18 Booming Chinese Brands That Could Take Over The World


Photo: Middlebury Career Services

China is now home to some of the biggest brands in the world — some of which you may have never even heard of.Many of these brands, however, suffer from negative commercial perceptions internationally. It’s not enough to be innovative and low-cost for these brands to go global. They have to get consumers to associate their names with values like trust and quality to overcome that.

It may be tough, but it’s not a hopeless endeavour. Just look at South Korean brands Samsung and Hyundai, who completely reversed how they’re viewed in consumers’ minds.

We looked at the Hurun Research Institute’s annual report and pulled out the top 18. It’s immediately evident that they’re growing heavily domestically. The average top 100 brand has increased 27% in value from last year, and there are now nine Chinese brands that are worth upwards of $10 billion. But what are they doing to develop their brands, and which ones are going to come out on top?

#18 Wahaha

Brand value: $4.4 billion

Food and beverage brand Wahaha is part of the privately-held Hangzhou Wahaha Group -- the largest beverage producer in China. Its products include bottled water, fruit juices, tea drinks, milk drinks, noodles, sunflower seeds and much more.

Wahaha has strongly identified itself with Chinese culture, differentiating itself from global beverage brands like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. But if it ever decides to go head-on, Wahaha is sure to cause a ruckus.

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

#17 CPIC

Brand value: $4.5 billion

Established in 1991, China Pacific Insurance (Group) Co. focuses primarily in life and property insurance, but also does investment and asset management. It went public in 2007, and hasn't made a major push globally yet.

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

#16 Bank of Communications

Brand value: $4.5 billion

China's Bank of Communications, or BoCom, has been around for over a century, and is now one of the top five commercial banks in China. HSBC bought a 19.9% chunk of the company in 2005.

BoCom has set up branches in New York, Tokyo and Singapore, along with representative offices in London and Frankfurt, though the name is still unfamiliar to most in the US and Europe.

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

#15 Taobao

Brand value: $5.0 billion

Taobao is a massive online shopping site founded by Internet giant Alibaba Group. The site features an auction marketplace (though the vast majority of transactions are for new merchandise at fixed prices) along with a huge online gateway for big brands called Taobao Mall.

Taobao's biggest struggle is fighting the big American Internet brands, particularly Amazon. But with Alibaba getting increasingly involved abroad, who knows what its next big move will be.

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

#14 Wuliangye

Brand value: $7.5 billion

Wuliangye Yibin is a liquor company that makes a variety of different beverages. Its trademark product is called Wuliangye, made from rice, glutinous rice, wheat, corn and broomcorn. It has become representative of Chinese wine.

It's hard for culture-specific brands like Wuliangye to break out, since the drink is so unfamiliar to international consumers. But people do like to try new things, so if the product and branding is good enough, Wuliangye could break out.

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

#13 China Telecom

Brand value: $8.5 billion

China Telecom is the largest land line telecommunications company in China, and also ranks 3rd in the mobile space. The company was founded in 2002 as a state-owned monopoly, but has since been split up. It's listed on both the Hong Kong and New York stock exchanges, but the government retains majority ownership.

It has been making moves in Europe, trying to increase its presence. And it's bringing business back into China, most notably with a recent partnership with SAP to help bring cloud technology to small businesses.

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

#12 China Merchants Bank

Brand value: $9.0 billion

Founded in 1987, China Merchants Bank now has more than eight hundred branches and sub-branches throughout mainland China and Hong Kong. It went public in 2002.

CMB opened a New York branch in 2008, but likely suffers the same lack of trust stigma that the other Chinese banks do overseas (aside from its expatriot customers).

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

#11 Chunghwa

Brand value: $9.8 billion

Chunghwa is a cigarette brand made by the state-owned Shanghai Tobacco Group. It has constantly been at the top of the heap in terms of annual commercial wholesale income, and ranks as the most valuable cigarette brand on Hurun's list.

Though tobacco is on the decline in big markets like the US, Chunghwa probably doesn't even need it. China boasts the biggest market for cigarettes in the world, by far.

