Thoughts on China sourcing: Despair is a sin

Thoughts on China sourcing Despair is a sin

I don’t fit in well in my home town in America anymore. Oh, I was born and raised here, have friends here, go to the church where I was baptized, confirmed and married, but having been an expat, spending a couple months a year in China, having a workday that spans the globe, and making a living “taking American jobs overseas”, suffice it to say conversations are often awkward.

My view on China sourcing can be summed up thus:

  1. I might change things in the rulebook if it were up to me, but it’s not. The game is played by rules written by others, and until someone makes a change, the world is a global market and one man or one company cannot change the system by refusing to play. When I came back from my first experience living in Asia in 1994, I told everyone in our company that the “great sucking sound” from Mexico was not what we were really hearing. It was the tidal wave headed across the Pacific from China. I knew that our company was not going to stop that wave and we could either drown on the beach trying, or get a board and learn how to surf. PassageMaker’s services can be described many ways – China supply chain management, vendor coordination, China sourcing, China contract assembly, blah blah blah blah blah – but we are really surfing instructors for hire. It’s my job to keep you from drowning, not change the world.
  2. China moving from a desperately poor nation to a more prosperous one is a good thing. I would rather 1.3 billion Chinese people feed themselves than starve waiting for foreign aid. That doesn’t mean I’m in love with the government or that I think Chinese people are perfect or better than Americans. America’s problems are mostly our fault and entirely up to us to fix. The solutions are there, and most business owners I know, regardless of political affiliation, will prescribe the same solution – get the government out of the way and let me get to work. Nothing is accomplished by blaming others or giving up hope. To quote Jerry Pournelle:

Despair is a sin.

At the end of World War II, much of Germany was in ruins. Large parts of its infrastructure was attacked or bombed by the Allied Forces. The city of Dresden was completely destroyed. The population of Cologne had dropped from 750,000 to 32,000. The housing stock was reduced by 20%. Food production was half the level it was before the start of the war; industrial output was down by a third. Many of its men between the ages of 18 and 35, the demographic which could do the heavy lifting to literally rebuild the country, had been either killed or crippled.
During the war, Hitler had instituted food rations, limiting its civilian population to eat no more than 2,000 calories per day. After the war, the Allies continued this food rationing policy and limited the population to eat between 1,000-1,500 calories. Price controls on other goods and services led to shortages and a massive black market. Germany’s currency, the reichsmark, had become completely worthless, requiring its populace to resort to bartering for goods and services.
In short, Germany was a ruined state facing an incredibly bleak future. The country was occupied by four nations, and soon it would be divided into halves. The Eastern half became a socialist state, part of the Iron Curtain that was heavily influenced by Soviet policy. The Western half became a democracy. And caught in the middle was the former capital of Berlin, which was divided in two, eventually separated by what became known as the Berlin Wall.
But by 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell and Germany was once again reunited, it was the envy of most of the world. Germany had the third-biggest economy in the world, trailing only Japan and the United States in GDP.

Read more:

There is a way out of this Depression. Our lands do not lie in ruins. Our fields are not cratered from bombs and filled with mines. Many of our idle factories still exist. Wonderful machine tools and laboratory instruments are sold at scrap value on eBay and at public auction. There is lots of unused productivity in this land, and we know the formula for prosperity. It is liberty. That has always been the secret of American exceptionalism. We had founders whose goal was to insure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity.

Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free. We have always known this. We know it still.

China sourcing is a tool businesses can employ to help make themselves more competitive. That doesn’t mean you should source in China. And that doesn’t mean it is the only way to compete. Blaming others solves nothing. Time to get to work.

The importance of parallels in supply chain management

The importance of parallels in supply chain management

Since I suck at blogging on a regular basis, you should really read Dan Smith at China Law Blogand Renaud Anjoran at Quality Inspection Tips. It’s not that I don’t see two dozen things each day I want to blog about – I have hundreds of articles archived that I fully intend to blog on someday, probably after each is three years out of date – but I just run out of time each day.

