Will China “take over the world?”

I’m often asked if China will “take over the world” or “steal” the world’s manufacturing sector. While I don’t think we should abandon ship and prepare for “the Chinese century” I do see several factors contributing to China’s rise in global business and manufacturing in particular:

  • A cultural, governmental and historical emphasis on manufacturing. In many western societies “building” seems to be far lower on the societal pole than “thinking,” but in China they are far closer. I also think this makes the intellectual property concept less understood and respected in China.
  • An extremely (arguably to a fault) pro-manufacturing government. You can dump your waste into a river, work your people at unethical levels (to the point of indentured servitude or borderline slavery, and the oft-mentioned currency and tariff manipulations.
  • An ability to produce extremely high-quality products at amazingly compelling prices. The old stereotype of “everything from China is junk” is long dead. The iPhone, often cited as a pinnacle of industrial design and production is manufactured in China for example.

To a large extent, I think the Chinese society (government and citizenry) see manufacturing, industrialization and business in general as keys to their country becoming the de facto world superpower. While we’re bashing bankers and drooling over the next American Idol, China is trying to learn everything it can from the west, and diligently applying it with their own twists.

I wouldn’t yet write off India, the west or other Asian nations, but there are certainly interesting times ahead.

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