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

#10 Kweichow Moutai

Brand value: $9.9 billion

The state-owned Kweichow Moutai Company primarily makes Maotai, a type of liquor that originated during the Qing Dynasty (1600's-1900's). Kweichow Moutai was #2 in market share as of 2008, trailing only Wuliangye, according to the China Economic Review. It's the top alcoholic beverage brand on Hurun's list this year.

Like rival Wuliangye, Kweichow Moutai has to find a way to connect its distinct image with other cultures if it ever decides to make a big move internationally.

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

#9 Ping An

Brand value: $11.0 billion

Ping An is an insurance giant founded in 1988. It started as a casualty insurance company, but soon expanded into all sorts of financial services. It went public in 2004, and now HSBC has become its biggest shareholder, with a 16.8% stake.

Ping An has representatives dispersed throughout 150 countries around the world.

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

#8 Agricultural Bank of China

Brand value: $11.6 billion

The Agricultural Bank of China, or AgBank, is considered one of China's 'Big Four' banking titans. Its monster IPO in 2010 totaled $22.1 billion -- the largest IPO ever. Forbes lists the bank as the 25th largest public company in the world, just behind Volkswagen.

AgBank's brand took a hit when it fell victim to the largest bank robbery in Chinese history in 2007, but it has still attracted investors from across the world, from Wall Street to the Middle East.

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

#7 Tencent QQ

Brand value: $11.8 billion

Tencent QQ and its little penguin mascot have become a cultural phenomenon in China. It's one of the largest online communities in the world -- thanks to the reported 800+ million active accounts on QQ's instant messaging service. QQ.com is also China's most-used Internet service portal.

QQ put up an international portal in 2009, with limited success.

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

#6 ChinaLife

Brand value: $15.6 billion

ChinaLife provides life insurance and various annuity products. It became the world's #2 insurer behind AIG after going public in 2003.

ChinaLife was one of the insurers involved in the 2009 scandal when China's audit office exposed a near half-billion dollar embezzlement scheme. But with other big global insurers taking huge reputational hits at the same time, ChinaLife's issue may not have seemed so bad.

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

#5 Bank of China

Brand value: $22.4 billion

The state-owned Bank of China is considered the oldest bank in China. It was founded in the early 1900's to replace the Government Bank of Imperial China as the country's central bank, but it switched to a commercial bank in 1923. It's now one of the 'Big Four' banks, and the #2 lender in China.

The Bank of China became the first Chinese bank to offer RMB products for Americans in 2010, but it has to overcome the stigma of its very government-sounding name and state ownership to connect with the American public.

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

#4 Baidu

Brand value: $24.4 million

Baidu is China's premier web services company, boasting the most-used search engine (which earns 63% of Internet search revenue in China), an online community-built Wiki-like encyclopedia and much more. It's the top privately-owned brand in Hurun's rankings.

Baidu has been jousting with Google in China, and has been winning thus far. But will it ever be possible for Baidu to fight Google on its own turf -- or at least in some other international markets?

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

#3 CCB

Brand value: $35.9 billion

China Construction Bank is another one of China's 'Big Four' banks. Bank of America got involved with CCB in 2005, purchasing a 9% stake in the company, but sold a big chunk of it off in 2011 to raise capital.

CCB has branches in London and New York, and is the only big Chinese bank that's part of the Global ATM alliance (with Bank of America, Barclays, Deutsche Bank and more).

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

#2 China Mobile

Brand value: $42.2 billion

The state-owned China Mobile is the largest telecom company in the world, and the largest mobile operator. The company was spawned from the 1999 breakup of China Telecom.

There's plenty of demand out there in emerging markets for telecom services, and China Mobile showed that it wants a piece of it with its purchase of Paktel in Pakistan.

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)


Brand value: $43.6 billion

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is the largest of the 'Big Four' banks, and shows its might by earning the top spot on Hurun's list. It set the record for the world's largest IPO in 2006 at $21.9 billion, but that would later be broken in 2010 by AgBank.

ICBC has been aggressive overseas, trying to entrench its brand in Europe (and planning to in Brazil and Peru), according to Reuters.

Data calculated by Hurun (home-grown, direct-to-consumer brands only)

Where do they stack up against the rest of the world?

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