A View From China

By Graham Galliford //


Nine years ago, the world was a somewhat different place. In 2005, the Western economies were in growth mode. There seemed to be no end to the excesses. Conspicuous consumption, with the seemingly bottomless pit of available monetary resources, allowed that to continue.

As I write this, it is July of 2012 and I am traveling in a Shanghai-bound high speed train that had departed from a smaller city in Zhejiang province. An even faster high speed rail line from Wenzhou to Shanghai is under construction next to the line I am currently on and this is scheduled for completion in about one year. This is part of the rapidly growing high speed train network that is expanding coverage of China. This is just one example of the burgeoning investment in infrastructure seen just about everywhere in China today.

The factory I had just visited is busy building products for export, mostly to Europe, despite the current parlous state of many of the world economies. Many Chinese factories are certainly less busy than before but manufacturing continues to grow. In common with the investment in infrastructure is the continued investment in the expansion and improvement of new product development and manufacturing here. This is true in many industries, in particular to high tech segments such as alternative energy production, electronics and indeed digital printing. This demonstrates the confidence within China of the future of domestic and world economies.

Economic data released just yesterday showed that the growth in China’s GDP in the second quarter of 2012 eased to 7.6% according to official sources. Some financial resources estimate this as closer to 7 to 7.3%. The data released by the government is said by some to be unreliable and that it is “cooked” for political purposes. The other economic data released today in China shows that the Consumer Price Index has shown an unprecedented decline over recent months. The Purchasing Price Index regarding raw material costs has also shown an uncharacteristic decline. Thus, the profitability of manufacturing enterprises in China is, to some extent, being maintained.

Statistics apart, the evidence seen when traveling around the country shows a general improvement and continued progression of the population’s living standards along with forward progress in industry. Unlike the markets for digital printing in Europe and North America, the demand for printing continues to grow in China. The changes in population demographics in the emerging markets of the developing world, specifically in Asia and in Africa, mean that there is a growing need for paper based information creation and storage. This is unlike the West where ever more information creation and storage is transitioning to soft and online formats, eliminating the need for paper.

In China, an example of what could be termed an emerging market; there are good examples of the use of wireless and web-based technology. This is evident in the case of infrastructure such as the rail system. Coincidentally, the female conductor just walked past me and was processing payment for a ticket wirelessly on her handheld terminal.

There is a sea of change underway with a transition from the production of cheaper low tech goods to higher tech, better quality goods of Chinese design. With the improvements in net disposable income and the continuing urbanization of the population in China, the domestic market demand for consumer goods is continuing to grow. This in turn is stimulating the whole market for goods and services, including the need for printing in the commerce and industry. Bottom-line? The need for printer supplies remains healthy within China.

In 2005, there were many examples of contract manufacturing operations in different industries and this, of course, continues to be the case. Now we are seeing the emergence of technology developments in many industries including digital printing. China is a leader in some alternative energy developments, for example, in solar and wind power. The application of electric power to transportation is advanced. Case in point, the small city that I had just visited uses electric power for their bus services and is one of the many examples that illustrate the extent of China’s development.

China’s digital printing industry has also seen recent developments with the Seine’s first indigenous printer design. Another development is the recent establishment of the manufacturing facility for the printer designed by Aetas. The Aetas print engine is a LED printer and the companies declared aim is to “lead China’s image technology industry to another level”. Aetas plan to take a “leading role in the color laser imaging technology and provide consumers with high-quality low-cost color printing, copying and office automation solutions”. The Research and Development of the technology behind this product was actually performed since 1996 in the California, USA and HsinChu Science Based Industrial Park, Taiwan. The breakthrough imaging technology of DC-jumping is unique to Aetas with intellectual property disclosed in 120 international patents with another 40 patents pending. Their current monochrome engine with highlight color will be joined in the future by in the future to be a full color print engine. This demonstrates confidence in the continued benefits in cost structure of Chinese manufacturing as well as a need to address the continually growing Chinese domestic market.

Why am I telling you all of this?

In 2005 the proprietors of RechargeAsia had the foresight that there would be a growing need for a connection between businesses in Asia, particularly in China and complementary businesses in the USA. As a proponent of the potential for the Chinese market and economy at that time, I very much supported and welcomed the birth of RechargeAsia Magazine. I hold as even more important now the position of the Chinese market and the Chinese imaging industry in a Global sense. In 2005, in China, the digital printing industry was largely limited to providing remanufacturing services. Today we see that the Chinese imaging industry has changed and there are strong indications of continued developments in the future.

Hurtling towards Shanghai in the train, I reflect that the world is really a small place interconnected place now. (I am just passing the Eiffel Tower! Not really of course as this one is slightly smaller than the original one and is in an amusement park in Hangzhou.) Global connections in industry are ever closer in today’s world. Where with respect to RechargeAsia Magazine does this leave us? It leaves us with the fact that the vision in 2005 at the inception of the magazine is as valid today as it was then. There is a very bright future for the Asian economies and their industries. It is a future that has the need for creation and maintenance of connection with the rest of the world facilitated by communication products like RechargeAsia.

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