Gifting China

Listening to public radio, the host was interviewing a college professor as to why China has brought more innovation and progress in many areas of its growth, leaving other countries behind. In particular they mentioned high speed rail, low energy vehicles, and construction. The entire show was based solely upon how China’s universities educate differently than America, as if somehow a graduate student would suddenly posses the knowledge, experience, and drive to make major changes in transportation, science, design, and construction.

When I hire American college students either as interns or graduates, what they have learned has little practical application as to the tasks that my business needs. Thus, we need to educate them on design (land surveying, civil engineering, planning and architecture), presentation techniques and the latest technology. What students do posses is a strong desire to make a difference in the world. I’m sure it is similar in China.

China has made explosive progress by the process required of American companies who must comply with their restrictions to do business in their country. Let me explain:

About 4 years ago we looked into designing neighborhoods in China. What we discovered is that an American company cannot do business directly in China. Instead of working directly, we would be required to enter into a partnership with an existing consulting firm in China. There is a problem with that requirement. If I would pursue business in China, I’d have to partner with a firm that did not have our talent, methods, or technologies we possessed. To work with an unknown firm would require us to share information that would have been exclusive to our firm, essentially training them in the strengths we took so long to accumulate. I figured that this would be a quick (and cheap) way their government could force American businesses to train their companies in our methods, and in most cases our advancements.

Why would a company with a competitive edge want to provide privileged information to gain business? What is there to prevent that “partnering” business to break off relationships once they drain the knowledge base? Certainly they do not hire us because we have a larger workforce.

American progress has been fostered by questioning why. Why is something being done this way? How can we make it better? This leads to innovation. Innovation was a major reason our country progressed more aggressively compared to countries that teach their students to think in only one way. China could see us as a knowledge base to farm information from our corporations wanting China’s riches.

China seems to present an image of more progress. By forcing partnerships to do business in China we may have taught their corporations our best secrets. “We” being not just the United States, but every other country with their top designers, scientists, and technologies sharing knowledge.

Once they have this knowledge and know-how, why would they need us? That is the foundational problem, and one reason I have not pursued work in China.

The American way is innovation – something which I’ve seen little of in the development of our land and the building of our housing by the largest of American corporations. We should be going back to the drawing boards to accelerate American innovation and technology, and this time, not hand over this competitive edge so easily.

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Organic toy makers forced to move to China - not!

The headline and article are quite misleading. I went looking for the actual rules and found that quite a bit is exempt from testing, including things one would expect to find in "organic" toys and hand-crafted items:

These materials or components can be used (separately or in combination) and sold (provided they have not been treated or altered or undergone any processing that could result in the addition of lead):
* Wood
* Other natural materials such as coral, amber, feathers, fur, leather, etc.
* Paper and other materials made from wood or cellulosic fiber
* Dyed or undyed textiles (cotton, wool, hemp, nylon, yarn, etc.), including children’s fabric products, such as baby blankets, and non-metallic thread and trim. This does not include products that have rhinestones or other ornaments that may contain lead or that have fasteners with possible lead content (such as buttons, metal snaps, zippers or grommets).
* Children’s books that use modern printing processes (CMYK process printing inks). This does not include any part of a book that may contain lead (plastic, metal, or painted parts, such as spiral binding)
* Certain educational materials, such as chemistry sets
* Precious gemstones: diamond, ruby, sapphire or emeralds
* Semiprecious stones provided that the mineral or material is not based on lead and is not associated with any mineral based on lead
* Natural or cultured pearls
* Surgical steel and other stainless steel (except stainless steel designated as 303Pb)
* Gold, of at least 10 karats
* Silver, at least 925/1000 pure
* Platinum, palladium, rhodium, osmium, iridium, ruthenium, and titanium

Chinese and Innovation

This is a fascinating read from VIrginia Postrel.
US Organic toy makers forced by Washington to move their toy manufacture to China.

I used to lecture on the Management of Innovation and Change at an Institute offering MBA courses to overseas students - most from China.
They were quite open that what they were seeking most for courses in NZ and the US was some idea about to innovate rather than copy.
Interestingly several said that when they wanted to think "new thoughts" they thought in English, because the Chinese characters- being pictograms - tended to lock their minds into the way things are.

So the new generation is thinking hard about how to gain innovative skills and your experience is evidence that they are putting theory into practise.

Owen McShane, Kaiwaka, New Zealand.
Director, Centre for Resource Management Studies.