U.S. technology companies like Facebook and Google should still keep trying to get into China despite censorship and other challenges because the rewards could be big, the head of a trade body told CNBC on Wednesday.
Many American technology firms have struggled in China. Facebook and Google are both banned under the censorship regime in the world’s second-largest economy.
Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, which represents 2,200 firms, made the comments as the annual Consumer Electronics Show Asia kicked off. CES is held in Las Vegas every year and showcases the latest gadgets and technology. But the organization also holds an event in Asia, which is now in its third year.
“There are challenges … there is still major censorship that goes on here. But if you can get into the market, if you could get the partner, if you can understand the rather vague and ambiguous market, you have a huge market of 1.4 billion people and a lot of them are middle and upper class,” Shapiro told CNBC.
Some U.S. technology firms have publicly said China is not a market they are focusing all their efforts on in the short-term. Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, told CNBC in May that China was “off the table for the next couple of years.” Yet despite the challenges, there are definitely rewards.
“It is tough to get in this market, but it’s worth it,” Shapiro said.
The CTA head discussed the relationship between the U.S. and Chinese governments and said there is a “much better relationship” than anyone thought there would be after the anti-Chinese rhetoric during last year’s election campaign. Then-candidate Donald Trump had threatened to brand China as a currency manipulator, but his administration has since backed away from that label.