Well today Dan had something that really struck a chord with me. In his post, “Moving On Out To China’s West Side. Why Things Go Slowly.“, he writes:

…we were hit with a flurry of companies looking to move out from places like Suzhou and Shenzhen and Dongguan to places like Yantai, Jinxue and Datong. Two of these have already begun the process. Note though that I intentionally used the ambiguous term “move out from” as opposed to “leave” because in none of the cases is the company going to shut down any operations. At least not yet. Their plans are to open ancillary facilities elsewhere, see how those go, and then, based on that, decide what to do with their existing facility or facilities.

China supply chain management 101

This is priceless advice. In years past it was not uncommon for me to have clients shut down existing domestic supply chains before the Chinese supply chain was properly up-and-running; in some ridiculous cases, before the Chinese suppliers were even really identified.


If you are ever thinking of establishing a new supply chain, regardless of where it is, get it established and running in parallel with your current system. And then run it in parallel for a couple of years, slowly changing the ratio so that the majority of your product comes from the lower cost source. Then once all the bugs are worked out and you are absolutely convinced you are ready to shut down the old in favor of the new, run them in parallel for another year just to be safe.

PassageMaker can help you manage your Chinese suppliers, but I will advise you NOT to give me 100% of your demand right away if you have existing suppliers or your own production lines. Keep your existing system as back up and average your costs down. My goal is that you be successful and making me immediately responsible for your whole world is not a good decision for anyone.

But that’s just my rant for the day. Your thoughts, please.

Poka yoke, or Why a solid design database matters

Poka yoke, or Why a solid design database matters

So we have had a very hot summer thus far here in southwest Virginia. Not that it was any cooler or less humid when I was in Shenzhen for six weeks in late spring, but given that I am renovating an old home without central air while living in it, I am allowed to comment on the weather.

The old A/C units that came with the house were not up to the task, so rather than broil while we rip up half the house to install central air, off we go to the appliance store to buy some new window units. We bought several of the same model, and while I have never thought about an A/C unit needing a remote control, this model had remotes.

After I got them installed, we noticed a tiny little design flaw in the remote. See if you can spot it.

Poka yoke, or Why a solid design database matters

Were I a dedicated blogger, I would take one of these apart to show you the interior, but now that I have the wonder of a remote control for my A/C, I am not going to risk breaking one of these just for you. I prefer to luxuriate in my new found comfort like a stereotypical lazy American, thank you very much.

Were I to take the remote apart, you would see that the buttons are molded as one piece. Molding the buttons as a solid piece is the standard way of doing it, but by creating a part that was symmetrical (likely just a plain rectangle), the designer created a failure mode – the assembler could put the parts together backwards. What the designer should have done was analyze what could go wrong with the design – could it be assembled backwards? – and keyed one end so the the part was not symmetrical. Perhaps there is an internal feature that one end of the button strip could have been molded to mate with. Many companies I’ve worked with use the formal Failure Modes Effects Analysis (FMEA) process, and it is a great tool if you have the discipline to use it. The Japanese refer to this practice as“poka yoke” (mistake proofing), but often still translated as “idiot proofing”. I’m not a fan of that translation, because who’s the idiot – the guy would made the momentary mistake of putting it in backwards or the designer who created a flawed product?

PassageMaker often gets classified as a China sourcing company. While we do source products in China, that is only the smallest part of what we do. We are primarily a contract assembly company (with that label encompassing vendor coordination, inspection, the actual assembly, packaging, logistics, VAT rebates, etc.). And I can tell you that we see MANY severely flawed design databases, drawings that appear to have been made by someone who gave no thought to how to put the thing together.

If you are going to spend the money to have something made in China, a dollar’s worth of poke yoke is worth hundred times that in money saved doing inspections, warranty claims and just the general embarrassment of sending a functional part out into the world that is nonetheless defective.

In our Endorsed Service Provider network, we recommend two design engineering firms. Contract Engineering Services is based in Virginia, USA, and VentureTech is Dutch-owned, based in Shenzhen. Both do a fine job for our clients and even if you do your own engineering, I strongly urge you to learn from the lesson above and try an mistake proof your design. It might feel good to blame the Chinese assembly line worker, but who really made the mistake?

Your thoughts?

