Ten things I have learnt about China

21 May 2010
I have spent most of the past week in China. Despite a previous visit to Hong Kong, this was my first trip to the mainland. During the four days I hosted a CPO Agenda roundtable event, met lots of buyers and visited two supplier factories. Here are 10 initial impressions: 1.    The standard of spoken English is incredibly high. If it isn’t already the case soon there will be more English speakers in China than in England. 2.    The professionalism applied to procurement there is comparable to the UK.  I met lots of Chinese and ex-pat buyers and they are tackling many of the same issues in many of the same ways. 3.    Things happen quickly in China. Skyscrapers appear within months, roads and railways are constructed at breathtaking speed.  Whatever advantage we may still hold will not last long. 4.    And we don’t have any advantage in many sectors. Industry there knows there is no point in trying to compete in areas such as automotive. But for newer sectors such as wind turbines and solar power, China is starting from the same point. 5.    China doesn’t want to remain the place that can compete only on price. They want to compete on products and expertise. 6.    And while some workers in sectors such as textiles and electronics still suffer poor working conditions, the norm is much closer to conditions (if not salaries) that you would expect in a European factory. 7.    The disparity between the haves and have-nots is vast. Allied to the heightened expectations of younger generations and sky-high process, social problems in the future are highly likely. 8.    We all know about the issue with Google, but Facebook is banned in China. As is Twitter and YouTube. 9.    There is disagreement about the extent of local corruption. A combination of a reluctance to bring prosecutions, for corporations to avoid bad press and the patchy nature of reference taking means the miscreants are rarely caught. 10.     Unless you really have a death wish don’t try to cross the road in Shanghai
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