Made in China

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The Olympics have set Ed Cox musing on our perceptions of China …

My recent week’s holiday gave me the chance to sit on the sofa and watch the Olympic Games in Beijing and enjoy all those sports we watch only once every four years: judo, archery, canoeing, Greco-Roman wrestling to name but a few.

What occurred to me during the media coverage was the naivety towards China and how it’s viewed as a developing, much-to-learn nation.

Don’t we in the chemical industry know better? Don’t we understand China as the key driver of the global market for many products? Or is it just that the nation is much further forward in certain sectors than others?

My recollection of ICIS phone calls is the continual reference to ‘where sentiment in China is heading’, ‘what will happen after the Lunar New Year starts’ and ‘if that new plant there will start up on time.’


Having covered the fibre sector I’m all too aware that if China stops buying and selling textiles, the global market shudders.

All the speculation builds up to the final question: when is this giantnation going to flood the European market? It is as if we are beholdento its powers.

So I was surprised to hear some of the comments from the television andnewspapers that China was only just starting to emerge as a globalforce, some lumping China and India together, others amazed that thecountry could collect so many medals.  

OK, it wasn’t helped by some comic moments such as the flooding of theBBC commentary box during one of the heavier rain storms but let’s notcriticize because London is up next!

Still, the impression that comes across to me from the general,non-business media sector is that China is simply going through thesame process as Britain did in the 19th century, which is clearlyunderestimating what’s going on.

Are we just in a lucky position, with manufacturing giving us a prophecy for the rest of the economy?

I know petchems isn’t the sexy end of the global economy but it doesn’ttake much digging to find that China’s annual gross income and GDP hasalmost doubled in the past four years. This is a nation that alreadyhas more mobile phone users than all of Europe and the US combined!

How does China really appear to the rest of the world then? Is the European media dangerously underestimating the nation?

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One Response to Made in China

  1. Peter 19 August, 2008 at 10:53 am #

    The Olympics are probably a good frame of reference in terms of Chinese economy and timescale, less so because of what’s happening in 2008, but because of what will have happened by 2012.

    With a whole bunch of economists, analysts and lowly financial journalists talking about a global economic downturn lasting until the eternal flame reaches Croydon, it will be interesting to see 1) how Western economies have held up vs. “Chindia” and 2) how the Chinese and other Asian media perceives us over here. “The former stalwart of the crumbling Western economy” perhaps. That is, if the stadium ever gets built…

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