, Burning Man is about taking off the mask and revealing your heart.

Burning Man and Maldives are both vacations. On the beach in the Maldives, we let go of everything in the real world and just be with ourselves; and in Burning Man, I not only let go of everything in the world, but I let go of myself.

A vacation away from the ego is a true vacation.

On Burning Man, we can have a new name, a brand new costume, not talk about the past, and simply live in the present. To drink, to dance, to learn, to experience. What happens when each person you know you’ll only see maybe once in your life? What happens when you know that you don’t need to have any pressure to show yourself off in front of strangers?

If you gave me a choice between the Maldives and Black Rock City, I would choose to return to Black Rock City without hesitation. This kind of vacation of losing ourselves is something we all need so badly. We’ve been living with a heavy ego on our backs for decades and need to let it go for a while, even if it’s just for a few days.

The retreats within Zen Buddhism had a similar effect, but it had to be said that they were too boring and one-dimensional. And here is one that perfectly achieves a similar effect of a retreat, and adds too many interesting ingredients, playing and practicing at the same time.

Complete melting away of the ego

It’s nice not to have an ego.

Someone asked, “Have you found yourself these days?” I replied, “No, I just lost myself. “

The ego is always there, no need to look for it. It judges in our ears when we choose which dress to wear in the morning, it nags us when we see our report card, and it’s there every second we’re awake, scrutinizing everything about ourselves with a critical eye.

We really want to let ego go away.

With no ego, there is no embarrassment, no fear, no stress, none of those kinks that you normally have, just expansiveness, wisdom. No mind constantly telling you what you want, what to worry about, what you should do next, just total presence.

For example, there are some questions that are quite representative. You can say “You are beautiful” to someone without pressure, and feel very good about it. I think the look in the eyes at that moment is very similar to the look in the eyes of a child/fool — straight, focused, unblinking, deep, and slow. Who’s looking? I don’t know, not myself anyway, maybe it’s just an awareness watching.

Why do we often ask for “slowness” in meditation? It is because when sensation is very delicate, the brain cannot process the information too quickly. When the hand touches the surface of another person’s finger, the information of the fingerprint, the temperature of the hand, and a lot of information flows like a big river, but if it is too fast, the information cannot be processed and will be lost. Therefore, the degree of speed of physical inspection basically reflects the amount of information obtained by the fingers. In turn, when one’s movements become slower, the amount of information gained becomes greater as a result.

During meditation, various methods were used to train total concentration, such as eating raisins, observing the breath, body scanning, and other methods. As the ego slowly fell away and disappeared, I realized that the will to be aware needed to come first. The motivation to become aware of the world must be there, and it must be complemented by the various methods that follow, not the other way around. When the will to perceive is pure, like a horse that outputs a constant stream of power, all subsequent actions are the carriage behind the horse, carried along by that power, not the other way around. Simply slowing down and observing with the whole body is the equivalent of cart before the horse. boredom during meditation is the same as a student with absolutely no interest in physics being pressed into a physics class. Interest is that driving force.

The Brotherhood of Burning Man and the Silicon Valley

Burning Man and Silicon Valley don’t have a direct father-son relationship; it’s not that one spawned the other, it’s a brotherhood. They both stem from the same thing, a deep desire to think different, to break boundaries, to disrespect authority, to do it yourself, to change the world.

This time, I have touched the “wild power” which is at the bottom of the spirit of Silicon Valley. Although I have been to Silicon Valley more than 30 times, my understanding of Silicon Valley in the past seems to be the understanding of a good student who is not very close to me: I only feel his diligence, his persistence and other good qualities. However, I always felt that this kind of experience was not deep enough or three-dimensional enough, and less persuasive, as if it was an unsuccessfully portrayed stereotypical movie character, knowing what he did but not knowing why he did it, especially why he did it with an intensity that exceeded the intensity of other people.

After I got to Burning Man, I got to know this good student as if I had stepped into his heart and saw that within him there was anger built up as a child, disapproval of who he was, and that impulsive emotion within him. These inner wild drives have a deeper explanation for why a good student is good at school, to the point of why he does so well academically. The dark and wild drives are the ones that have impact.

The innovation I used to see started with garage startups. What I saw was an unconventional approach in the Silicon Valley environment, which was more like a tradition or a norm in the specific environment of Silicon Valley. These practices were more like a tradition or a norm in the specific environment of Silicon Valley, but in the Burning Man experience, I saw how each individual, with no resources at all, made the camp’s logo out of the most humble materials, and how they could do things that made my jaw drop in a place where I didn’t seem to have any boundaries, and then I looked back and realized that there is always a boundary inside of me that I don’t even see. I realized that there is always a boundary in my heart that I don’t even see. When we realize the boundaries of our own imagination, we always find possibilities to push on.

It reminds me of Myra’s response to Roy’s mother, Margaret, in Waterloo Bridge: You are too naïve!

Margaret: But, my dear, what can it be that is so terrible? Has there been someone else? 

Myra: Oh Lady Margaret, you are naïve. 

Margaret (shocked): Myra! 

Myra: Yes! Yes! Yes

Margaret: Myra! 

Myra: Yes, that thought which is now in your mind, which you are telling yourself can’t be true. It is true.

At Burning Man, I often encountered the kind of crushing moments that Roy’s mother faced.

This boundary is not only the boundary of the perception of the world, the boundary of the social contract, the boundary of morality, and even the boundary of the law. This is why many Silicon Valley burners, such as Google’s Larry Page, have been calling for: our society needs to have a safe like the Burning Man, where we can temporarily ignore the current laws of the experimental place, thus giving more space for innovation, and also giving the human society a chance to innovate.

The spirit of Silicon Valley, the spirit of the hippies and the spirit of Burning Man all come from the same spirit. It’s only when you get in touch with Burning Man that you get in touch with the source of innovation in Silicon Valley. That’s the root of the Silicon Valley spirit. I agree very much with Elon Musk’s judgment that “Burning Man is Silicon Valley”. He also said, “You can’t really understand Silicon Valley without having been to Burning Man”. It is this kind of savage and rebellious emotion that has been spewing out from every crevice of Silicon Valley, and then the present form of Silicon Valley has been presented to us.

It’s not just the same spirit, it’s the same people, I have to say. The same people who made Burning Man what it is, made Silicon Valley what it is.


A strong community culture does not live in written documents, but rather visible to the naked eye and audible to the ear that are recited over and over again. There are at least seven of the ten basic principles of Burning Man that I know firsthand. Things like radical inclusivity, leave no trace, de-commercialization, and so on.

Immediacy is the one of the ten principles of Burning Man that has influenced me the most. But I’ve never thought of it as a new rule of life, merely as a distant landmark to which I’ve traveled. After leaving the BRC, wouldn’t I be a fool if I did everything without a brain just because I experienced the happiness that immediacy life brings? I don’t believe that such a life would be any better. And a special life experience, so that one learns to do more immediate in this dimension of Immediacy than ever before, can be in the absence of the world’s need to embrace this concept more easily than other people.

Take me for example. Because there were no expectations for Burning Man, or even that natural affinity for this strange world. Hippy culture, tents, dust, art, bouncing, music, installations, nudity, homosexuality, psychedelics, and extreme expression were not supposed to be my thing. So after discovering a place near the campground where I could take classes, I dove in head first and took 15 classes in 4 days. There are 70,000 people at Burning Man, over 1,500 camps, and this is just one of them, and out of the 300 or so classes, I was only able to take 15 (each class was 2-3 hours long), which is a drop in the ocean, but having the peace of mind of experiencing it all in one place without having to be FOMO made me feel a great deal of freedom. It’s been said that Immediacy is the antidote to FOMO. That’s true. Without expectations, it’s easier to embrace Immediacy instead of worrying about Missing Out.

Another example is the famous And Then There’s Only Love campground. We all got to the gate and then we didn’t go in because we didn’t have our IDs with us and various other problems. We said we would come back later. As it turned out, it was pouring rain, I found a companion, and when I came back, I heard that it was permanently closed as of Friday. That’s one of the regrets of not embracing immediacy.

