Beijing's High-Tech Ambitions The Dangers of Germany's Dependence on China

DPA

Part 5: Optimizing Imported Technology


China is pursuing the same strategy in the construction of power plants as it does in the automobile industry. At first, Beijing invited Western companies, mainly from Germany, to build power plants jointly with domestic companies. Now the Chinese are upgrading the plants with their own technology. The Waigaoqiao coal plant in Shanghai is a case in point.

Director Feng Weizhong is wearing a beige uniform with a shiny red party badge on his chest. But the impression that he is a party official is deceptive. Feng is China's most creative expert in environmentally friendly power generation using coal. The Waigaoqiao plant still looks shiny and new, as if Feng had just connected the plant to the grid. Against the skies over Shanghai, the smoke coming from the newest of the three tall chimneys looks almost as clean as a freshly laundered sheet. Feng, who has patented the technology for the filtration system, says proudly that it filters out a large percentage of pollutants

Waigaoqiao is almost overwhelmed with visitors. The plant, which is in the 1,000-megawatt class, is seen as a model project for other provinces that plan to build their own new coal-fired power stations or replace outdated plants.

Feng makes no secret of the fact that most of the technology used in his efficient power plant comes from Siemens and the French power generation conglomerate Alstom. Waigaoqiao is also an example of "indigenous innovation," he points out. "First we import foreign technology, and then we optimize it."

Close Cooperation

Thanks to his innovations, says Feng, he has been able to consistently reduce energy use. In this way, his efforts are in keeping with the "spirit" of the 17th Communist Party Congress in 2007, namely to turn China into a high-tech nation. At the time, the Chinese government also published a list of industrial projects with which the People's Republic plans to reach its goal by no later than 2020. The projects range from water purification plants to jumbo jets to biotechnology.

This is why Feng wants to continue his close cooperation with Siemens in the future, and he can count on the Germans to remain on board. Indeed, they have no other choice. If they hope to continue doing business in China, they have to share their own technology with their Chinese partners.

Western manufacturers no longer have access to contracts for smaller power plants in China, however. It is only with plants in the 1,000-megawatt category, like Waigaoqiao, that they are still permitted to compete for contracts.

The Germans are playing for time in China. Hence it's somewhat symbolic that Siemens has appointed a Chinese executive to run its business in the People's Republic.

Admittedly Mei-Wei Cheng, 60, is originally from Taiwan and has also lived in the United States. It's also true that other multinational companies have always installed local managers in the regions where they do business -- but their first obligation was always to the company and its shareholders. Beijing, on the other hand, sees the Siemens executive, who is believed to have close ties to the government, as one of its own.

The Need for Visions

China is not overly squeamish in its choice of methods to capture its spot in the global economy. That's something German engineering giant ThyssenKrupp learned when it became involved in a project that was long seen as a showcase of German innovation: the Transrapid magnetic levitation train.

The Düsseldorf-based steel conglomerate had spent a long time searching for a project that could serve as a showcase route for its magnetic levitation train. It finally found one in China. On New Year's Eve 2002, then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and then-Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji inaugurated the first, 31-kilometer (19-mile) commercial test route, which now connects Pudong airport with Shanghai's financial district.

No one in Germany wanted the train, which travels at speeds of more than 400 kilometers per hour (250 mph), and it doesn't make much sense in Shanghai from the standpoint of transportation policy. But China's planners take a different approach. They know that visions are also important to an economy. The Eiffel Tower in Paris was just such a vision for the old world, and the giant Burj al-Arab Hotel in Dubai is one for the new.

The Chinese see the Transrapid as a collective inducement for its 1.3 billion people to eventually overtake their Western role models.