Supply chain in China: From ‘just-in-time’ to ‘just-in-case?’

Supply chain in China: From 'just-in-time' to 'just-in-case?'

Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, wrote a great op-ed piece in the Washington Examiner recently, on the impact the Japanese earthquake and tsunami are having on supply chains around the globe.

Quoting the Professor in full:

Japan’s earthquake/tsunami has occupied the news and also spurred a lot of thought. Among other things, it has underscored the fragile and interconnected nature of modern society, and caused some to question the wisdom of “just-in-time” manufacturing approaches in today’s unsettled world.Instead, it is suggested, we might want to focus on “just in case” approaches designed to be more resilient under stress.

Japan’s earthquake was in some ways a triumph of preparedness: Thanks to strict building codes, not a single building in Tokyo collapsed. But the earthquake, and the tsunami it produced, have had impacts that go well beyond the immediate.

In particular, the damage is exposing the extent to which modern supply-chain management has produced a system that is so lean it lacks the reserve capacity needed to cope with disasters.

In manufacturing, plants have been idled around the world because Japanese factories — or often, a single Japanese factory — serve as the sole source for a vital component. With the factories sidelined by damage or power outages, the components are unavailable, and production has to stop.

Ford Motor Company idled a plant in Belgium for five days over parts shortages; Toyota warned plants in the United States to be prepared to close for the same reason. A U.S. plant making car seats had to close because of a shortage of premium vinyl made only in Japan. Ford has suspended orders for some models in red and black because the paints come from a single factory in Japan, now closed. Tales like these abound.

Even the New York subway system is affected by the parts shortage: As National Public Radio’s “Marketplace” reported: “Steel from the north of Japan can’t get to Suzuki. Suzuki can’t make the parts for Hitachi. And Hitachi can’t send the parts to New York. The global supply chain breaks down with the removal of just one link.”

As Edward Tenner noted in the Atlantic: “The tsunami has exposed a weakness in global logistics long recognized in principle but disregarded in practice. Lean manufacturing plus heavy reliance on a single plant equals vulnerability to disruption.”

With managers under pressure to keep costs down, there has been a tendency to cut special deals with single suppliers, and to keep stocks of parts as low as possible. So long as everything goes smoothly, this saves money: Single suppliers give you the best price, and low inventories keep you from tying up working capital.

The problem is that we seem to be in a period where things aren’t going as smoothly as they did for a while. And when things don’t go smoothly, the lean approach means that it doesn’t take much to bring things to a halt.

I mentioned this to a friend who’s got a custom-car business, and he said his experience with disruptions in getting supplies from vendors has caused him to move from a “just-in-time” system to what he calls a “just in case” system, where stockpiles are bigger and alternative suppliers are identified in advance. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of this, post-Japan.

But the problem goes well beyond cars and subways. Lots of more important systems are similarly vulnerable. My wife takes a heart-rhythm drug called Tikosyn; if she misses a dose, she could die.

Walgreen’s doesn’t want to keep it in stock, so they order a bottle by air-freight when her prescription is about to expire. Normally, that’s fine — but if something happened to interrupt shipping, she’d be in trouble.

She keeps a backup supply, but what would Walgreen’s do for others in a similar predicament? A few days of shipping problems and many pharmacies would be out of important drugs.

Likewise, grocery stores now keep only a small supply of food on hand, depending on regular deliveries for restocking. When those deliveries are interrupted, shelves start to empty pretty fast. (And government emergency food stockpiles are nothing like they were in the Cold War era).

Power plants used to keep a 60-day supply of coal in stock. Now they typically keep only 30 days’ worth. That saves utilities money but it means that there’s less margin if deliveries get interrupted. In the past, severe blizzards have left some utilities dangerously close to running out. Most cities have only a few days’ worth of gasoline.

We’ve come off a period of several decades in which weather was better than average, and in which other forms of societal disruption were fairly minor. The 21st century looks likely to be less placid.

As we make all sorts of plans, at the governmental, the business, or the personal level, it will pay to think more about the likelihood that things won’t go smoothly, and about ways we can prepare now to deal with the inevitable problems ahead.