While wandering around, I passed by too many camps, and if I tried to find the “best camp” with the same kind of judgment as I did with Yelp, I was bound to fail. But if you follow your intuition and walk into any camp and talk to the people there, you will always be pleasantly surprised. Sometimes it’s an old man alone, sometimes it’s a group of people around a campfire, sometimes there’s music and everyone’s bouncing around, sometimes it’s a bar and everyone’s having a drink, and every time it’s an amazing experience. There wasn’t a single camp that I regretted staying at. Was it because the camps themselves were great, or was it because the mind let go of judgment? I think it’s the latter. If we go into the world of introspection with the intention of finding ‘the best ice cream in the city’, we will never find a best ice cream parlor, and the ‘best ice cream parlor’ will always be in our heads, but not in our lives. In the real world, there are only sweet and icy ice creams, stores with cozy decorations, and stores with enchanting music, but there is no ‘best ice cream store’. This concept exists only in the mind, but not in the real world.

Our minds are constantly calculating, finding the optimal solution. This worry weighs on the mind. This is where my old obsession with restaurants and my fear of ordering food came from: the good student mentality made me worry that I hadn’t picked the best one in town, the ones that suited me best, and ended up skimming instead. It’s the same for buying things, for brands. For making decisions, too.

A few days out from Burning Man, I noticed a change in me. I randomly walked into a store on University Ave for Keen’s shoes because I saw them looking good in the window and then immediately bought sandals. Next door, at Fjällräven, I bought myself a new bag and a new hat. These were brands I had never noticed before. I was a bit surprised myself: I’m a person who never buys anything, and the reason I don’t is because I have trouble choosing. I don’t know if this brand is the best, if this bag is for me, and my solution is not to buy it. For decisions, when I’m not sure, I don’t make them.

Obviously, everyone’s antidote to their own life is different, and mine doesn’t have to be right for someone else, but Immediacy has been a great antidote to improving my own life. My restaurant choices, appointments with people, etc. have all been much more manageable lately. Life is better for me, at least, when I know that I must not have the optimal solution and embrace immediacy, embracing immediate behavior as a virtue rather than ultimate global correctness, and embracing the experience of the moment.

This ability, which I perceive to be a little bit like the ability to become stupid in seconds, is that state where the eyes are glazed over, drool is running down the sides of the mouth, and you lose your response to external reactions. It’s the same way with small children, and it’s the same way with high priests in meditation. Let go of the control of the mind and then live fully in the present moment. Allow the pressure of thinking about the future to pass completely through you and fall to the ground, instead of tangling in your mind and inside your body. When the imaginary words ‘best’, ‘right’, and ‘should’ fade from our lives, we live more clearly in the present.

There is no such thing as “3 cats” in the world. The number 3 does not exist, nor does the concept of a cat, but only this small furry thing by my hand and the warm feeling of being touched inside is real. I have always known these Zen views of the world, but I have only experienced them so deeply in the middle of a desert, more than 10,000 kilometers away from home.

Radical Self Expression

This is another of Burning Man’s ten principles that struck a chord with me.

I have a question that’s been rattling around in my head: what exactly is the relationship between Radical Self Expression and Ego Death? Are they opposites, similar to the poles between the brake and the gas pedal, or are 

they the same pole? The result of my thinking is that they are the same thing, the same pole.

Ego is the ability to be in tune with society. Under the influence of society, a person chooses to dress in ways that are actually in tune with society. If I were living inside a tribe, I would have colored stripes painted on my face; and if I were on Wall Street, I would be wearing a tie. Self Expression is the opposite of that. For example, wearing a tie in a tribe or putting camouflage on your face on Wall Street is more like Radical Self Expression than social integration. It is an expression that goes beyond social expectations. It’s an expression of sensing what your body needs most and not caring what the outside world thinks. Not wearing clothes is an expression, so is dressing up in fancy clothes, but only being in tune with the expectations of the world doesn’t count (how could our expression be in tune with the world at that very moment by coincidence? Isn’t this coincidence suspicious?) .

When I got back to Palo Alto I bought myself a shirt with no sleeves. It’s a style I would never have chosen before, a sleeveless top with both arms completely bare, like a gangster. It’s the closest thing to Burning Man-style attire I could find inside the Stanford Bookstore. I especially wanted to use this dress to remind myself, even declare myself, that I can be more uninhibited. Keeping some tension between ourselves and the real world at all times, and living comfortably within that tension, is what makes us better.

I was ready to leave my mark on everything I dabbled in. Water glasses need to have stickers on them, backpacks need to have little tigers tied to them, and homes need to have more traces of self-expression. Radical self-expression is an expression of vitality. These expressions are not done because of societal pressures, they are done simply because here I am. I’ve lived, I’ve seen, and I’m leaving some trace in the world. Just as a puppy has to pee around its own territory, a dog without the smell of urine is a dog without vitality; a person without radical self-expression is a person without vitality.

BRC as a City

Black Rock is a city. At first sight, the infrastructure is not as good as in Africa: all tents, dirt, no modern civilization, no high buildings, dusty, people walking or cycling. But this is a highly developed civilization, perhaps even far more civilized than Palto Alto, and it is a wonderful human society: an unparalleled respect for consent, for each individual’s choices (sexuality, expression, preferences), and an adherence to the ten principles that are visible to the naked eye and perceptible to the body. The crowd here is obviously not even close to the same composition as in the US, highly affluent (16% make over $300,000 a year, and I’m guessing the percentage of millionaires is higher than normal), largely white (Asians and Hispanics are present, but not many, and blacks are disproportionately fewer), and there seems to be a slight majority of males over females. One of the most interesting stats I’ve seen is that Democrats are over 50% but Republicans are only 4%. There’s something about the residents of this city that is the same that is amplified in this environment, creating a tsunami of obvious culture.

BRC is a simplified version of the city. The city has an address without a brand. Information is passed on by word of mouth, such as “there’s an avocado breakfast place near 4 E,” “there’s an Orgy Dorm on 7F,” or “there’s a tent making roasted groundnuts at such-and-such a distant 5 o’clock bearing” 

Whether the city offers something is the biggest difference, but it doesn’t matter how well it’s done. It doesn’t matter if Combat Zone’s pasta is the best or not. In other words, how could it not be the best? Their pasta was the best at that moment in time because intuitively, it was really good; rationally, it was the only pasta available there at that point in time. How can the only one not be the best?

Returning to the default world, I stopped caring about brands. I rushed inside a shoe store and bought shoes to replace my muddy old ones. Even today I still don’t know the brand of the fuzzy shoes I wore on my feet, only that it was the closest shoe store that made my insides the most comfortable when I needed shoes the most.

Will life be better this way? It should. When we pick a brand, we’re actually layering a layer of mind over real life. It’s not the feel of a soft shoe on our feet, or its color, or the warmth it gives our feet that we care about, it’s the brand’s place in a rational spectrum of the world. That doesn’t feel good; what the body doesn’t feel is a figment of the mind’s imagination, and it’s no surprise that the fulfillment that comes from that imagination isn’t felt.

A city with people living inside. Interesting people are better when they live close together, and all the residents of the BRC are on one floor (which technically isn’t that justifiable, tents are half a floor at best) and have no doors, so you can walk right up to someone’s bedside. There are spaces to chat and linger everywhere, and there are countless living rooms for the camps. Even the farthest neighbors are within an hour’s walk if you really have to. It’s a distance that Marchetti’s Constant finds appropriate for the size of the city. It reminds me of Shanghai in the 30’s, when Lu Xun, Qu Qiubai and many others lived in the neighborhood of Duolun Road, and when Shanghai was still a much more walkable city. Inside the city of Burning Man, friends were nearby and could walk there without making an appointment and visit directly. Needless to say, this college dorm room-like living was quite comfortable. For a city, proximity is important, and interesting people living close by is one of the biggest perks of a city.

What is the ultimate freedom?

Freedom is very often a compromise between oneself and the world. If we can compromise between what we want to do and what society allows us to do, we often say that we have the freedom to do it. For example, if I want to scream, but I am not allowed to scream in a silent apartment at 12:00 p.m., I do not have the freedom to scream late at night. But if we get to a place where we can yell at any time, we say that we have the “freedom to yell” at that time.

But the deeper level of ‘freedom’ is not ‘compromise between ourselves and the world’, but ‘compromise between ourselves and ourselves’. Do we allow ourselves to do any thing? Do we allow ourselves to shed tears? Do we allow ourselves to howl like a wild animal? Give ourselves permission to be naked? Give ourselves permission to look obsessively at a beautiful girl?