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lakechamplainer 08/28/2010
1. German People Should Learn from American People
The German people should learn from what the relationship between China's rulers and America's elites have brought the vast majority of Americans: Goods of all types of low quality, and a vastly reduced industrial base. Germany is a country rightly known for the quality of its goods - quality of goods made in China will inevitably be of poorer quality than those made in Germany. Also, the German people will find German firms fighting amongst themselves to take advantage of China's cheap(some would say slave) labor, which will lead to shuttered factories in Germany. Many times when I go shopping, I hear a voice in my head saying: Cheat me on the price, not the quality.
Norberto_Tyr 08/30/2010
2. China is not a danger, it is an opportunity with one caveat,
China is not a danger, it is an opportunity with one caveat, you must understand the principle of regionalism. Contrary to what is intended with the cacophonic euro system, a contradiction in terms, China is implementing a regional organizational structure in a pragmatic rather than a deliberate manner. If we turn the TV off and we put-on our common sense glasses we would be able to clearly see where China stands and what her principles are regarding foreign policy. In the first place China demands security like everyone else. Now security is a relative term since it is relative to threats. The threats for China are immense: 1- USA-UK-Israel (NATO by extension albeit not a rational one); 2- India-Israel; 3- Japan-USA; 4- Russia (a region in itself since regionalization not always means aggregation, sometimes means the opposite) In the second place we must understand her major strategic foreign problems: 1- Taiwan; 2- India; 3- Korea (USA's intervention). Now, by REGIONAL organization I mean two cardinal principles granted to your neighbors: 1- sovereignty; 2- jurisdiction and one condition: territorial contiguity (neighbors). China, Latin America, Middle Eastern Asian and African countries perceive that USA-UK-Israel (to some extent NATO members) violate these two principles fundamental to REGIONALISM. This force, in my view, will shape the world in the XXI century. Why REGIONALISM will rule the XXI century world ? In the first place the vast majority of territorial disputes have been solved, despite of some more or less small adjustments (for example Taiwan, Gibraltar, Malvinas, and others), most countries broadly accept the territorial 2010 status quo. On the other hand, regional (in the broad sense of the word) artificial entities such as the European Union I do not consider as 'regional' in the proper sense since they violate the principle of jurisdiction between neighbors; and of course, the UN, the most extravagantly global, ineffectual and the most ignored organization of all constitute the paradigm of the anti-region. Regionalism, contrary to the euro experiment, is spontaneous and natural, it is taking shape in South America and South East Asia in force, to a lesser extent in the Middle East and in Africa it is in its infancy but growing. Regionalism opposes globalization; it exposes a soft political coupling between nations rather than a tight coupling as in the artificial EU system. Regionalism does not impose political systems to regional nations, much less that entity the 'west' calls democracy, in reality 'representative democracy' (lets be precise, a sea-lion is not a lion) tightly coupled with a monopolized mass media apparatus violating every single nation's sovereignty. For example, South America accepted the idea of Venezuela 'Chavista' despite of USA's rhetoric's regarding the 'purity of democracy' in the REGION, not USA's region though; USA is becoming more and more antagonistic and alienated in the true region; for example consider the recent racist laws in Arizona, not very 'region sensitive' to say the least. The South American region, without much fanfare, recently made the Colombian and Venezuelan Presidents to shake hands. The region, contrary to the ineffectual global apparatus ruing from New York or Brussels, works behind the scenes in the same way hormones control our body. Now, is anyone expecting China to change her political system in the near future? Are any of her neighbors attempting to impose a change on China's political system apart from the alienated regional South Korea which is considered by her neighbors a traitor for inviting predator powers into the region, a regional anathema ? Why would they ? Most Chinese politicians are engineers; they know what they are talking about, while most 'western' politicians are either lawyers ("poor the countries that fall in the hands of the lawyers" Lee Iacocca) or are nothing at all, mere entertainers and charlatans, or even expert 'public relationists' ('relacionistas publicos', yes as bad as it sounds in any language, as I read in an Argentinean yellow press publication, La Nacion) Regionalism implies that regional countries have the right to choose their type of government, and that government can be any or a combination of the three ideal forms of government identified by Aristotle: aristocracy, monarchy and democracy (principle of sovereignty), regional nations do not have the power to interfere within the territory (and electromagnetic space) of their neighbors (principle of jurisdiction). Regionalism is the implicit Chinese approach that the 'western' media complains about regarding investment in Africa, for example. Norberto
