China needs to build global brands and companies similar to Apple Inc. to stave off a possible loss of competitiveness in as few as three years, said Jack Welch, former chief executive officer of General Electric Co.
Rising wages in China are fueling inflation and may spur more global manufacturers to move production to Vietnam and countries in Africa, Welch told reporters in Shanghai.
China is a “long way from losing its competitiveness,” he said. “It’s going to happen. Three years or five years, it will happen.”
China can no longer rely on exports and low-cost production for economic growth and must innovate by building global brands and creating “10,000 Apples,” he said. Steve Jobs, who transformed Apple into the world’s largest technology company before resigning as chief executive officer last month, is “absolutely” the world’s best business leader, he said.
“Right now China is missing global brands,” Welch said. “That won’t be for long.”
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It seems to me that when Japan started its export drive in the 50’s its product quality was often poor because they were still in such poor shape from the war, but that the drive and desire to do better was always there. In contrast, some number of Chinese companies seem perfectly happy to sell whatever garbage they can melt off of old circuit boards or whatever deadly poisons they can use to cut their costs making toothpaste or infant formula.
Obviously Chinese companies are capable of building very high quality and very sophisticated products, or else they wouldn’t be the manufacturing center of the world that they are today. You’re right that there’s a persistent strain of industrial crime and bureaucratic corruption there that is going to have to be stamped out before China’s international brand will be able to gain the respect it deserves. I just don’t think Japan is an accurate model here, because there are some substantial differences in the initial conditions.