|汇源的副总裁毛天赐看Made in China中国制造|
When I arrived in China as a student in June of 1981, billboards, newspapers and magazines were filled with discussions of the Four Modernizations. China was embarking on a new path ? a path that would lead to increased opening of the market and a stronger position as a major player in the world economy. Later, in the mid 90’s, the pace of change increased rapidly following a dramatic shift in policy towards economic development.
Much has changed since I first set foot in China, especially in the last ten years. Transportation has moved from bicycle to automobile. Buildings have risen from low-rise to high-rise. Stores have changed from empty shelves to an abundance of modern goods. Fashion has transformed from Mao suit to mini skirt. And manufacturing has shifted from labor intensive to high tech. All of this has taken place in a just few short years. China, clearly, has changed much over the last 25 years.
Given the rapid rate of change in China, it is not surprising that the perception of China held by people living in other nations lags far behind the reality of the nation today. It is difficult for people in China to keep up with the rate of change, so it understandable that people in other parts of the world struggle to keep up to date on modern China. Many people throughout the world are very interested in China, however. As I travel the world, whenever I mention that I live in China, I am immediately peppered with questions about life in China and my answers to people’s questions never fail to surprise those asking the question.
No, people in Chinese cities do not all ride bicycles ? they drives cars, take cabs, ride the bus or the subway. No people do not all live in one story houses ? they live in one of the many thousands of 25 and 30 and even 40 story high-rise building that fill the cities. No, people in China do not wear Mao suits ? they prefer the latest fashions from America, Europe, Japan or the many up and coming local designers. No, Chinese factories are not filled with manual laborers ? most large factories are filled with the most modern manufacturing technology available.
It is hard for Chinese people to understand just how far behind the reality of China the perception of China lags. After all, we (meaning myself and 1.3 billion or so Chinese neighbors) all live here and we all know how rapidly China is changing. We see these changes everyday. We struggle daily through the millions of new cars on the new freeways. We live in the new high rise buildings surrounded by construction for even newer high rise buildings. We see the stores filled with every consumer good imaginable when we go shopping. We wear the latest international and local fashions. We work in the modern new offices and modern factories.
At Huiyuan Juice, I see this gap between the perception of China and the reality of China on a weekly basis. We often receive visitors from throughout the world who come to learn more about our company. It is not uncommon in any week to find visitors from Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Australia, or Asia visiting our main Beijing plant. Without exception, all are surprised to find that Huiyuan Juice employs the world’s latest manufacturing equipment and technology from throughout the world. All are surprised to learn that Huiyuan Juice uses the world’s strictest quality guidelines. There is a definite gap between the reality of Huiyuan Juice and what people from around the world know about Huiyuan Juice. Closing this understanding gap is a very important part of the work we do every day.
How is it possible that people around the world do not know Huiyuan Juice or other quality Chinese manufacturers? How is it possible that people in other parts of the world do not see the same China we all know and understand? It is just so obvious to all 1.3 billion or so of us living here in China. Why does the world not see the same China we do?
Quite simply, just as people in China are busy building their own individual lives, we must not forget that people in other nations around the world are busy building their lives. No matter if you live in China, America, France, Australia, or South Africa, a normal everyday person in this world is overwhelmingly concerned with the pressures of daily existence in the modern world. A normal person is much more concerned about traffic on the commute to work in the morning than they are about the state of affairs of some far flung nation. They are more likely thinking their children’s grades in school or what they are going to make for dinner when they get home than they are about what is happening in China today.
In other words, a normal everyday person in this modern world holds the view that unless you have some really important news to report to me about the some far flung nation that might affect me directly, I am simply to busy making my way through my daily life to pay much attention you.
Just as I have spent much time explaining China to my Western friends over the last 25 years, I have also spent much time explaining the Western world to my Chinese friends. No, not all people in America are rich ? there are many people who struggle to make ends meet each day. No, not all people in the West own two cars ? it is very expensive to own a car in a major city like New York or Paris or London and most people in major cities prefer public transport. These are just two commonly held misconceptions I deal with, though it is fair to say that these issues come up less in a major city like Beijing or Shanghai today than they do in the smaller cities like Neijiang and Feicheng.
Generalizations about any country are, in my experience, simply not very true. The world is too big and too complex to be covered by broad general statements. Generalizations about China are as untrue as generalizations about the West. It would be hard to come up with a single generalization that covers so many people in such a variety of mini-cultures that make up today’s modern nation. Generalizations about the quality of “Made in China” are equally untrue. One visit to Huiyuan Juice, would easily convince anyone reasonable person in the world that there are manufacturers in China who live and breathe quality as part of their corporate culture.
Unfortunately, busy people with busy lives tend to think in generalizations. It is a very normal human way to simplify all the complexity in our modern world down to a manageable level. It is not necessarily the best of human traits, but it is very much a consistent human trait. Making generalizations is a human trait that I have found is shared among Asians, North Americans, Europeans, Australians, South Americans and Africans alike. When faced with complexity, we as human beings inevitably try to sum up a complex situation in a very simple and easy to understand, but more often than not incorrect, newspaper headline.
