Some of you may know that we subscribe to Salon Magazine (www.salon.com). I just wrote a letter in response to a magazine-blog post there. I’m copying it below for family/friends/random readers that may have interest in this. You can read his original post (what Iâ€™m responding to) here. You may need to click on an advertisement in order to get into the site though.
Also, this guy has turned me on to an environmentally-friendly investment fund I need to check out…I’m posting the link to that here because a) I don’t want to forget about it, and b) we still need to re-invest the money we made from selling our house. (http://www.fecleanenergy.com/)
Two Cities: Bay Area and Suzhou
I find your articles interesting. I have a personal question for you: Why you are interested in China anyway? My interest is personalâ€¦I studied Chinese at UCSC, came to China in 1991 (to study at Beijing U.), and have lived in China for the last two years. But I started studying not because I was interested in China, but because I needed to learn a language for school requirements, and was tired of memorizing all those Spanish verb tenses. Years later, after MBA school, I worked in the Bay Area as a marketing manager in several of high-tech companies. And starting in 2000, I was laid-off from many high-tech companies. In-between jobs, while my wife heroically worked as a low-paid marketing assistant, I worked as a waiter in a Japanese restaurant and taught night-school classes in order to pay our Bay Area housing mortgage. That was before two years ago, when we sold our house (for a decent profit), and moved to China. Our move was a â€œmarketing re-positioningâ€ for my family.
My current line of work somewhat relates to your last article. I do management and leadership consulting. In the Bay Area, saying you are a consultant means that you are really unemployed. Here, it means Iâ€™m trying to slowly help Chinese managers overcome their Confucian and State-Owned-Enterprise (SOE) cultural â€œblind-spotsâ€. And I agree, it will take generations to overcome the damage that SOE culture has created.
I live in Suzhou, China. Itâ€™s a nice city. And if I have a craving to feel like I live in the Bay Area, I can always get on a bus to Shanghai (1 hour away), get stuck in traffic, and eventually get to a great Mediterranean breakfast restaurant that serves good falafel at a decent price.
I have heard that Suzhou was the #1 place for foreign investment in China last year. Which, on the surface, would be bad news for US tech workers because Suzhou is high-end (unlike, say, DongGuan in Guangdong, AKA Canton province). Siemens and Bosch have big presence here (wellâ€¦Siemens has essentially become a SOE in China and so has big presence everywhere). AMD, Intel, Nat Semi, Fairchild, GSK, Samsung, Alcatel, Nokia, Lâ€™Oreal, Solectron, Delphi, Toshiba, BenQ (Acer), Philips, Maxtor, Seagate, Black&Decker;, etcâ€¦all have big presence here. But there is actually very little design work done here and most production is still low-end by US standards. And China has a long way to go before it can be competitive with India, or even in Software.
I respectfully disagree with what camilleRoy said in his comments. For starters, there are a lot of places you can discuss the negative downsides of globalization and its many facets (i.e. outsourcing). Mr. Leonardâ€™s articles are distinctly non-ideological about this debate, and I appreciate that. Also, what I never see from the anti-globalization crowd is a well-though out alternative. Its always corporate greed yadda yadda yadda. What can we really do about the outsourcing trend? Furthermore, the tech-downturn in 2000 had *nothing* to do with outsourcing. It had everything to do with market expectations and financial situations. You could argue that George Bush in the White House also focused big investors away from volatile high-tech, and into oil and military stocks. As stocks -or the promise of getting riches from going public- was the financial and spiritual fuel behind Silicon Valley and its hard-driving workforce, this shift in investment priorities still is (in my mind anyway) the biggest continuing obstacle behind the Silicon Valley depression. And letâ€™s not forget the trouble Bushâ€™s friends at Enron did to California and Silicon Valley in particular. A 10 minute black-out will shut down a high-tech company for a almost a day. (BTW, Suzhou SIP region boasts no black-outs in the last 5 yearsâ€¦sort of a record in China). Then there are the culture problems of the US as well. If we want to compete as a society, we need to invest in education. Duh!
I feel that the argument about blaming China and outsourcing for Americaâ€™s job woes is an engineered distraction, and very similar to what Chinese people do in regards to Japan. Blame the foreigner, but donâ€™t look at the real problems that are right in front of us.