Last month I had the opportunity to travel to China again. I stayed in Wuhan for three weeks on company business. My company is launching a couple of new products in China, one for global consumption, the other for local consumption. Launching a new product is challenging enough, but doing it in a foreign country amplifies the typical problems that arise when starting something new.
Traveling to China multiple times has changed my opinion of this country. My prior view of China was solely based on the media and the fact that China is a communist country. I envisioned a place with unhappy, poor people who have no freedom. In fact, a coworker refused to go because he said he would not travel to a third world country. According to Wikipedia, China is a second world country, whereas the US, UK and "their allies" are first world countries. Based on my experiences China is not going to be a second world country for much longer.
Initially, I had some negative feelings about launching products in China as opposed to the USA. Yes, the cost of labor is lower than the USA, but what I have discovered is that the Chinese are consumers just like us (US). Most Chinese have jobs. They buys homes like we do. They buy transportation like we do, more and more cars. They buy clothes, entertainment and food like we do. They all buy cell phones, many of them are Iphones. China is a huge developing market, to be taken advantage of from a business perspective. As I said earlier, one of the product launches is global. This means the product will be manufactured in China and the USA. The other product is local which means that it will be made, sold and consumed in China. It is sad to see the USA job market shrinking, but I believe that the rate of decline will eventually stabilize just as the rate of growth in China will stabilize. In the near future, being a global company will mean having a sustainable footprint in every country to supply to every market.
The current development rate in China has to be seen to be believed. Yellow cranes perched on top of buildings rising to the sky can be seen in every direction. All of these buildings are 20-30 story buildings. Most buildings appear to be half constructed, or completed but still vacant. There are so many buildings under construction or vacant that I wonder if the government is supporting these projects just for the purpose of employment and no real finished purpose. It is that mind-blowing. Cars, buses, trucks and taxis fill multi-lane highways. The roads and highways are lined with landscaping, sometimes 3 or 4 lines deep. There are so many trees and bushes visible on a commute that one could wonder if the government isn't just a giant nursery supplier. At the same time, China is like an old house under remodel. There are many parts of China that do make one think of a third world. These parts of China are waiting to be torn down to make more room for more construction.
Even my views on communism are less certain. Communism and capitalism appear to cohabitate in China just like democracy and capitalism in the USA. The Chinese pay taxes and pay for insurance. Sound familar? There's no doubt that China has challenges. Air pollution is obvious in densely populated areas. China appears to be addressing this problem by tightening the regulations on air pollution. Beijing is now reporting on PM 2.5: particulates in the air measuring less than 2.5 microns. Also, media restrictions should be loosened. Steps towards free speech appear to be happening as China has their own forms of Youtube, Facebook and blogging that criticizes the government. I even heard discussions about the possible end of the one child policy.
This post ends with a few videos from my trip: