There are many statues of men slaying lions, but if lions were sculptors, how different statues would be. News that the mighty taxi company Uber, rather than slaying the Chinese market, has been slain by local rival Didi Chuxing, suggests the lions — or since we are talking about China, dragons — have learned to carve.
"We were a young American business entering a country where most US internet companies had failed to crack the code," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick admitted this week. It was an expensive failure. Reports suggest it had poured north of $2bn into its attempt to assault Didi's 80% plus market share.
Not that Uber wasn't warned. Uber was pretty well assured to join the long list of mighty US tech giants — Google, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, Groupon — that have been savaged by the Chinese dragon.
Only the late, and not much lamented, Yahoo had a successful China strategy, thanks to its deal with Chinese business magnate, Jack Ma, Chairman of Alibaba Group.
"So far we haven't seen a foreign internet company that has made it big in China," Andrew Teoh, managing partner of Ameba Capital, told The Wall Street Journal.
China, once a target for the West, is now quite the opposite
But while China still looks like a very attractive — even if frustratingly out of reach — opportunity for Western companies, pumped full of VC dollars, the view from Beijing looks very different. With China's huge cash mountain, (its current account balance was estimated by the World Bank to be $330bn in 2015), it's no longer happy simply to be a target for Western companies, instead its tech sector is expanding heavily.
Speaking earlier this year, Baidu CEO Robin Li, made it clear the Chinese search giant is not content to stay in China, counting its cash. And Europe is looking increasingly attractive.
"I think eventually we will go into Europe, U.S. and then many other places," Li said during a tech event in Paris. "We are in a number of countries, but we need to find a new battleground. Search is maturing, and mobile is very different from desktop. We need to find ways to access this kind of new market."
Historically Baidu has typically operated in developing nations, with operations in nearby Indonesia and Thailand, as well as in Brazil.
Quite what Baidu will do in Europe is unclear. Google dominates search, with over 90% of market share. Russia's Yandex, while significant in its local market and some CIS countries, has barely made an impact on Turkey, languishing with a single digit market share, despite having been in the country for five years.
Chinese brands invading foreign markets
However, Baidu isn't alone. Online marketplace giant Alibaba has appointed country managers in the UK and Italy and Alipay announced earlier this year that it was setting up operations in Europe, for now targeting Chinese tourists dealing with Western merchants.
China's telecom equipment and handset maker Huawei has long seen Europe as a strong alternative to the US where security concerns have plagued relations. While the company has been blocked from US markets over fears of "back doors" in their cell tower and routing technologies, Europe has embraced the Shenzhen-based company, and it in turn has returned the love.
"Europe is an open, welcoming place to do business and it is becoming more and more like a second home market for Huawei," William Xu, Huawei's chief strategy-marketing officer told The Wall Street Journal.
The company has deals with Volkswagen and German camera maker Leica, and last year announced a global research centre focused on innovation in aesthetics and design in Paris, as part of a $600 million expansion in to France. It bought Neul, the Cambridge Internet of Things company in 2015, and announced a £5m investment into the University of Surrey's 5G Innovation Centre.
Nor is it just Europe that is benefiting from China's tech expansionism — Israel, once described as "Silicon Valley for the rest of the World", has established itself as a key ally of Beijing.
Shortly after Alibaba's IPO in 2015, the company invested in Visualead, the Israeli startup that creates "designer" QR codes. Baidu bought into Israeli startup Pixellot and led a $5m investment round in Israeli music education startup Tonara.
Furthermore Israel is fast becoming a key market for Chinese investors. In 2015, Chinese VC investments in Israel, predominantly in its successful tech sector, stood at some $1.77bn, roughly 40% of total venture capital investment in Israel. Cortica , an Israeli photo identification start-up, raised $20m, most of which came from one of China's big four Internet companies.
Horizon Ventures, the venture capital fund of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, is now among the most active venture firms in Israel. It has invested in more than 25 start-ups in Israel in the last three years.
So while US tech companies continue to throw money at China in the hope that one of them will find the golden key to unlock the huge spending power of China's emerging middle class — analysts McKinsey estimate Chinese consumers have $5tn to spend — China's home-fuelled tech successes are using that cash to target Western tech companies.
We can expect to see a different set of statues in future.