These permissible freedoms are not an agreement between the world and us, but an agreement between ourselves and ourselves. When one lives within the countless various engagements one has accumulated throughout one’s history, ‘self’ becomes that unforgiving world that traps one inside a heavy prison.

True freedom is the liberation from the ego. In the state of so-called “ego death,” the police station in one’s brain is closed, the church inside is off duty, and the avatars of one’s parents, friends, and society in one’s brain have shut up. They keep on telling us what to do and what not to do. If they are off duty, the real party begins.

The closest we usually come to that state is a moment of slight intoxication, or even drunkenness. But that’s when the police are off duty, the wisdom is off duty, and even the memory is off duty, so often we do stupid things, things we regret when we wake up. If one can remain in a state of self-meltdown and retain one’s intelligence, that is the freest state.

We ourselves are a large mountain covered with thick snow. Originally the snow was flat and could be slid anywhere. However, as time passes and we ourselves grow, we slide down the mountain countless times, leaving ruts in the snow so deep that it will be impossible to walk without walking inside the ruts that are already there. There are paths in the snow, but they become paths of limited choice. And true freedom is to choose again, to cover the ruts with snow, to return to a state where the whole mountain is walkable.

Braver Self

People “know too much reasoning and yet they still don’t live this life well.” This means that our body does not work by reason, it makes decisions according to its own laws. The saying, “You know a lot, but you can’t lift a 50 kilogram barbell” is easy to understand when applied to muscles. You can’t lift a barbell just because you know you’re supposed to, it’s muscle mass that really counts. We always mistakenly think we can’t lift a barbell because we don’t know we’re supposed to.

The fear we feel inside the world of absence comes not from reason, but from what we feel inside. If you don’t believe me, just imagine the cold-to-the-toes fear that going out right now, stripping down and walking down the street brings, and you’ll know how much this inner pressure can be. It’s not that we can’t do it physically, it’s that our mental muscles don’t have the strength to do it.

Default World is beautiful and glamorous, but there are some artifacts and falsehoods that we usually find hard to detect. In the testing ground of Burning Man, filled with radical selfexpression, unbridled rage, and crazy provocations against the rules, all in the center of a dusty, material-poor desert, there’s a surreal feel to the absurd and bizarre artwork. The world is not always good, but it’s incredibly real. When one takes all the things that are not beautiful (physical, emotional, behavioral, expressive, etc.) and puts them out in the sun along with the beautiful things, it actually creates an overall beauty that borders on insanity. It’s hard not to revisit the default world after trying this real beauty, and to become deeply tired of its singularly refined and unlayered beauty.

They say, “Your uniqueness is your greatest contribution to the world.” I used to think of such statements in a positive way, but my experience at Burning Man has taught me that my uniqueness includes not only my intelligence, my success, and my contribution, but also my flaws, my lack of confidence, my dark side, and all the real but negative emotions in me, which are also my contribution to the world. Only when you accept the part of yourself that you are trying to hide, and accept it graciously, then you are accepting yourself wholeheartedly, and that is the greatest courage of all.

To do this, reasoning is useless, and reading the above passage will not help in the slightest. The only way to do it is to experience it for yourself. Wandering beyond the boundaries, once one has experienced it and realized that it is not as frightening as one imagined, and that the hypothetical world pandemonium did not happen, the fear naturally disappears. If you think that the “white bone view” and “impure view” that Buddhism does by way of contemplation is too abstract, come to the Burning Man and see for yourself what white bones and impurity look like in the real world, and you can indeed save many years of meditation.

After expanding the inner boundary, the “bravery” shown to the world may be “senseless” to the person concerned, that is, to say “Who cares! After familiarizing myself with the logic of the life of Burning Man, I read Elon Musk’s biography again, and I smile: This is exactly the life with a deep root in Burning Man.

How to integrate Burning Man experience into the default world

At the 8G camp, I met a burner with a Detective Polo mustache named Dr. Catalyst. I asked him, “Why does everyone welcome newcomers with ‘Welcome Home?'” and he said, “Home is where you are accepted.”

This quote seemed to be meant for me and added the best note to my understanding of Burning Man.

Being Accepted — This innermost human desire is easier to achieve in a world without titles, resumes, wealth, or even names, or clothes: everyone is simply accepted as a human being in the most basic sense of the word. After all, it is easier to accept a person with a physical body, a smiling face, and basically no difference from oneself than it is to accept a person with countless labels attached to him or her.

While we all feel accepted, loved, and embraced within the default society, the truth is that we never really feel accepted. What does it mean to be truly accepted? How would even our closest family members react if they knew we were going to sell our home and become monks? How would our friends and coworkers react if we walked down the street wearing nothing but a smile on our face? Is it because those people cares about us and strangers we met in Burning Man don’t? But if intimacy resulting in more creates stress and anxiety, isn’t it time to rethink what that intimacy is giving us?

When all the little details that make up one’s self-esteem in his/her resume are gone, the true self that hides under the noise pokes its head out and then hangs out with others who are doing the same thing, and the result is an unstoppable feeling of lightness, joy, and freedom.

The question we need to ask ourselves is: if we can be completely accepted by a stranger, why wouldn’t we be accepted by everyone we meet in the future? If we could have a magic to bring this secret to the default world, then the whole default world would become our Playa.

Burning Man opens up the possibility of a new way of life, and the days that follow will largely require finding a balance between this extreme lifestyle and the default world.

Or, let’s look at the world another way: the whole world is one big Playa, and some of the artworks are too big to be moved over to the Playa, like the skyscrapers, the sycamores on the street, or whatever, and so they’re set up a little further away from the Playa. The whole world is a makeshift art installation site. Today we got dressed up for a change and headed out from our campsite to explore this art installation the size of the entire world. Only I had a new campsite, with an address change from 330G to one at 31N121E. BRC is not a new world after all, it’s a (quirky) part of the world we’re in now.

People on Playa are really no different from the real world. Leaving the BRC, reality’s powerful gravitational field keeps everyone acting according to certain agreed-upon norms. If we initiate it, there should be more opportunities to discover the fun, sincere, interesting and vibrant soul that lies beneath everyone’s mask.

Hugging is an example. Hugging is a lost secret of human society. Many people don’t even know it’s an option. But, if you are the one who initiates it, you will find that the world should respond more enthusiastically than you think. I’m amazed at the depth of stranger conversations on Playa, but all friends start out as strangers. The biggest beneficiary of having greater curiosity and more enthusiasm for strangers should be yourself. By embracing more and assuming that the other person is like you, the world is more likely to be like playa.

Final thoughts

Right now I’m in a state of PPD (Post-Playa Depression). It will take longer, maybe months, maybe years, to digest the experience. Back in the default world, I deeply understand why many people come back from Burning Man and choose to remain silent. It is because it is a very personal experience, one that cannot be shared with others, nor can they expect to be understood, and there are even times when they only feel changes themselves, but cannot say what those changes are. It was as if I had been parachuted into a wilderness, shrouded in confusion, deep in contemplation without knowing what I was preparing to contemplate, wanting to talk about it, but not being able to. I took 20,000 words of notes on Burning Man, and that’s only half of it. I don’t expect anyone who hasn’t been there to understand any part of it at all, because even I’m not sure I’ve understood some of it.

Perhaps many years from now, in retrospect, I will realize the impact this experience had on me. And at that time, what kind of self will I have become? I developed a deep sense of uncertainty about my future. And this uncertainty, how should I put it, made me feel something stirring inside me. The place on the direction of these stirring things should be named: greater freedom.

Sobre mi

Me llamo Javier. Tengo 43 años. Vivo en Shanghai en la calle Wulumuqi y la calle Anfu.

Me gustan perros y gatos. Tengo un gato negro y blanco que se llama Mira. A Mira le gusta pollo mucho, y le gusta dormir. Entonces, Mira está muy gordo ahoy.

Shanghai es Hermosa Hoy

Esta son dos fotografías de Shanghai. Dime en un edificio antiguo en la Bund.

Los edificios no son aquí 40 años antes.