Norberto_Tyr 08/30/2010
3. China is implementing a regional organizational structure in a pragmatic manner
Get used to it, it will happen more often, none wants foreign powers lecturing or imposing conditions on commercial deals, besides, 'charity' or 'aid' will decline precisely due to the 'regionalization' phenomenon (neighbors will help their neighbors as Germany does in Greece even against the euro law), therefore, one of the last weasel tricks to help infiltration and indoctrination, pseudo charities, will disappear. Lets think about, imagine selling cars only to people that attend mass every week just because you are Catholic, does this make any sense ? Well, keep on complaining, since this is going to be the future world's political organization you like it or not, this is natural, is evolutional it is unstoppable, waste your energy or join the trend. Off course, by now you must have noticed that is the opposite of 'globalization', yes, artificial entities relying on globalization will perish, no doubt about that. Now, regions are going to be eternal like Roma ? No, lest talk about that when we reach the XXII century. Region organization will be good or bad in the very long run ? We do not know but it is certain that they are here with US right now. Nations will rely on their regional neighbors for their survival in the near future, not on abstruse artificial agreements, the one without regional neighbors will be in trouble, nations will form tightly coupled economic structures, and in some cases financial as well, as will happen in the Far East region when China start utilizing her reserves. Other regions might take longer, such as South America, due to the interference from competing internationalizing entities embedded in the social fabric attempting to break the natural and unstoppable political evolution. Are there some organizations incompatible with regionalization ? Yes, they are, but that proves how artificial and weak they are, but true nations will not perish. Summarizing, under this framework, namely the world regionalization under two loosely coupling political principles: 1- sovereignty; and 2- jurisdiction, China is so unstoppable that even Japan and Taiwan realized that they belong to the same region. Turkey is another country 'regional alert', while USA, Israel, South Korea and perhaps Vietnam, they are not, at their own peril, of course. Corollary: I can predict, based on above facts, the dismissal of both giant and miniature dinosaurs crushed by the law of evolution, you can believe it or not, nevertheless, whatever you might think wont change the situation a bit. Norberto
brunom 08/31/2010
4. technology transfer
I used to live in Germany in the 70's and the picture of Helmut Kohl meeting Deng Xiao Ping in 1984 struck a chord with me! Deng's famous quote about the colour of the cat can be interpreted in the following way: In order for China to become a "superpower" it has to go through an economic and technological "Great Leap Forward". Deng wanted technology transfer from the West Russian communism wasn't helping the Chinese economy too much!) Well, in the 90's, many people in the West (especially CEO's and people on Wall Street in the US) are so naive that they thought they can make a "quick buck" out of the huge Chinese market and labour force, but look, who's got all the US T-bonds now, China! That's actually not the main thing for China. What they really wanted was technology transfer and they got it big time (through cheap manufacturing). Perhaps they would have gotten that (by hook or by crook) someday anyway, but the faulty economic and political decisions made in the West expedited those Chinese goals. China is a very big and ambitious dragon and we will have to wait and see what the economic, political and environmental effects will be of this immense amount of technology transfer for the rest of the world, including Germany. After giving away valuable and fundamental know-how and technology for short term gains (for little nano-blips in the stock market), it is hard for the capitalists in the West to complain that the Chinese are now capable of cloning any high-tech product (including weapons) from the West!
BTraven 09/02/2010
5.
Zitat von lakechamplainerThe German people should learn from what the relationship between China's rulers and America's elites have brought the vast majority of Americans: Goods of all types of low quality, and a vastly reduced industrial base. Germany is a country rightly known for the quality of its goods - quality of goods made in China will inevitably be of poorer quality than those made in Germany. Also, the German people will find German firms fighting amongst themselves to take advantage of China's cheap(some would say slave) labor, which will lead to shuttered factories in Germany. Many times when I go shopping, I hear a voice in my head saying: Cheat me on the price, not the quality.
Even Apple let assemble its products in China therefore I can not reflect your that most of the goods produced there would be of low quality. I think it's a pity that so many workers lost their jobs because of the relocation of production to countries which cheaper labour costs. It is not good for the soul of a country when school leavers have only the choice between studying in order to work later in the service sector or working there just after the end of their school time. It's a fairy tale that they could all take creative jobs or could work in the researching departments of big companies.
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