Three years ago Scott Peters was a tooling manager in North America with a new opportunity on the horizon. He was offered the opportunity to move to Mainland China and take over as Operations Manager of a multi-national plastics plant. Recently, he has reflected on what he expected going in and then shared with me how those expectations have been realized or debunked.
“Coming from the West and the largest economy on the globe, I thought that the world began and ended in the U.S. since we drive the world in terms of production, consumption and living standards, but that was then and this is now,” Scott notes. He told me that the Chinese translation for China is Zhongguo, which means Center Country.
When I asked about the communist culture, he acknowledged that he expected to meet people that do not exhibit any individuality, but he discovered the opposite—a people who are diverse in style of hair, clothing and expression, who have a zest for living much like us here. He goes on to share that it’s not uncommon to walk the streets of Guangzhou and find young couples embracing, children playing soccer or people practicing Tai Xi.
As for the communist agenda, he explains that of course there is one—the central government supports Marxist communism and the one for all philosophy is prevalent—but it is a government ideology, and as a rule, the Chinese people are entrepreneurs and capitalists. It is not uncommon to find shops opening and closing on a weekly basis. “The Chinese people are hard working too. They want to succeed and will do most anything to achieve that goal,” he explains.
Today China is experiencing the labor/salary boom that the rest of the world did in the 50s and 60s. The labor pool is transient and very fluid. They move from company to company at the drop of a hat. Scott says, “If your firm isn’t offering overtime and the one across the street is, they will walk out the door.” However, he notes that offering long-term benefits works for the professional staff, but the general rank-in-file worker is planning to leave in a few years to return to his/her hometown and family. So, a pension plan is lost on the current workforce.
These are just some of the observations of Scott, and since he continues to live and work in China I’m hoping to pick his brain some more. But in the meantime, check out page 6 where he continues the theme of this column as he breaks down the onshoring/offshoring debate.