Pudong en Shanghai

Este la Bund. Los edificios son aquí 100 años antes. Shanghai fui muy moderno en 1930s. Fui el más grande en la este del mundo. Hay un rio que se llama Huanpu. Rio Huangpu es un rio muy bien para transporte. Muchas barcos están en el rio.

Puxi de Shanghai

Comment to my eBay Article

I got 80 serious comment from my post on eBay on LinkedIn. Here is a copy.

Daylon S.

Design Founder of CuriousCore / CuriousCatch
@Mark L: Those are some pretty big assumptions you’re making there. Have you worked in China before or with a Chinese Internet company?
Like (1) 4m
George K.

Arbi A.
SALES – International Business Development | LION | +6.5K / +22M Connections |
It all boils down to culture, nationalism, language barrier, internet censorship and localization; A Far Eastern prospect’s likes and dislikes can not be as easily dictated based solely on the US consumer data. Local companies know the culture, speak the language and use chopsticks for lunch; multinationals however tend to force-feed using their tried and true spoon feeding method. How do I know this? I am a Middle Eastern, my ex was Taiwanese, we met in Canada and moved to Taiwan. I don’t want you to run a company in China; just try to attend a Chinese funeral and a wedding ceremony back to back, then talk to me again about cultural common points. As a sales rep working for a Taiwanese company, we would take our western clients to “Fried Bees Lunch” just for fun! My Taiwanese colleague nearly got killed in Cologne, Germany as a result of not being able to digest Tar-Tar. A product as strongly tied to the local culture as Google, Ebay …. must learn to follow the rules when dealing with a +5000 year old culture.
Like 30m

Mark L.
Sales, Marketing and Operations
If Baidu was so great and is such an important competitor, how come it’s non-existant outside of China? The reason Internet outsiders have had little success in China is because of the way that information is controlled and influenced by the government. The government’s involvement has had a dramatic impact on the way foreign Internet companies function and on the decision making process of the Chinese consumer. The Internet is a very controlled environment in China. As we all know “free speech” does not exist and the government possesses its “Great FIrewall of China” to monitor everything. Access to foreign websites is very controlled and closely monitored, and in turn foreign Internet companies cannot function “normally” or “freely”. It is very difficult for foreign Internet companies to apply the same business model they have successfully implemented in other international markets operating within these tight constrains. This severely affects a firm’s marketing strategy, communication strategy, product and service offering, brand exposure, market penetration, etc. within the country, and in turn it’s success. As well, although China is global economic power and influence, its people are still quite introverted and, aside from foreign luxury brand names, are generally ignorant of what’s outside its borders. This is mainly due to the nationalistic and pro-Chinese government, education system, and media (more so than countries like Canada, the UK and the US). In turn, China’s citizens are very “Chinese” and very comfortable with Chinese things, therefore aren’t too interested in what is not. Because if this, more often than not, the Chinese Internet consumer will choose Chinese Internet products or services over foreign ones. It is for tor these two reasons – a highly controlled Internet environment and heavily “nationalistic” Chinese population – that foreign Internet companies have had little success in China.
Like (6) 52m
Deric S., Caroline D., Lisa K., Aun T., and Shruti M K.

Robert W.
International Marketing and Admissions Manager
By the same logic, Alibaba, Taobao, and Baidu should not have as much market share as they do. The author suggests that these failures are essentially due to the relatively low entry barriers compared to the potential rewards. This would apply to both foreign and domestic companies. Since there are internet companies that have become dominate in particular areas, there must be other reasons for the failures.
Like 59m

Carl N.
Director, Marketing & Communications at Capgemini
Well written and thought provoking. Thank you.
Like 1h

睿之寒暄 Oliver Lin 2nd
CPSM, Senior Manager, EMBA program Director at EIPM – European Institute of Purchasing Management
great observation, looking forward the recommendation part – which might worth billions for those bigs
Like 1h

Sairith S.
Research Analyst
Nice Article. Good read
Like 1h

George K.
Marketing Engineer
for the “eBay” part of the article: From my personal point of view and experience, I’ve reached the conclusion that eBay failed due to a very arrogant approach on both sellers and buyers, expressed through poor quality of customer service and biased policies. Sellers and buyers are essential parts of any business like eBay. If you cannot build a critical mass on both of them, you go bust! Recent eBay’s approach and policies, have managed to make eBay marketplace a second or third choice, compared to similar local emarketplaces. Maybe the gradual change of policies was for the best interest of some buyer segments, or against some fraudulent sellers. Maybe they’ve managed to have a better quality of services and be stricter on poor quality or troublesome transactions. For sure, they took several small steps to raise their profitability at the expense of sellers and profit margins. Currently their profitability model is very strictly focused and biased on the sellers. I’ve recently personally reviewed their current policies, and the quality of customer service, and I was strongly disappointed and astonished by the results of my research. I’ve been familiar with eBay and using their services since the year 2000 (13 years now). The experiences of the 100% legit “mystery shopper” account I’ve created, acting mostly as seller (and as a buyer as well) for the last 14 months, was awful: From the sellers point of view: -Excessive fees both on eBay and PayPal (eBay.uk is unbelievable) -Biased policies, always in favour of the buyer on any dispute open -Policies that raise the cost of shipping or falsely documenting it. -Escrow services that did not actually work when needed -Non-existent Customer support: you have to send the exact same question at least 3 times (repeated in the same ticket) to get an answer. CS reps tend to reply in an extensive and overwhelming copy pasting frenzy, never addressing the issues in the ticket but cluttering and overwhelming their client instead. I’ve even been hoarded by CS reps to lie, or to follow procedures that would expose and diminish any of the seller’s essential interests in any dispute with a fraudulent buyer. From the buyers’ point of view: It’s very easy to defraud almost any mass-seller. And eBay tends to guide the buyers to do so, by their policies and their enforcement. As soon as you realize how exposed the seller is, you can defraud almost any mass-seller with no real or serious consequences, even if escrow is applied through PayPal. I really feel pity for the Chinese that are currently trying to maintain large selling accounts, especially those with small value items for sale. They are so intimidated by the current policies that even asking (as a buyer) a question about an item received, makes them refund you almost immediately. I challenge you to give it a try. Maybe Alibaba or other similar platforms are more relaxed, and permit more disputes to be resolved in the favour of the seller, and that drives more mass-sellers to be active on Alibaba instead of eBay, fuelling more transactions, generating more profits for the platform, at a higher but calculated risk for the buyer. But eBay is currently surviving at the expense of sellers up to the point that there will be no more left, and it’s based on a word-of-mouth on the buyers of the “western world”. For how long? To recap: eBay’s arrogance blew their effort. If they’ve done it against their clients (seller & buyers) they’ve probably done it also on every other aspect of their effort to grow in Michael Pagend they lost their money.
Like (3) 1h
Marcus M., David S., and Alexandra C.

Phani Pattamatta 2nd
Executive Search Professional
At the end of the article which spoke very big about doing business in china, why is Jian inviting these 3 internet companies to reconsider China as a market, are those local solutions failing to provide global results for the chinese internet users? Are they throwing only local results?
Like 2h

Edward B.
International Trade / Joint Ventures / Venture Capital / M&A
Ebay has a near monopoly in the US. It had to face real competition in China…from a homegrown start-up. Ebay crashed because it failed to adapt to the market. Did they learn anything from this experience? You tell me.
Like (4) 2h
George K., Chuck J., Zoey N., and Janis W.

Ron B.
Client Partner and Owner, Themed Publications
Perhaps they are “yet to succeed” as opposed to having failed. Great article Jian.
Like 2h

Shariff A.
intl voice and access wholesales, account management
it is not about level playing field in technology, that Chinese web companies beat up Ebay/Google/Yahoo etc. Google is not just about Java and database or Yahoo is not just about PHP that every you and me know. Author should went deeper into brain and logic wrapped inside those technologies. Ebay should has debut as Eibao or something.
Like 2h

Gulab P.
Exchange Architect at Colt Technology Services
Jian Shuo Wang, Is it because china isn’t compatible with rest of the world? Mostly with western countries? I don’t believe it’s because of size. It’s because almost everything is controlled by communist government.
Like (1) 2h
Jarek L.

ayushi S.
Sr. Executive Social Media at Vizz Media
Thanks for the insight. The article was interesting to read.
Like (1) 2h
Nicolae B.

