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China Sends a Wake-Up Call to All Multinationals - Are You Awake?

John Yunker

If you visit Marriott's China website today, you're likely to see this (screenshot below). I dumped the text within this page into Google Translate and included below is what it loosely said.

Loose translation:

We are currently updating the website.

For reservations,
Please call:
Mainland China: 4008 844 371
Hong Kong Special Administration Region of China: 800 908 290
Or visit www.marriott.com

Marriott International respects China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will absolutely not support any separatists organizations that will undermine China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. We apologize for any act that may give rise to misunderstandings in the above position.

So what exactly happened here?

According to Skift, Marriott sent a survey in Mandarin to its Chinese loyalty members that referred to Tibet, Macau, and Taiwan as "countries." As readers of this site might know quite well by now, in the eyes of Chinese authorities, this is no trivial oversight. It appears that this shutdown could last a week.

I can only imagine the lively conversations being held at the highest levels within Marriott right now.

This should be a wake-up call to all organizations

I'm working on the 2018 edition of the Web Globalization Report Card and have compiled a list of a number of websites that are currently vulnerable to the wrath of China.

For the record, I don't agree with China. And I know many execs at Western-based multinationals don't as well. But it doesn't matter what we think. If you want to do business in China, you have to play by its rules.

In Marriott's defense, its website did not list Taiwan as a country — but it appears that someone in marketing was not well versed on this very delicate geopolitical issue. This would be a good time for any company that does business, not just in China, but anywhere outside of its native country, to consider planning regular Globalization Summits. I've participated in a number of these over the years and find they go a long way in raising awareness to a range of geopolitical issues — as well as the sharing of best practices. Contact me if you'd like more information — I also now include copies of Think Outside the Country.

By John Yunker, Author and founder of Byte Level Research
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