More often than not, we as human beings then tend to live with that simple headline like perception stuck in our busy heads for quite a number years before we consider changing our ideas. We tend to hold on to our perceptions until such time as we are forced, by some great event, to pause our busy lives, gather in new and current information, and then sum it all up again into yet another very simple headline to replace the one we currently hold in our minds.
When I look at the current debate about “Made in China”, I am struck by how similar this debate is to the very similar debates in years past about “Made in Japan” or “Made in Korea”, two countries that have faced the very same challenge that China currently faces as they rose to prominent positions on the world stage.
When I was a young boy, growing up in a small town in Minnesota, it was common knowledge to all Americans that products “Made in Japan” were inexpensive and poor in quality and all the really good stuff was made in Germany. As I grew older, and the quality of Japanese products improved, this perception began to change and “Made In Japan” became a symbol of high quality and high technology ? in many instances technology more advanced than even that available in Germany.
Later, as I entered university, again it was common knowledge to all Americans that “Make In Korea” was now the symbol of products that were inexpensive and poor quality. Brands such a Hyundai cars and Samsung electronics were the products of last resort for those who were unwilling or unable to pay a higher price for the good stuff which by then all came from Japan. Of course today, many of these same Korean companies have now also come to symbolize high quality and high technology ? in many instances technology more advanced than that available in Japan.
So, if I were just an ordinary every day average American, it would not be strange to assume that “Made in China” is the latest symbol of all that is inexpensive and poor quality. China is, after all, the country that was commonly chosen by many American, Japanese and Korean companies ? in fact, the country chosen by most developed nations throughout the world ? as a destination to relocate factories to lower manufacturing costs over the last twenty years.
What your ordinary every day average American can not do is come to see a quality manufacturer like Huiyuan Juice. They simply do not have the time or the money to travel to China to see with their own eyes that China has changed over the last 20 years and that companies like Huiyuan Juice employ a high level of technology and follow strict quality control guidelines in our juice manufacturing. One visit and they would have a very different view of “Made n China” quality. Unfortunately, at Huiyuan Juice we must rely on our advertising, Chinese and Western media reports, and word of mouth from those people who can visit or factory to slowly spread the understanding that we are one of the largest, most modern, and high quality manufacturers of juice in the world.
Like the development of a corporation’s image, the development of a country’s image also takes time and effort. The true understanding of a country comes about in stages over a period of years and a country’s image normally lags well behind the actual state of the country in question, Very often this lag can be five to ten years behind the actual state of affairs in the country in question. Most importantly, a country’s world image is unduly influenced by a very small number of high profile events that make the news. In this respect, China is no different than every other country in the world.
The upcoming Olympics in China are, in my view, a tremendous opportunity to make a very large impression on not only your ordinary every day average American, but also your ordinary every day average person throughout the world. It is a great opportunity to send out some good news and re introduce modern China to the world’s citizens. The upcoming Olympics are that often talked about once in a lifetime opportunity that comes along, well, just once in a lifetime. I am not convinced that people in China realize just how fantastic, and how difficult to come by, this opportunity really may be.
If you go back to the commonly held perceptions that “Made in Japan” and “Made in Korea” moved from symbolizing inexpensive and poor quality to symbolizing high technology and high quality, you would perhaps be surprised to learn that the Olympics played an important and pivotal role in changing the commonly held, but not very correct, perceptions held by people around the world towards each of these two nations.
For a very few short weeks in 1964, the attention of all the ordinary every day average people in the world was focused on the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Following this very successful showcase of Japan and Japanese technology, the world’s opinion of Japan was forever changed for the better.
Just over twenty years later, for a very few short weeks in 1988, the attention of all the ordinary every day average people in the world was focused on the Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea. Following this very successful showcase of Korea and Korean technology, the world’s opinion of Korea was forever changed for the better.
Twenty years yet again, for a very few short weeks in 2008, the attention of all the ordinary every day average people in the world will be focused on the Olympic Games in Beijing, China. Following this very successful showcase of China and Chinese technology, I can guarantee that the world’s opinion of China will also forever change and that “Made In China” will take on a new and improved image on the world stage.
It is a tough time to be a manufacturer based in China exporting to the world. People throughout the world are questioning the quality of goods “Made in China” and all the headlines seem to be nothing but bad news no matter which way you turn. At the same time, the many high quality and high technology manufacturers such as Huiyuan Juice, with excellent track records and modern manufacturing facilities are struggling to send out the message that China is filled with manufacturers who really do care about quality and really do follow only the strictest international quality guidelines.
In my view, the upcoming Olympic Games represent a unique opportunity to get a positive about China message out to the people of the world. It is an opportunity to let the world see the modern China that exists today. It is an opportunity to change the world perception of China. It is, in short, an opportunity to establish a more accurate picture of “Made in China” in the minds of ordinary every day average people throughout the world.