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Where there is a will, there is a way.

 
 
 

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年过半百,经历坎坷.少年遇"文革",下乡八载,虽历经磨难,唯斗志不减,农耕间隙自学不辍,终守得云开日出,考进大学.大学毕业后先后经历了中学执教,国企管理,外企高管,最后回归重执教鞭.目前在家精心培养有志掌握英语的中小学生. 我最大的愿望就是看到孩子学有所成,桃李天下.

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我新发表的文章《Brain vs. brawn》  

2013-11-25 09:21:34|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Brain vs. brawn

 

Wu Guangqiang

 I WAS recently fascinated by a TV documentary on China Central Television. The six-part program offered a unique perspective on the history of the development and innovation of China’s equipment manufacturing industry. Through this lens, I saw how Chinese engineers, technicians and ordinary workers toil with sweat and wisdom to create the legendary Chinese equipment manufacturing industry from scratch, catching up with global manufacturing giants and taking the lead in certain areas.

A panorama of China’s breakthroughs in so many key areas is impressive; China is now among the world’s main players in the making of equipment for machine tools, engineering machinery, electricity generation and transmission, port machinery, marine technology, rail transportation and energy-saving.

China is on the way to morphing from a manufacturing hub to a manufacturing powerhouse, but it should carefully address several issues before it can become the world’s leader in manufacturing.

One of the widespread fallacies about industrial upgrading is that China should ditch labor-intensive manufacturing, or even all manufacturing, in order to move upward to a service-oriented economy like America. Figuratively, it should be brain, not brawn, that determines China’s future.

America and EU countries are still regretting hollowing out their manufacturing, because no other sectors can supply enough jobs to reduce the dire unemployment as can manufacturing. The U.S. is doing its utmost to move factories back home. Therefore, the talk about brawn giving way to brain is losing its appeal in China. Above all, only China itself is capable of satiating its own endless demand for material wealth with its massive productive capability. Imagine, who but China can build a high-speed railway network connecting the entire nation within a short time?

Yet, as to how manufacturing should be strengthened, there remain some misconceptions. One of them is about the relationship between brain and brawn. Conventional wisdom holds that China’s manufacturing is in a bind with rapidly rising labor costs on the one hand and a lack of innovative spirit and well-trained technicians on the other.

This is a typical example of a dichotomous way of thinking. Yes, labor may be cheaper elsewhere, but it is only one cost among several. How about well-developed infrastructure, sophisticated supply chains and the advantage of scale that China enjoys? Not to mention the quality of Chinese workers: they are diligent, eager to learn and highly self-disciplined. Mass production of billions of smartphones or tablet computers can only take place in China. Whenever orders flood in for a new product that is all the rage, new production lines must be set up and hundreds of thousands of extra skilled hands must be hired in a matter of days or even hours, and who else but China can do it?

It’s also a mistake to contradict high-tech industries with intensive manual labor. To my surprise, as shown in the documentary, arduous and tedious manual labor is still irreplaceable in producing even the most advanced and sophisticated equipment. For instance, experienced welders rather than robots fulfill the task of welding gas tanks of LPG ships. The making of such huge machinery still requires considerable amount of manual work, like hammering, screwing, pressing and wiring. However, as equipment and products are becoming more intelligent and integrated, production is increasingly personalized, customized and service-oriented. Brain is playing a much more important role than brawn, and so bringing up a new generation of talented workers is key for China to continue upgrading its manufacturing.

Another misconception is that private enterprises walk over State-owned companies (SOEs) in terms of competitiveness and innovation. Some radicals even call for the elimination of SOEs. Nothing can be more erroneous than this judgment. SOEs, which have been around for over six decades in China, have accumulated profound experience in production, marketing and corporate governance. In such key fields as infrastructure construction, heavy and chemical industry, SOEs are extremely competitive. With deep reserves of talent and technology, SOEs can work side by side with private companies to make China stronger.

As long as all businesses, State-owned or private, large or small, are given a fair market environment and excellent government service, they will both grow and flourish. In addition, benign competition between businesses of different ownership is one of China’s unique strengths, which can add to China’s competitiveness. Encouraging private firms’ equity participation in SOEs and vice versa will further spur China’s manufacturing.

 

(The author is an English tutor and a freelance writer.)

 

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