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#77—Lele Sang: Lessons on Competing in China

#77—Lele Sang: Lessons on Competing in China

Lele Sang is Globe Fellow at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and coauthor (with Professor Karl Ulrich) of Winning in China: 8 Stories of Success and Failure in the World’s Largest Economy (Wharton School Press, 2021). She is also a contributor to Harvard Business Review and writes about international business. A formal journalist and editor, She has interviewed world leaders from prime ministers to Fortune 500 company CEOs. In addition to journalism, she had stints at startups and multinational corporations as a marketer in both the United States and China.

Lele was a visiting scholar at the University of California - Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism. She holds an MPA degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

In this podcast, she shares:

  • Several counter-intuitive lessons from the successes and failures of companies like Amazon, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Intel

  • Three conditions necessary to compete in China

  • What competitive advantages may not work in China though it works in your market

  • Five key managerial decisions when competing in China


"One characteristic of the Chinese market is consumers are open-minded, they always want to try new products and new services. So that actually provides an opportunity for global companies to create demand for their offerings."

-Lele Sang


Episode Timeline:

00:00—Short preview of Lele's episode

00:48—Introducing Lele + The topic of today’s episode

2:04—If you really know me, you know that...

4:09—What is your definition of strategy?

5:04—Can you tell us how you went from being a journalist to where you are now?

5:58—Can you explain what caused you to expand the focus of your book from being about the failure of tech companies entering China, to a broader focus?

6:20—Can you give us an example of how competing in China is different than other markets?

8:18—Can you give us examples of companies that successfully did enter the Chinese market, and what we can learn from them?

10:41—What do you think we have to learn about Amazon's attempt to enter the Chinese market, which wasn't the most successful?

12:49—What do you find that people most get wrong that doesn't work in the China context?

14:00—You talk about five key managerial decisions you have to make to compete in China—can you brief us on those?

16:16—How can people connect and learn from you?


Additional Resources:

Personal Page:


Wharton Faculty Page:

The 4th Option Junto
The Outthinkers podcast is a growth strategy podcast hosted by Kaihan Krippendorff. Each week, Kaihan talks with forward-looking strategists and innovators that are challenging the status quo, leading the future of business, and shaping our world.