Gulab P.
Exchange Architect at Colt Technology Services
Jian Shuo Wang, Is it because china is compatible with rest of the world? Mostly with western countries? I don’t believe it’s because of size. It’s because almost everything is controlled by communist government.
Like 2h

Jonathan C.
Online & AFK Community Mgr – Social Media Club – @SMClubSG. Social Media Student @BCUMedia & Advocate. Retiring Techy.
eBay is only really in UAE – hardly Middle East in coverage. Shipping between Middle Eastern countries despite cheap air fares and close proximity is cost prohibitive, plus each Arabic state has its own customs and contraband controls which does not unify and assist the regional model. I don’t think eBay Middle East is a good illustration of a success. The Social Networks granted have seen recent user spikes indeed in the wake of the events of late 2010, early 2011 but eCommerce and social media advertising still remains infantile in comparison with the west, as it does here in Singapore. eBay would fail here (Singapore) due to the populous wishing to buy new – an interesting social departure from its trading past.
Like 2h

National Sales Manager at Paladion Networks
chaeng the work ?+*>>>nua
Like 2h

Kok K.
Assistant Sales Manager at Silka Maytower Hotel & Service Residences
Like 3h

Martin L.
Personal Achievement Coach | Business Advisory
The main reason eBay failed in China, as did the other major listings from the US is due to a cultural difference of business modelling. The systemic problem in economically developed eastern countries predominantly asian in culture is an unwillingness to allow their economic culture to be defined by western cultural paradigms of thought. China, along with many other asian countries, is a very proud country steeped in 5000 years of cultural development compared to the US – approx 200 years. China will be sore to allow the world’s superpower to define it’s economic culture with Western judeo beliefs defining its business model based on established democratic principles, within a communist-led economy. Like any smart (but unwise) country, it will seek to model popular/best practice business models, and then determine how it can improve upon them, essentially as it emerges as a dominant economic force. As Sun Tzu illustrated in his book ‘The Art of War’, applying this methodology in an economic environment on a world trade stage to establish an entrance into global trade and economic exchange, and find your ‘enemy’s’ strengths, duplicate them and then use them to disarm him, is a suitable analogy for the mindset of business that is predominant in China. The real reason eBay failed in China is simply due to a void of economic collaboration and the attitude to cultivate a win/win long term relationship on the world stage of economic development. Until China understands this, they will be doomed to running headlong into their own brick wall and wonder why the Western economy is cautious and mistrusting. As the saying goes, “Contempt breeds mistrust”.
Like (2) 3h
Bill A. and Alexandra C.

Sarah-Jane L.
Consultant at Grovelands
Interesting article. I think censorship also plays a large part in China having its own search engines and social networking sites etc. I dont think its all necessarily down to sites like Baidu or QQ being ‘better’.
Like (4) 3h
Caroline D., Janis W., G V S., and Michael B.

Sarah-Jane L.
Consultant at Grovelands
Interesting article. I think censorship also plays a large part in China having its own search engines and social networking sites etc. I dont think its all necessarily down to sites like Baidu or QQ being ‘better’.
Like (4) 3h
Caroline D., Janis W., G V S., and Michael B.

Alejandro B.
Director, Business Development & Organization Learning Solutions at SMG Consulting (China) Co
Fully agree with all the comments about not equal rules of play applied. Mainly censorship based in favouring local companies against foreign ones. Not for political reasons but economic and protectionism ones. But let us see what happens when they want to go abroad and compete in a free market. Then the conditions will be equal, and China can not afford to still only look to internal demand anymore if it wants to keep growing and consolidate his position internationally. The answer is to become competitive following free market rules. The key of success will rely on Chinese companies being or not, so skillful to develop the competencies that will allow them to implement international expansion strategies, competitive and value generating ones.
Like (1) 3h
ayushi S.

Alejandro B.
Director, Business Development & Organization Learning Solutions at SMG Consulting (China) Co
Fully agree with all the comments about not equal rules of play applied. Mainly censorship based in favouring local companies against foreign ones. Not for political reasons but economic and protectionism ones. But let us see what happens when they want to go abroad and compete in a free market. Then the conditions will be equal, and China can not afford to still only look to internal demand anymore if it wants to keep growing and consolidate his position internationally. The answer is to become competitive following free market rules. The key of success will rely on Chinese companies being or not, so skillful to develop the competencies that will allow them to implement international expansion strategies, competitive and value generating ones.
Like 3h

Evans Jia 1st
Angel Investor
Internet company is so successful from economy of scale in what they are good at, hard to realize the beauty of decentralization by learning from P&G, Johnson & Johnson. Their organization just don’t have that gene, and not ready to learn it.
Like (1) 3h
George K.

Gilles C.
Managing Director Asia at Second Bureau, a Sales and Marketing Services company
This post is a joke or a honeypot.
Like (1) 3h
George K.

Daniel B.
Owner at MCC CODE
nice article, I would that as a Westerner, seems to me that China has its own internal set of standards, not necessarily in tune with western philosophy, same as The Western standards have been based out of US better and more common business practices, yet this process took decades, while China was not really part of it. Now that China has grown and becomes an essential part of the world’s economy, western companies try to enter the market however, we simply lack of its understanding, our practices do not match. Within the next decade i believe a common approach driven by necessity will come to be.
Like 3h

martin D.
PROJECT MANAGER at Fleming Europe
Great article!!!
Like 3h

Pradeep K.
Associate Vice President at SatNav Technologies
Its well said that one should never rest on laurels and always try to figure out what is the next best thing to do with the business or work as its the best way to be productive.
Like 3h

Janet H.
Sales Operations Manager at Lycamobile
Great article! I’m keen to read your insights into how Internet companies can succeed and hopefully draw some parallels to other offline organisations.
Like 4h

Andrew B.
Paralegal at Bernhardt Law Firm LC
Lots of businesses fail in the USA and China; lots of businesses flourish in the USA and China. Opening any business anywhere is an exercise in risk management, and involves decision making, rationale, and is an “experiment” every time; Some economists may call it a game, or game theory. Success or failure may come down to the micromanagement of the location of the enterprise, business, or corporation, or even may be coincidental due to the economic cycle and when the founder strikes- at e.g. the top or bottom of the cycle, or somewhere in between on the upturn or downturn. Behavioral Economics and estimating accurately what 310 million people in America will do, or 7.5 billion worldwide will do impacts success and failure; e.g. if you think, and if everyone thinks, that their home will decline in value, then it will! This hypothetical decline in real estate can impact a lot of other sectors and facets of the economy, in a similar fashion as 2007-09. Timing can be everything, despite popular belief. You don’t sell e.g. much high end luxury jewelry in the mist of, or during a huge economic recession (see Tiffany’s stock- it’s quite cyclical [TIF]). The study of the success of businesses, and ultimately their bankruptcies is fascinating. Nothing lasts forever, companies change over time too, due to mergers & acquisitions, and spinoffs and divestures. The study of total economic collapse and catastrophe, leading to a total default of an entire nation’s credit markets, and the failure of their equity markets, and of their currency is also a great topic. Debt and currency crises and their root origin of events should be studied more thoroughly. It happens more than people would believe in the USA. Total apathy of enormous deficits and a mountain of debt is not a good strategy for our Congress to engage in, nor is the “regulation-gone-wild” attitude when things turn sour. Despite popular belief, you can’t regulate economic cycles or business success. Legislatures (and the masses) worldwide should grow up, and stop being so corrupt.
Like (2) 4h
Sharmistha G. and Andrew B.

Naida F.
Senior Specialist for credit risk controll
This is realistic We need to think not only global Necessarily is to involv cross cultural mining into product and sales management
Like (1) 4h
Brijesh C.

Gopalkrishna K.
SSE at SAP Labs
A very impressive writing. I think above all China is a patriotic country.
Like (1) 4h
Reginald F.

David L. F.
Consumer Product Marketer, Strategist and International Development Professional
This ‘analysis’ of why American internet companies failed in China is pretty weak. The main reason they failed? -There is in the final analysis nothing really unique about these American companies in technology or design that could not be easily (and were easily replicated) be done specifically for the china market by Chinese companies. -The Chinese government totally supported the development of China companies internet efforts and threw up roadblocks, both political and technical/internet to penetration by American companies. -The Chinese government showed absolutely no regard to said Chinese companies from poaching and using with impunity any design, UX or intellectual property from foreign internet firms. Cultural? That’s pretty funny.
Like (6) 4h
jamil K., Kirstie B., Jarek L., Mark S., and Reginald F.

