MFG 2.0

A Manufacturing Journalist In China -- China's Rust Belt

Some of you probably know by now that I'm in the process of getting a MBA from Kent State University. The faculty there, apart from setting up partnerships with Chinese universities, have also started taking MBA students there for an international business class -- I was lucky enough to participate in this trip in May (the Chengdu earthquake happened on our second day in-country), and decided to write a series of posts on my travels.

I thought I'd start at the beginning, so as to make a coherent chronology for people to follow afterwards, and to keep each post short and sweet (people don't read blogs to practice their scrolling) with one good idea per post.

Before I left on the trip, I was trying to gather as much information as I could on what to expect -- at least from the big population centers (Beijing and Shanghai) that I'd be visiting (I also visited Dubai, but more on that in another post). To get this background, I asked around a bit (including to some of our many China-based IW contributors). When asked if he thought that there was any comparison between Shanghai and Beijing and U.S. cities, one of our most knowledgeable contributors had these observations:

For US to China comparisons, that is a bit hard. but I would say Wuhan is like Pittsburgh, Chongqing like Chicago, Chengdu like Boulder, Xian like San Antonio with really bad pollution...

As for (manufacturing) locations, I would say it really depends on industry, but definitely Tianjin, Suzhou, Chengdu, Xiamen, Shenzhen as candidates...Dongguan if you want to show the backside of China's manufacturing sectors.

China's rust belt is the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning. Old industry. Lots of state-owned enterprises have died up there.

Poetic, that last line. Upon reflection, for me Shanghai was like New York surrounded by a ring of Chicagos (with a pinch of Vegas), and Beijing reminded me a lot of Berlin (a lot of shiny, steel/glass development from the same era -- i.e., the last two decades) and Budapest (lots of dirty, third-world back alleys) but of course with those inimitable "Chinese Characteristics" (TM).

Have you found your hometown in China? Odds are, it's there. Anything to add to my education?

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