China is young and strong

30.12.2016

There are not a few in the western world who still believe that China is dangerous because there they want to copy our ideas, our knowledge, our know-how. More unashamedly it is called stealing. Whoever thinks this way has not understood the present development. China is not just catching up with us at a fast pace. China will also probably show us what the next step of industrial and perhaps economic development will be.

My fifth visit to China, this time for lectures in Guangzhou, Dongguan, Changsha and Shenyang, gives me a strange feeling. When playing Jingle Bell and Holy Night in all the hotels and malls, it seems to me that the country is making fun of our old customs in a friendly way. You can, of course, sound the same and even more like in New York or Munich, but you do not need it, in fact, you are really concentrating on quite different things.

Panel with Prof. KaanPanel with Prof. Kaan (photo Sendler)

Electrical engineering professor Antoine Kaan from Princeton University in New Jersey, held a lecture on research in the field of organic electronics in the same forum as me. In his opinion, hundreds of universities and companies in China play the leading role in international research. From 2014 to 2016, the proportion of scientific contributions from China rose from 26.8% to 35.8% in the most important research magazine "Organic Electronics", while the proportion of Korea rose from 14.9% to 16.9%. Germany did not appear in his graphics, although according to his information, very much and very innovative developments are currently coming from German companies. Prof. Kaan added that he was always surprised at his visits to Chinese companies, how incredibly many people were working there, hardly one of them older than 28 years. One of many examples where the design of the future takes place.

The towers of GuangzhouView from the platform of the Canton Tower (photo Sendler)

When I was on the Sears Tower in Chicago 20 years ago, I thought that man cannot build much higher. Now I stood on the Canton Tower in Guangzhou, which is 600 meters high. The observation platform in open air is at 450 meters. Also the two other currently highest towers of the city are around the 500 meters. With 13 to 15 million inhabitants - exactly you cannot tell the number because of the still many migrant workers - it offers a very impressive mixture of old and new.

Canton TowerCanton Tower from the bottom at night (photo Sendler)

And everywhere they want to learn, are inquisitive, hungry for more. Still the most important thing is to provide enough food and drink for everyone, which means work. It is still a central task that all can write and read. However, conferences and seminars are held where the industry of the future is discussed. What exactly is the difference between Industrie 3.0 and Industrie 4.0? More importantly, how can China as soon as possible reach Industrie 4.0, although many and large sectors of the industry today are still on an older level?

On the other hand the Chinese show us how to pay, order the food, make a reservation with WeChat, the Chinese but better counterpart to WhatsApp. Quite often no cash is accepted. Since many in Germany are afraid that it goes too fast and too far with the digitalization.

New roads and highways, airports and railway stations, connected traffic signs with congestion warning, the first cars and aircrafts from Chinese production - those who visit with their eyes open and unprejudiced today's China, the USA and Germany must come to the conclusion that the Future is created in the East. It is not the decline of industry, as in the USA, but the incessant, if not so impetuous and massive construction of new factories everywhere. Not the fear of the new and the faith to already have achieved enough, as in Germany, but the desire for experiments and ideas without end.

Guangzhou from the Pearl  riverGuangzhou from a boat on the Pearl river (photo Sendler)

Can you stop China? Why should you? Firstly, it seems to me impossible as long as the Chinese government pursues a rather far-sighted industrial and economic strategy, as human resources are almost inexhaustible. Secondly, however, it seems to me much more sensible to think how Germany can position itself as a long-term and good partner with its highly developed engineering skills and the extremely high quality of its industrial processes and products. From this, both sides would probably have the greatest benefit.

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