Bella Z.
Commercial GM at JT International Brazil Chinese Office
Patience is quite necessary to gain in China. Actually, Chinese endusers are very open to foreign companies and products. The problem is there must be something really attractive and better than competitors for users. Google’s withdraw fm China partially due to political reasons. While others all act slowly in doing better than local competitors. One feature of Chinese culture is agile, flexible and hard-working which form incredible speed faster than foreign companies. Internet is one obvious example.
Like (1) 4h
Brijesh C.

Rakesh R.
CO-Founder Director & CMO at Nifty Window
IPR is the key differentiation for success and failure in China as there you know that judiciary is not strong enough to punish the copycats. Why are they successful in India ( which has more people than china) because India has a robust judiciary and good law enforcement system when it comes to corporate governance and the brands are ready to invest for long term goals as they are sure to be protected of their IPR and interest
Like 4h

Charles Z.
Partner, Microntek
patent/piracy and capital is where they got win and where they got loss. They will be back soon.
Like 4h

Alvaro S.
Specialist in Solution Selling, ERP, CRM, Business Software Solutions
Jien, thx for the article. Interesting debate too. Jien it would be interesting if you can make a detailed analysis on Chinesse goverment behaviour and actions undertaken on some (most of) international companies traying to work in China. Btw, I am on the opinon that -reciprocity- should apply = we have our free trade norms, but for China we should use exactly the same norms and actions they apply with the rest of the world. Rgs
Like 4h

Michael Z.
Account Manager at Hot Group Inc, Problem solver, long term business development analyst, and CIMA student
Agreed with the majority comments, they failed not because of their impatience, but by the gov strict action. Google’s incident is a shame thing to be ever happened.
Like 5h

He L.
Business Executive at Intelligent Automation(China)
Very impressive!
Like 5h

Bobby Q.
Change & Release Manager at Fujitsu Australia Limited
I think the key is the ability to recognize and and adept to the audience. When facing a country with 20 million people, it is easier to just show them what is already working and hoping for the end users to adept to the existing system; but when facing a country size of China, it suddenly makes different sense to observe what people do and carefully adept to that. The reason eBay didn’t work out well, is because there were others that adepts better. It simply understands the merchants better, understands the transaction better as well as the end users. China is not that much different, but it is there after all, even very subtle. the key is to adept, not expect the difference to dissolve over time.
Like 5h

Caro L.
Product Operations Marketing Manager/Product Manager
wow, very interesting and informative article. thanks for the share. I sure got to understand quite a lot about Chinese market and foreign multinational competition here through this article. But just one thought, isn’t the internet space also heavily regulated by the government here? And also I feel that there’s some or probably a lot of protectionism going on to favor Chinese companies more. Personally, I wouldn’t use Baidu, but I’m forced to at this point since I’m living here, and any other foreign websites are either blocked or are slow or difficult to access without a VPN. And I don’t use one… So basically as I understand it, Google was forced and squeezed out from China because they did not want to play to Chinese terms.
Like (2) 6h
Pratik G. and Mariusz M.

isaac F.
@Lyailya Y., yes McDonald’s & GM do well in China, but I can’t think of the last time some one tried to censor a cheese burger. Large information based companies are the ones that can’t do well in China because of the restrictions placed upon them by CHINA.
Like (2) 6h
Dhayan M. and Jonathan S.

Karthick B.
Product Manager – Internet – Mobile – Voice – VAS
Thanks for writing the insightful article, so my understanding is large internet companies not having enough patient to penetrate huge country in terms of geography. They should set realistic timeline, returns, profits, user base rather than quick money…..
Like 6h

Bill Y. T.
A True Leader
China, with current political system and ever growing middle income class, has become a unruling monster with deep pocket. The internet boom in China is very different from the West. It’s very much the wild wild west yet without much of law…coz there are so many loop holes that local competitors can use while don’t worry about getting punished. Yes many foreign companies are impatient, but they have been not able to compete with local companies on an equal footing from day one. Google is actually doing very well until it got adverse attention from the government, and its unbended attitute is respected by lots of people. Most of my friends in China love using Google, but they have no choice but use Baidu or Bing instead due to obvious reason. yes, it takes time to build a brand and success, the timing of entry is very important. China is so big and has so many people, but it doesnt necessary mean all rosy cloud for business all the time. Unfortunately the companies mentioned by this artical are all public companies at the mercy of wall street, i can’t blame their impatience if the situation doesn’t improve and can’t use legal protection to go against competitor. I would say the situation may change dramatically in another 10-20 years if there is enough social change to support a mature and civial business environment.
Like (1) 6h
Pratik G.

Frank S.
general service at T&T Supermarket
The most important reason for these internet company losing in China is that all of these companies didn’t respect Chinese needs as that successful companies who spent so much time and money to understand this huge market, and these winners’ leader are more open to adopt new society system, they trust Chinese and only employ the person who know China well.
Like 6h

isaac F.
You keep talking about Google as if they just didn’t try hard enough. They drew an ethical line at how much censorship they would participate in and the Chinese government charged right on past it. So Google left, and good for them to stick to their own ethical limits. The same stands for any good company that is based in online information. If you’re not willing to help the government shape (and hide) it’s image, then you can’t do well in China.
Like (6) 6h
Viktoras V., Martin L., Ajay S., Dhayan M., and Jonathan S.

D K S.
If it was just about size these companies would have not really made it in other geographies of size! And stomach for failures..?? Surely these intrenet companies you talk of could take knocks and for longer than they did. In China the atmospherics are entirely different…with the state giving a big push to heave out such business adventurists. They would want their own at any terms..and if they have a choice they exercise it. Simple! These compaies in case were thus easy push overs…the GMs you talk of would also go…let the Chinese unthread the wool-ball! No! China IS very different and has the legendary Great Wall at more places than just the borders!
Like (1) 6h
Mohit N.

Calvin L.
Internet Professional, Website Developer, Programmer, Designer
one word – nationalism. internet services are unlike cars; they don’t need to be picky.
Like 7h

Balaji P.
SAP certified SD Functional Consultant at Infosys
Freedom of thoughts & ideas is the oxygen of any knowledge based company. In order to prosper & blossom in todays knowledge based society, you need innovation & out of box thinking and less inteventions by local government. These factors are missing in China. All these companies are huge success in country like India because of freedom & liberty these companies enjoy. That Oxygen is missing in China.
Like (3) 7h
Narendra K., Rui Ray W., and Ajay S.

Trey H.
Managing Partner
Foreign tech companies will never be able to compete with Chinese tech companies in China because foreign companies are subject to a different set of rules. Companies such as Baidu and Alibaba.com are so lodged into the state censorship apparatus that they have more flexibility and freedom to expand their businesses, develop products, and attract financing. They get free passes because they are as much a part of the system as the Ministry of Propaganda. What Western tech company wants to have a baiju-drinking official attend all of their product development meetings? How can Google compete with Baidu if domestic regulations trip up Google’s expansion? The big difference between tech in China and the United States is that entrepreneurs succeed despite the government in the United States, whereas entrepreneurs succeed because of the government in China.
Like 7h

John C.
Managing director
The two most important reasons have not been mentioned in this fine article: 1. Market protectionism to the highest degree to keep foreign competitors out of China. 2. Political reasons and strict censorship is another one: Facebook is simply banned and not allowed in China…
Like (7) 7h
Viktoras V., Martin L., Mohit N., Atanu R., and Ganesh N.

Lyailya Y.
Student at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics
Trade is the significant key in Chinese Economy . China has Taobao – internet Service, which is more convinient to vast majority, even for me, when i was a foreign student there, because firstly it’s in China, so deliver of goods takes not so long time, (especially if you need to return or change product), even if you want order express deliver the price will be very cheap ; payment method is more easier; and it is easier to chinese people negotiate in their own language ; all prices are shown in RMB and so on… What about Mc Donalds and GM – they are a big companies, which provide their own Product with good quality or taste, which prefer the whole world, include China. I think China can copy, can re-sell good, but it’s very hard to them to build a new brand, provide a new excellend product, which will dominate in a world market. People just give money and buy products of GM , Intel , it’s not so hard. But if workers in Mc donalds spoke in English (like Ebay) , don’t think it still would have a popularity.
Like (1) 7h
Anthony O.