A new subdiscipline called “resilience engineering” looks at how systems can be made more resistant to failure, and better able to recover when they do fail. That kind of thinking, it seems to me, is relevant to all of us, not just engineers.

The ride seems to be getting bumpier. In all sorts of areas, we need more of a cushion.

This advice is similar to advice I’ve been giving for years when it comes to a supply chain in China. Simply put, “your order will be late; plan accordingly”. When I was supplying parts to a large American motorcycle company, I knew that I had to buffer uncertainty with inventory. They often couldn’t give reliable forecasts (or I should say, their forecasts didn’t always filter through the other supply chain members reliably), so I had to keep weeks or months worth of product on the floor to compensate. And that was just the customer – the suppliers were a whole other ration of uncertainty. This is the dirty little secret of the JIT revolution – the inventory levels are often still there, just held by someone other than the OEM.

If you actually both to read past the first chapter in any book on JIT, you will see that stability is a prerequisite for a JIT system – stability in demand and in supply. The system can’t work in chaos. Most Chinese supply chains are far too chaotic to be part of a JIT system (for Apple this is not the case, but chances are if you are reading this blog, the rule applies).

I could go into the math of how to calculate an inventory level based on your target fulfillment goal, but suffice it to say, you are wise to keep some stock on hand. Much cheaper than airfreight.

As for single sourcing, some products don’t have the volume to have multiple sources, but whenever we have a client with substantial order quantities, I always recommend having at least two sources for each component. I also encourage clients to develop domestic sources to support 20% of the normal production, and make sure they have capacity to handle increased orders if there are problems with the Chinese suppliers.

So, when you come to China, do NOT expect to run the supply chain the way the new text books say. Go old school and put some fat in the system. Just in case.

Election Night Predictions!

In honor of my friend, Morgan Griffith, who just defeated 14-term incumbent Rick Boucher in the Virgina 9th Congressional District, let me make the following brief prediction.

Morgan will be a good and responsible Congressman. He will stay true to himself and not become enamored of life in Washington, DC. We will all miss him when he is away and I know his wife, Hilary, is probably cheering and weeping at the same time as this means she will see even less of him once he takes office. Congratulations Morgan and Hilary. It could not have happened to two better and kinder people.

On the subject of whether the new Tea Party flavored Republican House will have a negligible impact on the America’s trade with China, I will make the following prediction:

Nothing will change.

Not because it shouldn’t, but because it can’t. Not yet. Not for a long while.

As long as the USA is borrowing money in shiploads from the Chinese, there will be little to no leverage. As long as the USA continues to pursue policies that make the USA an unattractive place to start a business, there will be no hope of changing the rationale for doing business in China.

I approach this as someone who watched his Father start a metal stamping company in the USA during the 1980’s. That company, still in business today, would never be started today. The parts would be outsourced to China, because that’s what the math would tell you to do.

I write this with no special joy, despite how I earn my living. It is simply a recognition of the reality of my surroundings.

The USA will be gridlocked at the federal level until at least the 2012 elections. Having a bulwark in the House to stop the anti-competitive agenda of the last two years will be a good thing, but the numbers are not there to start turning the ship.

If the USA wants to compete with China, tax policy will have to change. Trade policy will have to change. Health care, OSHA, EPA, Department of Education, on and on and on, will have to change. And this won’t happen with a divided Washington.

Will the GOP House be better for PassageMaker’s business? I firmly believe it will. Entrepreneurs and small-to-medium businesses are risk averse. Now they can sleep a little easier that they will get to keep some of their earnings. Gridlock is at least stable, and even a less than optimal stability is preferable to the roller coaster we’ve been on the last few years. We’ve had a number of projects stall out because of clients who weren’t sure of the business climate. I am betting this changes for the better.

So, Congratulations Morgan! And on what other China business blog are you going to get a Fishbone reference on election night? I know that they didn’t mean it when they wrote the song, but listen to the lyrics – is there a better Tea Party anthem?

Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” talks about the nature of work

This video is actually over a year old, but the message resonates nonetheless. I am a bit of a paradox – someone who is obsessed with Asia, who spends my days lethargically tapping away at my MacBook Pro (fantastic device), helping companies do business in China, often to outsource the “jobs Americans won’t do anymore”. Yet I still have interests in two successful American manufacturing companies that make 90% of their product in the good old USA, and we are in the process of moving some of those products back to the America from China. That’s what the math is telling us to do, and I know it is the right move. I have an MBA, but some of my fondest career memories are of manual labor, working in a small brewery and various factories. I hate going to the gym (as anyone who’s ever met me can easily attest), but I love yard work – pruning trees, weeding, splitting firewood, etc.

Rowe’s point delivered to Congress, is worth quoting:

Rowe explained that “dirty” jobs, like those in manufacturing and farming, used to mean success, but now look like settling. He wants that to change.

“I don’t think the country is going to fall back in love with manufacturing and I don’t think these policies are going to change, until or unless we reignite a fundamental relationship with dirt, work, and the business of making things, as opposed to the business of buying them,” he said.

He said one of reasons this is occurring is because community colleges and vocational education have taken the backseat to four-year college degrees.

“It’s not happening because people hate community colleges, it’s not happening because people hate the trades, it’s happening because we’re promoting a very specific kind of education at the expense of the others,” he said.

I’ve written before about the higher education bubble (here and here) and thoughts on American competitiveness and the attitudes towards work, but Mr. Rowe does a better job of laying out where we’ve lost our way a bit. Convincing people that the only path to wealth is $120,000+ in debt for a degree in liberal arts or the soft sciences seems further from the mark than ever.

China has built serious capabilities in the last 30 years, skills and knowledge that many parts of the developed world have allowed to atrophy. Part of the attraction to doing business in China is price, but increasingly it is because the domestic industries have shrunken to the point that China is the only place you can get it made, whatever “it” is. That is why PassageMaker is there, so that if you are forced to do business with Chinese suppliers, you have an advocate that understands your concerns and requirements, and has your success as our primary objective.

The only thing better than having dinner with a beautiful woman…

…is having dinner with two beautiful women. Feel free to quote me.

The last two weeks have included the opportunity to take part in a number of events at Mike’s and my alma mater, The Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. USC excels in teaching international business, and we are currently hosting an excellent intern from the IMBA program in our Shenzhen office, so I freely admit I am shopping for next year’s intern(s).

Aside from the obvious ego boost of being asked to speak at your alma mater, it gives me enthusiasm for the future. The class of 2013 has some real ringers, students I expect to read about in the business journals a decade hence (and a few who might make the police blotter for public intoxication between now and then, much to my gratification – Go Cocks). To Aaron, Clinton, Frank and the young man with the extravagant hair who had the insane idea to eat a chili dog and then take hot sake shots at 4:00 AM, study hard. You have quite a task to live up to trail blazed by Admiral Goodtimes, aka Mike Bellamy, and I circa 1997, but you are well on your way. Make us proud.

These two weeks of travel also included meeting an amazing entrepreneur, Doreen Sullivan of Post No Bills. It is hard for me to briefly describe what they do (hell, it is hard for me to briefly describe what I do), but it is far above slapping logos on coffee mugs. I expect we will be doing plenty of business together in the future. A very dynamic woman with a very exciting company.

This week I was contacted by a student I’d met earlier in the year. She wanted my input on a project for one of her classes. We had a very enjoyable lunch, which put me in the mind to cogitate on three subjects much on my mind of late.

The first is the higher education bubble (much discussed by Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, if you care to follow along). I’ve debated whether the bubble is real with the folks from my undergraduate alma mater, but there is no denying that the price of school has risen far faster than the rate of inflation. I was very surprised to hear what this young lady was paying at a state school.

The second was the (sadly) trendy, politically correct nature of some of the classes she’s being required to take. Sustainability in a business program? Really? Like every person able to read doesn’t already know “green” products are all the rage? I know all the schools are doing it, but this strikes me as the B-school version of the “fill-in-the-ethnicity-studies” programs at the undergraduate level. Let’s keep to the rigor of the old core, shall we? I am not picking on USC, just pushing them to shuck the academic fads

The third was the advice this young lady had been given. Most people were advising her to specialize, to focus on one subject, be it finance, marketing, etc. I gave her the opposite advice. I have always striven to be a generalist. I shared with her (a badly butchered version of) one of my favorite quotes from Robert A. Heinlein. Here it is in full:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Specialization is for insects. What an amazing line. If there is quote that sums up the need for an entrepreneur to have as broad a knowledge base as possible, that’s it.

