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"The Name's Jiss, Jiss Bon" - Chinese Brands For Foreigners

After The New York Times described how Western brands translate their names into Chinese, we look at it from the other angle – how do Chinese brands identify themselves to foreigners?

China hands are so familiar with the initials CCTV that they groan at newcomers' jokes about how the state television network shares its acronym with a surveillance system.

Likewise, old China hands have probably tired of Jissbon (杰士邦). “The name is Jiss, Jiss Bon,” Sean Connery might have said if he had been taking pronunciation lessons from condom maker 杰士邦 (transliterated at Jieshibang). Laowai lore has it that the owners wanted to link their contraceptives with 007 and his reputation for charm and seduction. The legend is probably false – James Bond is (詹姆斯 邦德) – but there’s no doubting Jissbon's mastery of English idiom.

For the moment, most of the foreigner consumers of Jissbon and CCTV are living in China. Those brands haven’t had to square up against the likes of Fox and Durex. The same is true of clothier Metersbonwe (美特斯邦威, pronounced Meitisibangwei) and Yili Milk(伊利集团), but those companies have splashed out to get their names onto cinema screens around the world in Transformers: Dark of the Moon from Paramount .

Computer maker Lenovo (联想集团, Lianxiang jituan), one of the few Chinese consumer brands with a large market share in the West, was forced to change its name from Legend because other companies had already registered the trademark. The company, which acquired IBM personal computer business in 2005, kept the “le” of legend, making it new by adding the Latin word “novo.” Were it not for the company’s helpful website explanation, foreigners might never have understood.

Here are some Chinese companies and the way that they’d like to be called by foriegners:


Car companies -  Gree (珠海格力电器股份有限, Geli), Chery (奇瑞, Qirui), Geely (吉利, Jili) BYD (比亚迪, Biyadi)

Electronics retailer - GOME (国美, Guomei); online retailer 360 Buy (京东网,  Jingdong)

Internet companies - Sina (新浪, Xinlang), Tencent (腾讯, Tengxun)

Bank card payment system - China Union Pay (中国银联, zhongguo yinlian)

Translation of Chinese names

Shoes - Double Star (双星, shuang xing), Kiss Cat (接吻猫,  jiewenmao) 

Telecoms - China Telecom (中国电信集团), China Unicom (中国联合网络通信)

Other - Bank of China (中国银行),  Air China (中国国际航),

Transliteration of Chinese name (using Pinyin system)

Milk - Mengniu (蒙牛), Electronics - Huawei (华为),  Insurance - Ping An (平安), Home appliances - Haier (海尔)

Transliteration of Chinese name (using Wade-Giles system)

Beer - Tsingtao (青岛, Qingdao)

Variations on transliterations

Baijiu - Moutai (茅台, Maotai)






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The Economic Observer's editorial staff are always on the look out for interesting, fresh and high-quality China-related content. Whether it's the latest buzz on Weibo, links to insightful articles or updates on the latest books and reports, through China Buzz we'll keep you in the loop about what's going on in the world of Chinese politics and economics.

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