Don P.
Contributor at Seeking Alpha
I disagree with the assessment for the reason(s) why most companies of western origins failed in China. If not for the type of industry which is IT or telecommunication security…and given the effort and the inherent need to protect proprietary information by the China and companies themselves; I would say that failure was mutually assured and an intended consequence for the industry given the national security concerns.
Like 7h

Aaron H.
Due Diligence Research
How can you say Yahoo failed in China when it’s stake in Alibaba is the only thing that has given it enough cash and strength to stay relevant in the US?
Like (2) 8h
Pratik G. and Jun C.

Tony Ho 2nd
Entrepreneur,Wearable,Mobile,Vertical Search,Big Data
Agreed on the market size argument. Large enough market attracts big competition. However, China is more an exception than norm, considering all these companies succeed in many other major economies. Personally, I think government control and significant differences in market and culture are the major factors. These global companies failed to understand, or at least underestimate, the effort to adopt to Chinese culture and user behavior.
Like (5) 8h
Mariusz M., Jalaj S., Yu-Tian L., Daniel C., and Joey K.

Denny K. C.
Consumer Project Lead/ Semiconductor FAE/ Market Analyst
Western enterprises also have an unwritten rule of operation: if a service or priduct can no longer generate certain percentage (30%?) of profit, it’s time to drop the product/service and seek alternative or greener pasture. That can explain the topic in question, and the birth of mega OEM houses at fist in Japan, later in Taiwan and then China, who are happy to win businesses with less than 10% margin. Only higher margin can support healthy cashflow, good benefit, R&D, and lasting enterprises. There is a limit to sacrifice profits for scale of opertations.
Like (2) 8h
Jun C. and diane Z.

Ming Fu 2nd
FP&A Head, Greater China at Google
I don’t think Google “failed” in China due to the reasons listed in the article. Google was actually doing very well in China until it made a conscious and hard decision to pull out based on a “moral principle.”
Like (7) 9h
Martin L., Ganesh N., isaac F., Paul T., and John C.

Denny K. C.
Consumer Project Lead/ Semiconductor FAE/ Market Analyst
Well, at least at one time Alibaba and AliPay gave sellers and buyers free pass on fees. The no-fee competition must have been too much for eBay to bear, on top of the efforts needed to fight transaction fraud in large scale. Money changes hand by bank/ATM transfer is so popular in China, Taiwan and Japan with little or no cost to users, that also caused Paypal’s fee-based structure harder to prevail. I think Japan is another major country that eBay does not have domestic presence. Yet, eBay is still a major channel for Chinese & Asian sellers to market their stuff overseas. That has not changed.
Like (1) 9h
Jun C.

There is a difference between selling a Burger and Selling Internet & Related Business. Burger doesn’t change – but technology, people usage patterns for digital media keep changing, and for China like country it might be impractical to expect success like other countries
Like (1) 9h
Jun C.

Ayodeji I.
public policy analyst
well thought out…quite enlightening
Like 9h

Helen C.
Advanced Controls and Automation Engineer at Air Products
It took me some time to figure out Taobao (the successful Chinese competitor to eBay) because it is only available in Chinese. Now I’ve figured it out, I feel they actually do a better job than eBay. For example there is no need to trust the vendor/seller because Taobao offers a free escrow service on every transaction. Also, shipping is incredibly cheap!
Like (1) 9h
Jun C.

Saif K.
Risk Management Consultant at Enginvest
Thank you for the enlightening article. It really helps understand the dynamics of the business world and markets in the East.
Like 9h

Prangyavit S.
Process Developer at Great Food and Beverage UK
ebay, google and yahoo all r in their young days or in OLC they r in mid stage..So they lack a mature organizational culture which generally seen in old companies . although I agree the over optimistic and pessimistic nature of these companies ,who like to conquer the giant market within a shorter period of time .
Like 9h

Vicky L.
Secretary at Natixis Beijing Representative Office
i think ebay is a wonderful C2C website, i love buying things from this kind of wedsite…because i don’t know if i can buy a real american milk from China…but for me, ebay is not convient, sometimes i don’t know how to use it…so if this kind of website can have a easy operation as TaoBao, that’s will be wonderful…
Like 10h

Brett N.
Managing Director at Once Wed
Does the “Great Fire-Wall of China” and a given internet co’s willingness to go along with this censorship not matter in those “failures”? Mr. Wang, could you please send me a screen cap of an internet search for the term “Tiananmen Square” on any search engine within mainland China? How about unwritten law that China can hack any Western Co’s systems and dares anyone to complain about it? How about the certainty that any company with a physical product will have the specs / designs lifted and copied in China within 12 months regardless of International IP law? That isn’t to say that you can’t win as a foreign Co. in China – Yum Brands seems to be cleaning house. It’s just that you need realistic expectations. Namely that your IP will be enthusiastically lifted / stolen with total impunity, remedy of business issues within the courts will be a joke and the Chicom gov’t will always favor your local competitors in any matter or law / regulation. If you’ve got a business plan that can win against that stacked deck, my hats off to you. To the author of the article – just don’t pretend that western internet companies are all bungling impatient stooges.
Like (9) 10h
Anthony O., Honey M., Solairaja A., John C., and Warini M.

Naresh Reddy R.
IBM BPM Consultant
The censorship is the real road block for the major US tech companies, I partially agree the influence of culture and big market size.
Like (1) 10h
Daniel Roth

Aaron C.
Management Consultant at BDO International
An example that I always tend to use is Wal-Mart. When it entered China in the late 90’s it faced very tough government regulations (could only establish in 11 cities and only operate 3 stores per city). Even when these sanctions lifted upon China’s admittance into the WTO, Wal-Mart continued to have serious problems including the recent “copycat” that is now beating the original. The case of Wal-Mart is riddled with problems from the inability to implement its core advantage in most countries, an efficient logistics system, to serious accusations of human rights violations. The point is that in China a firm should not cut loses at the first sign of trouble, perseverance is a key element of success for the China market.
Like (1) 10h
Anh (Addy) D.

Aaron C.
Management Consultant at BDO International
Great article, excited to read your suggestions in the next of the series. I think after reading the article and the comments made by other readers, I can agree with most of what is being said here. Companies need to have a long-term orientation for expansion into China, regardless of industry. At the same time, it can be said that internet based firms are facing much censorship and regulation in China now. It’s important not to forget that this was also the case for many companies in many industries in the past.
Like (1) 10h
John C.

PhD Candidate (Finance) – The University of Queensland
One obvious different between the internet companies and those manufacturing giants such as GM is that, one can help boost the GDP growth while the others don’t.
Like (1) 10h
Daniel Roth

ZhongNi X.
Undergraduate at Singapore Management University
Totally agree with John. It make sense to say that US companies may not understand the landscape and environment perfectly enough as local companies. But the REAL problem is Government Censorship and Scrutiny. What does Alibaba, Alipay, RenRen, QQ, We-chat, Baidu stands for? Nothing more than a copy-cat that is presented in Chinese. But luckily we did that, imagine if all the e-commerce and social media info are held by US companies, China would completely lose the edge to compete in Tech or at least boost national economy. Censorship and Red Tape is, in nature, bad, but seriously, China needs to do so..
Like (3) 10h
Mauro C., Warini M., and Anthony O.

John L.
Head of Procurement and Responsible Care at Methanex Asia Pacific Ltd
The internet is a powerful medium for social awareness and potential change. It is well known that Western firms have problems with censorship. The same doesn’t apply for cars or hamburgers.
Like (2) 11h
John C. and Warini M.

Preston Smalley 2nd
Product Guy and Entrepreneur @ Comcast Silicon Valley
As someone who spent the 2006 summer in China with eBay Inc trying help it avoid failure, I agree with your main premise that US companies need to invest for the long-term. However, to say that its not *that* different from the US is just not true. eBay’s playbook for country expansion which it employed in Europe was predicated assumptions that 1. buyers and sellers would trust each-other without meeting, 2. buyers could electronically pay sellers, 3. sellers could ship products. In China none of these three were true, at least in 2006. Finally this was an example where the local managers in China already knew this and in fact just didn’t listen to their concerns given the past success the country expansion playbook.
Like (6) 11h
John C., Warini M., Nichole B., Michelle N., and Paul B.

