Today is the official first day back after Chinese New Year. …Most people returned to work earlier of course. China has been dubbed the “Workhouse Of The World” and its economic growth in the last year was an incredible 9.7%.
I am constantly astonished by the hours that the Chinese people work. My friend has today started a new project in her workplace that will mean she works from before I get up in the morning, until after I go to bed at night. She says she is not a particularly hard worker compared with her colleagues – she describes people that do not have time to shower, who sleep for just a couple of hours on a sofa in the office, or don’t sleep at all for days! I wonder whether they can carry this on? Science proves that this is definitely not a productive way to work (as if we didn’t know already) and it draws a stark contrast with the issue of ‘work-life balance’ being currently discussed in the UK. Then I realise – this is a country with several billion people. Education is world-class and individuals strive to ever-higher academic levels. They will do all they can to get a job and do well. Whatever job you do in China, there will be someone trying to replace you. This is probably not a sustainable way to work for the individual. The employer – and presumably the economy also – are reaping the benefits of this competitive situation.
China’s economy has been growing rapidly in recent years. In addition to the sheer number of cheap and hard-working people here, welcoming Western business has been another key factor for the increase in the Chinese economy. People joke that everything is “Made in China” – well half of all cameras in the world, a third of air conditioners and televisions, and a quarter of all the washing machines are made here. Around a third of all manufacturing employees (90 million people or so) work in China. That’s a lot of manufacturing. I remember a similar joke when I was younger: Everything seemed to be stamped “Made in Taiwan”. Taiwan is pretty much the same place (although some people may disagree with this – I’ll go into it another time). World manufacturing has relied on this country for decades. The reason businesses come to China now, is not just for the cheap labour. China also holds an incredible market potential. As Chinese people have an increase in disposable income, even more potential buyers could reap further profits into a company. Competition between businesses is fierce here because if you can establish your business you will make a lot of money. There are lots of McDonalds in China, as with any country in the world. Unlike other places, opposite every McD I have seen, there is a Kentucky Fried Chicken. Bizarrely, no Burger King is in sight – but these other two are together without fail. In the worldwide war of fast-food dominance, I really hope KFC wins this battle.
China’s economy is set to take-over America soon and is tipped to become the next world superpower. Now I am no expert in economics so I won’t attempt any fancy predictions! – but think about the numerous influences the US has had on you. Do you say any words that originated in America? Are there any parts of US culture that you imitate in any way? If China is to be their replacement, perhaps we should look to learning a lot more about the Chinese way of life?