Fifty-one intrepid PMPA members journeyed halfway around the world in late October 2003 to learn more about China and Chinese manufacturing capabilities. With the trip completed, our objectives met and everyone safely back home, PMPA is preparing a formal report to the membership.
As an introduction to that report, PMPA recently released a summary presentation titled, China: Land of Contrasts — Globalization Lessons from the PMPA Trade Mission to China. The document, available on the PMPA Web site as an Adobe pdf, provides an overview of general observations and impressions from the trip.
The presentation makes it clear that the China experienced on the trip is a land of great contrasts. Participants saw “state-of-the-art” equipment and systems in some places, and “state-of-the-1950s” equipment in others. They saw examples of every crude characterization ever made about China and Chinese manufacturing capabilities. Then, sometimes in the next moment, they saw evidence disproving every one of those characterizations.
The visit lasted only 7 days, and included only 7 Chinese manufac-turing companies in Beijing and Shanghai. Yet, it soon became clear that anyone who speaks in generalizations about China and Chinese manufacturing capabilities will be, by definition, wrong.
China: Land of Contrasts relies heavily on pictures to illustrate observations and impressions. There is much more to see in the various photographs than simply what the captions relate. Those who examine the photos closely, critically and forensically will find many clues explaining Chinese manufacturing and its competitive position.
Sometimes, the similarities between Chinese and North American manufacturers are hauntingly familiar. Several of the companies visited on the trip are literally being forced out of prime, downtown locations by construction of high-rise offices and apartments. Chinese manufacturing managers in Shanghai complained bitterly of the competitive pressures they face in meeting lower-cost competition from the western provinces.
The most striking observation from the trip is that China will not stand still or stop to take a breath during its heady journey from an ancient childhood, through its tumultuous teens and into its current position as the 21st Century’s most formidable economic competitor. Our industry must come to terms with this new reality of globalization.