Paul B.
Experienced Finance Executive in Asia Pacific, Asia Literacy Ambassador & Board Member
The author argues eBay failed in China because the country is too big. But eBay also failed in Japan over ten years ago. May point to a lack of cultural awareness of Asian values on the part of western companies, losing out to nimbler local competitors who can tailor their offerings to local tastes better than the big foreign ones
Like (1) 11h
Hang N.

ZiKang C.
Software Engineer
There are many invisible barriers set by local authorities in China like GreatFireWall blocking FaceBook,Google,SlideShare… Most strict censorship and moderation, which is hardly seen in western world. Eachnet failed for Chinese customers are willing to see a worry free online purchase while Taobao has much better user experience, allowing shops to customize the page layout, setting up a virtual credit system for both sellers and buyers, what’s more, they are willing to accept the rule.
Like (2) 11h
John C. and Jay Wong, CPA

Christine W.
China has a protectionist policy when it comes to doing business and the legal structure is very biased. You almost have to bribe the officials, which is just not the American way. Try to deny it, it won’t be because that is not the case, it would be because you’d rather be hush about it.
Like (4) 11h
George K., John C., Frank R., and Matt B.

Vivek S.
Managing Director – Global Supply Chain Group; Trusted Advisor; and, Author of “The 5-STAR Business Network”
What is the role of the Chinese state policy in ‘encouraging’ local players that are knock-offs of larger global players
Like (2) 11h
Vikrant D. and Frank R.

Lance F.
Experienced Global Air Transportation/International Logistics Solution Provider
Good insights. I think one of the reasons why they failed is a lack of understanding of local language & culture and lack of willingness to embrace and capitalize on them. These foreign brands should not be seen by Chinese consumers as overly foreign but instead should be viewed as blending in/actively pursuing their interests and needs (not the other way round).
Like (2) 12h
John C. and Joseph R.

Alfred J.
Director at AME Musica Global GmbH
Endurance was developed in the east, to kill and make a quick buck is the motto of the west.
Like (4) 12h
George K., Jalaj S., Blaine C., and Ibrahim X.

Tony P.
Senior Project Professional
An excellent, fresh insight!
Like 12h

How **** can Win in China?

How about Censorship?

Censorship is another widely spread out excuse for the failure of the Internet giant. Not true. It is part of the reasons, maybe 10%, but not all. There are examples of Google, and Facebook. Yes. They were blocked partially or completely, but that is the only only fatal attack they face. LinkedIn was not banned, but it didn’t grow as fast as people think. eBay was not banned, and majority of the Internet companies were not. Although they survived from the first challenge – whether people can use it – they didn’t survive the sequential challenge that both local and  international Internet companies face: the challenge of a good product, the challenge of a first-class team, the challenge of marketing, and the challenge of competition. Lift the censorship is the first step to success, but not last step.

The management of Internet companies and media tend to put more attention to problems like censorship or other political issues than they actually deserve. It is like that foot is important for a person, but not all. I once broke my ankel and were in wheel chair for 3 months. Everyone noticed that I am so different from everyone else, but only I know that the broken ankel does not affect my life that big as people expect – at least when I use computer, or sleep, or talk with people – these activities occupy majority of my life. Censorship makes situation so different from other places, but I would strongly encourage people to focus on business challenges.

Another similar argument was that Taobao was free but eBay was not. Similarly, that is only one of the many challenges. There are many other free sites but why Taobao dominate eventually? It is just small part of the story.

The Details


I am Back

It has been uneasy three years for me. The blog was affected by the unstable mood of myself, and was a honest, and solid reflection of who I am – good times, and more importantly, the bad times.

I am back to blog again. This is different from the previous back. It has been quite some time since I last blogged – that is exactly 4 months ago. It was quite dramatic in the last four months, and I experienced things. This time, it was a calm back, and I don’t think I can easily defeated, or went down. The confidence was rebuilt, and I am sure this new version of myself is better, more confident, and more lovely.

Blogging is dead, at least in statistic or media revolution terms. But life is not. Thoughts are not. I will shift with the new technology trends, and adapt that, and move on.

Thanks for everyone who has supported me, and trusted me. People see things. People experience things, and we grow.


Job Posting from a Friend

I generally don’t do this, but Yang Meng is so special to me so I promised to post a job for him to my expat community, although I warned him not many people are still following this blog. :-) Here you go.

Make life better. Get in on the ground. Start a career at Anker.

Started by a few ex-Googlers in 2009, Anker set out with one goal in mind: to design reliable, affordable yet inspiring products which we would use ourselves. Today Anker has 100+ employees globally, spread among Changsha, Shenzhen, San Jose, Tokyo and Beijing.

We’re passionate about technology and looking for ways to make life easier, more convenient, less consumed by the day-to-day. Anker thrives on the enthusiasm of a hardworking, earnest family of employees. If you’re looking for a job to challenge, inspire and reward you, we’d love to sit down and start talking about adding you to our team. We could be reached via recruiting@ianker.com. If you know someone who might be a good candidate, we’d also love to hear from you and hopefully thank you with our $2,000 referral bonus once the person is hired.

Position 1: Copywriter (in Changsha/Beijing)

As a copywriter at Anker, you will serve as a representative of our brand by producing the written materials necessary to interact with customers. Both individually and as part of a team, you’ll find ways of reaching out to the public. By thinking from a user’s perspective, you’ll determine how to illustrate our products to the world.

Job Description

– Consider newly developed products from the consumer’s point of view.
– Craft compelling storylines, taglines, and other narrative “nuggets” to introduce our products to a Western audience.
– Serve as a written ambassador of our brand by contributing to the company website, leaflets, promotional events, etc.

Job Requirements

– Strong written and time management skills.
– Ability to view products from the customer’s perspective and figure out ways to attract them.
– Interest in gadgets and technology (smartphones, tablets, etc.)
– Outgoing personality with the humility to work as part of a team.
– Comfortable expressing him/herself in a Chinese work environment, preferably in Chinese.

Position 2: Marketing Supervisor (in Changsha/Beijing)

Be the mouthpiece of our company. We’re looking for someone with a flair for influencing others. Whether this be face-to-face or through online social media, you will be the person who works to spread our name. We need a juggler for this role – the ability to multi-task and plan ahead will be crucial to success.

Job Description

– Build lasting relationships with members of the media to trumpet our brand.
– Create a strong online presence for our company through social media websites.
– Wear a variety of hats to communicate with consumers via forums and other channels.

Job Requirements

– Warm personality and eagerness to meet new people.
– In tune with tech media, preferably with established contacts.
– Well-versed as to the ins and outs of social media.
– Excited to use persuasion and influence to ignite our brand.

Knowledge vs Resources from Friends

Mr. Systrom, now 29, offered this as a parable for the roomful of would-be entrepreneurs who came to hear him talk at Stanford last spring: in the intensely competitive start-up scene here, success is as much about who you know as what you know. “Make sure to spend some time after the talk getting to know the people around you,” he told his audience.

 He is right in both China and US. But in the valley, although people provide connections, most people provide knowledge and advice, just as Adam D’Anglo did for Instagram, but in China, people generally expect resources.

IP Only

I created my first plugin when I created my CEO Blog. The problem is obvious: I am going to have a CEO blog where I can share my thoughts with the team frequently. I tried to write a different blog, and I found it is just impossible to maintain two. So I decided to put it on to my own personal blog.

Although most of the articles are public in nature, I do have something that I hope to disclose to the general public later. I don’t want to have complicated OAuth based verification. A simple IP based restriction is good enough. There is no simple solution so I wrote one myself.

Here is the ZIP of the plugin: http://home.wangjianshuo.com/wordpresscn/wp-content/plugins/iponly/iponly.zip

You can download it, modify it, and do whatever you want. There are many hard code in the system – I never blame developers for doing dirty hacks when the time is limited, but we do need to polish it from time to time.

I promise to add all the hard code to options, and create an admin panel for it, in the next version.