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Category Archives: Chinese Government

I am in China again this week and it seems everyone wants to know about the US elections.  They watched the Presidential debates and the election news with great interest and a kind of wondrous amazement.  “We heard what your politicians believe and what they will do,” one executive told me.  “In China, we have no idea what the policies of the leaders will be.”

I hadn’t really considered the difference in politics this way.  Americans have access, information and a fundamental understanding of what the leadership is planning.  Chinese people have none of this.  Most people have no clue about what is in the new Chinese 5-year plan, or how the new Communist Party Chief Xi will lead the country.

With the US elections now over and Obama reelected, the new President Xi assuming the leadership of China and Putin in Russia, we should all be wondering what will change in the world.   These three super-powers will surely bring dynamic change in the world order.

The Chinese Communist Party began its leadership transition as the 18th National Congress opened in early November.  This transition in leadership happens only once every 10 years. The new President Xi will be charged with executing the new Chinese 5-year Plan, developed earlier this year.  This plan includes a heavy emphasis on the environment, and from what I have observed in China, whatever the government decides to do, gets done.

In the US we have had the privilege of watching the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates, listened to endless TV advertising and news reports.  We have a pretty good idea about the President’s agenda.  But how that agenda will interact with Xi’s and Putin’s is a big unknown.

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I visited a State Owned Enterprise (SOE) machine shop near 5th Ring Road in Beijing one very hot and humid August afternoon.  The machine shop was located among a cluster of buildings that didn’t seem very remarkable from the outside.  But inside was a different story.

We were greeted by the Plant Manager and the Operations Manager, who were expecting us for a visit that afternoon.  After the greetings were exchanged, the two managers disappeared to take a phone call and we were left to wander the plant by ourselves, unescorted. 

We walked down the center aisle of the machine shop, surrounded by giant drilling and cutting machinery making thunderous noise and throwing off metal shavings.  We were offered no eyewear protection, no foot/toe protection and no earplugs.  The Chinese machine tool operators were wearing black cloth shoes with rubber soles; not the steel-toed boots you would expect in a US factory.  About half way down the center aisle, a chemical smell was so overwhelming, that I looked for an open window or door to gasp some “fresh Beijing air”.  I was allowed to take as many photos as I liked.

The lack of safety standards and allowing us to walk through the factory unescorted was a dose of reality regarding Chinese manufacturing.  China’s steady climb in the industrial world has not been paralleled with world standards for safety.  The climb to achieve these standards in China is extremely steep.

I’ve been watching and listening to the events and chatter about Hu Jintao’s visit to the US.  There is certainly a striking difference between the way China and the US are acting now that Obama is President and Clinton is Secretary of State.  While there are still many issues to be resolved, there appears to be mutual respect between the leaders.  This makes me hopeful.

President and Mrs. Obama even hosted a rare State Dinner for Hu.  President Bush just had a working lunch.  This is a significant difference in the respect given to US-Chinese relations.  It’s about time America took its head out of the sand and fully acknowledged the second largest economy and fastest rising super power in the world.

The economics of  the two countries tell the story of why it is so important to have a good working relationship.  The US GDP is $14.6 trillion.  The Chinese GDP is $5.7 trillion and rising at double digit rates.  But if you compare PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) or PPC (Purchasing Power Correction), a comparison of consumer buying power in each country, China’s economy is already larger than the US.  And it will continue to grow.  In the next few years, China’s middle class will be 700 million people;  more than double the population of the entire US.  Not only will this be the largest consumer market in the world, it will become the greatest target market ever for US goods and services.

Of course we all understand that China is still working on things like human rights and democracy.  But there is no stopping the warp-speed economic development inside China.