Monday, February 19, 2007
Anyone who thinks about nano these days also thinks about China. The Atlantic Monthly dated March 2007 has an interesting piece by James Fallows about Broad Air Conditioning outside Changsha, its tycoon founder Zhang Yue, its business methods, and its technology. The essay raises a number of questions that are relevant to nano-watchers: China's ability to develop new technologies and not just cheapen existing ones; the deep integration of the business and social systems; a concern about the environment and sustainability that may be far deeper and more pervasive than we realize; and a profound love of quality. Fallows treats us to various goofy Zhang quirks as well - his desire for green airplanes, his military-style factory training, the incredible mishmash of cliches from Western architecture and history that he strews around the factory compound where he lives with his wife, son, and parents. But the local color, no matter how oddball in itself, adds up to a very intelligent world view. When Zhang says good food matters, or that a visually-pleasing factory environment matters, he expresses a humanistic vision of employees, work, and a potentially harmonious society that is at odds with, and in my view more advanced than, the borderline Darwinism that sets the boundaries of most American business thinking. This vision, I will bet anyone, is finally the greater labor threat from China than sheer numbers and cheapness. Fallows gets this. Citing a hokey line from a film Zhang has made called "The World in 2015," Fallows concludes, "as an indication that more than pure moneymaking is under way, it is worth noticing. China will bring more than mere commerce to the world."
Posted by Chris Newfield at 12:38 PM