I visited China in March. During every trip I often find myself taking mental notes on the contrasts between the U.S. and China:

1. We (my wife accompanied me) stayed at hotels from the same chain in Los Angeles and Qingdao. When we arrived at the hotel in L.A., it was around 6:00PM; prime time for incoming guests. There was one employee at the counter checking persons in, and progress was slow. The lady at the check-in counter was polite, but the line was long and it took way too long for her to process each person. She needed help, and a faster way to check people in. 

The experience at the hotel in Qingdao was different.

There were two check-in stations, each manned with sharply dressed persons. There was no line. We arrived around noon; within seconds after my wife and I approached the counter, an attendant brought us hot tea. The check-in process was finished quickly, and we were on our way. The person at the check-in counter in Qingdao offered us an upgrade, which we accepted. There was no such offer from the attendant in Los Angeles.

Since this hotel chain was originally American owned, it was frustrating that the service level in the U.S. paled in comparison to the Chinese one. Perhaps the labor pool they had to work with in L.A. was an issue, or management in China went to extreme lengths to make people feel welcome. 

2. As soon the internet is fired up in China, the evidence that the Communist government controls what people can see and hear is evident. Facebook is blocked in China. There is no Chinese Google page; you have to access Google from the Hong Kong address (Google pulled out of China several years ago due to a content dispute). China is more open than before, but it has a way to go to match the freedom found in the U.S.

3. We visited Hong Kong for the first time in twenty years. On the drive to the hotel, the driver told us that when Hong Kong was turned over to China in 1997, China came in and “copied the systems that were in Hong Kong.” China saw an increase in her wealth and knowledge due to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong was just as clean as it was when I last visited in 1993; the handover doesn’t seem to have degraded the city. In some ways, China actually cleaned up it up more. In 1993 there were stripper bars everywhere. Now they’re gone, or at least, we didn’t see them. China also bars pornography from its hotels, unlike the U.S. Somehow the Communist Government in China gets it that porn isn’t good for society.

4. We visited a factory in China that does anodizing, a chemical process used to treat metal parts. While the quality of their work was excellent, the working conditions were awful. In some rooms the noxious fumes were so overwhelming we wanted to gag. Workers in these places had no breathing protection; I couldn’t help wondering if some of them would lead short lives due to scorched lungs. While the U.S. sometimes goes overboard for worker’s rights, in conditions like this standards for employee health were definitely needed. 

5. Upon arrival in Shanghai, we flew through Customs. You don’t have to take your shoes off when taking domestic flights in China; security lines move faster. Conversely, when we arrived in L.A. on our way back from China, the line to get through Customs was about 50 people long; one customs agent told us the average wait time was one to two hours. While some of this could have to do with the traffic L.A. sees versus Shanghai, I couldn’t help wondering if this was about one country that has to cut back because it’s spending and debt are out of control (the U.S.), versus a country that’s on the rise (China).
I hope not.

Both countries have their failures and successes; areas where they can grow and learn from each other. One thing for sure is that the journey forward will be interesting. 

Short Run Parts  
In last month’s newsletter I reported that we’re not able to source small production runs. This last trip I visited a factory that can do short runs of machined parts, which is now something we can offer you. This is only for machined metal parts, not those that require a casting or mold of some type. It also does not apply to plastics or products made from wood or other materials. While the minimum will depend on the value of the part, in most cases we can get runs done of $5,000.00.

FAQ
Do You Work With Factories that Use Child Labor?  
No. I’ve been going to China since 1986, and can’t remember visiting a single factory where child labor was involved. While there may be a few factories in China that use child labor, remember that the Western Media tends to sensationalize the truth: “Thousands of factories in China are using child labor! You’re abusing children when you buy from China! Yaaaaah!”  They have a habit of turning over every pebble in order to find a story, then they National Enquire-ize it. Child labor is not the norm; most factory managers have enough sense to realize that putting a child in a factory will endanger the kids, not to mention mess up their productivity. Or get them in trouble.

The China Blog
I have a blog where I post updates and other information on doing business with China on a weekly basis. If you want to sign up to receive notifications of blog posts, go to the Blog Home Page and sign up at the signup box at the top right of the page.

The Exchange Rate 
The dollar continues its slow decline against the Yuan…
Yuan to the dollar, as of today: 6.20 to 1
Rate when the Yuan was depegged from the dollar on June 19, 2010:  6.82 to 1
Change: .62 (9%)

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Previous Newsletters:
March: The Titanic; Made in China
February 2013: They’re Back… Sort Of
January 2013: Business News and Trends for 2013
December 2012: A Trip I’ll Never Forget
November: 4 Principals for Success
October: China in the News

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