[I was going through some old drafts of posts-never-completed this morning and decided to delete the ones I’ll likely never complete. Others, like this one are parts of ideas or beginnings of drafts that never got finished but don’t deserve to be deleted because there is something there worth keeping. So I’ve decided to just post them as-is.]
Earlier this summer, just outside of Shenyang, China, the group with which I was traveling stopped for a visit to a small local aluminum extruding factory. The factory specializes in manufacturing various kinds of moldings and trims for window and door frames. Like many, if not most, of the small factories that I have visited throughout China it was a fairly simple and unsophisticated manufacturing plant which makes a profit by relying on inexpensive rural land, low wage and flexible migrant labor, some large heavy-industral machinery and very few industrial or environmental safety requirements—an example exactly the kind of factory upon which the Chinese economy of the past twenty years has been built.
The factory, it seemed, has been having a bit of a rocky time in recent years—especially with the increase in labor costs, increasing unwillingness of workers to move for temporary and part-time contracts, the market for his particular product line, and the relatively remote location of his factory. A lot has been changing in the Chinese economy and the formula for business success is changing, putting the squeeze on smaller, relatively inefficient, local factories.
The factory owner, a relatively quiet and unassuming man—seemed to me quite different from the more gregarious and outgoing Chinese businessmen who work in urban retail with whom I have worked.