Cautionary tale sometimes told to admonish executives not to base investment decisions in China solely on the putative size of the Chinese market based on its population alone, or to assume that their products or services will be automatically attractive or profitable in China. In the 1970s, an Irish trade mission visited China. On the delegation was a senior Irish diplomat as well as representatives of a number of large Irish companies and industries.
One of the delegation was a representative of the Irish footwear industry, who was able to do little or no business, especially when compared to the success of executives from Irish power generation, aircraft leasing, and other businesses and industries; finally the perplexed diplomat asked the footwear ‘rep’ why he had bothered coming on the trip. He replied
“well there’s over a billion Chinese; imagine if we could sell them all just one shoe.”
Over the following years, low cost imports from, amongst other places, China, devastated the mass-market Irish shoe industry; one-legged Chinamen buying Irish shoes have yet to appear in serious numbers.