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Myopia in China

Eyesight in Asia is getting poorer. Almost 90% of the population in both Hong Kong and Singapore, relatively small and wealthy places where people get lots of screen time, suffer from nearsightedness, a.k.a. myopia. In China, a place where people, on average, don't get to enjoy quite as much screen time, that number is over 30%, which is still an abnormal level of myopia for any population. And so the Chinese government, never one to let a social problem it doesn't like get too out of hand, has taken action to combat this epidemic and the target is the video gaming industry.

 Image result for video games eyesight

Clearly video game marketers didn't see this one coming. And China, like so many nations that have an "arm's length" relationship with free-market economics, has decided that the best way forward is to limit the number of new games for sale. One could say that this rather extreme yet characteristic move is a bit myopic in and of itself, especially when you consider that there is not yet any scientific correlation between video, games, screen time, and the development of nearsightedness. Genes and diet play a huge part in myopia, and it is certain that screen time is probably a major contributor; but any meaningful screen time research is still forthcoming.

 Image result for video games eyesight

But this is the sort of thing that communist countries like China, the former Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela and others have been known for. Since government owns and controls the means of production, it rules commercial activity with a heavy hand. And this action highlights the inherent risks in doing business with most of the countries outside the U.S., U.K. and European Union. Simply put, most of these places are not very "free" by U.S. standards, which makes many of them very risky places for profit-seeking companies to do business. Venezuela is only our most recent high-profile example of what can happen when these regimes take control too far, but we have seen this movie over and over again. None of this stops marketers from wanting to penetrate international markets, however, whose people are hungry for goods and services and cannot be ignored.

Image result for video games eyesight 

One of the important lessons for marketers to take from this action in China is make sure that they really understand all of the nuances in the marketing environment, especially in international markets which are replete with myriad opportunities and threats. The political environment is often underestimated by marketers, but the truth is that the leaders in these places can quickly and decisively influence economic activity (especially in non-democratic regimes like China). Countries that favor a more socialistic, but less autocratic approach to government such as France, Spain, Greece, and Italy, are also guilty of a tendency to rely on regulation and taxation as a means to influence businesses to direct social change. This makes doing business in these places a far more challenging proposition.


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