Our lunch stretched into the afternoon, then into the evening. My lunch companion is a very impressive young woman, Chinese but having spent half her life in the USA, her English is flawless, and there is obviously a great deal holding her ears apart. We had a grand time discussing the vagaries of doing business in China, the diversity of the cuisine, the peculiarities of regional culture, etc. Doreen of Post No Bills joined us around beer:30 and made an impromptu introduction to a struggling young entrepreneur with the single most amazing product concept I’ve experienced all year. The next hour was spent discussing branding, funding, IP protection, etc. We closed with a late dinner with the ladies (hence the title of this post), the final statement on the evening from our young student being, “I’ve learned more in the last nine hours than I have since I started school here!”. Mission Accomplished.

That is how we roll at PassageMaker and it is the reason I am so passionate about what I do. At 1:00 PM on Thursday, I thought lunch would be over by 2:00 PM. By 3:00 PM, I knew I’d found next year’s #1 intern candidate, and by 7:00 PM I had a new client with a product that will shake its industry to the core – an industry in which I have not one iota of experience, but the difference is I know how to learn and learn fast. That is core of how PassageMaker operates – it has to be as our clients are so diverse – and I will credit USC with helping us hone that most critical of skills. And by the 4:00 PM Friday, I had investors interested enough to schedule a meeting to meet the inventor with less than week’s notice.

Get an MBA to climb the corporate ladder? Nah, not for me. Specialization is for insects.

The Man Who Makes Your iPhone

Fascinating article on Terry Gou (which is an incorrect romanization for his family surname, 郭, the pinyin should be Guo, not Gou), the founder of Foxconn.

The article spends a good deal of time talking about the recent suicides at Foxconn, which were tragic and not to be dismissed. I did not blog about the suicides at the time, but it occurred to me when I read this article that at roughly 900,000 employees, Foxconn has a larger “population” than the following US states:

  • Alaska (149 / 681,111)
  • South Dakota (102 / 795,689)
  • Wyoming (101 / 523,252)
  • Delaware (95 / 861,953)
  • North Dakota (95 / 637,904)
  • Vermont (89 / 620,748)

You’ve probably figured out that the first number is the number of suicides, the second the state’s population (2007 data from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). Frankly, we should be surprised there were not more than 12 suicides, just given the sheer density of the living and working conditions. Or maybe that helped prevent them? Lack of privacy denies you the opportunity or provides something of a support structure whether you like it or not?

Anyway, money ‘graph:

Gou has plans to capitalize on the changes he has wrought. Perhaps most intriguing is his plan to move additional production to the U.S. The company currently employs about 1,000 workers in a Houston plant that makes specialized high-end servers for corporate clients the company declined to disclose, and Gou envisions a fully automated plant to produce components within five years. “If I can automate in the U.S.A. and ship to China, cost-wise it can still be competitive,” he says. “But I worry America has too many lawyers. I don’t want to spend time having people sue me every day.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – bean counters, lawyers and @$$hat corporate buyers took all the fun out of US manufacturing and along with unions have done their damnedest to destroy what was left.

Anyway, enjoy the article about the “new Henry Ford”, and say a prayer for the departed.

Ennui, information overload, and Happy Birthday Shenzhen!

I have become ferociously bored with blogging of late. Part of it was summertime, with its combination of oppressive heat and other, more enticing diversions. Part of it was (and is) the absolute avalanche of business we’ve been getting – there is a bad economy out there, but people still need help in China. And part of it was (and is and I fear always shall be) the crush of sheer stupidity gushing out of Washington daily. It just is more than I can take most days. It says quite a bit when the business climate is more stable in an ostensibly communist country than a nominally capitalist one.

However, when the IT team is motivated to re-post a sales brochure to freshen up the homepage, I guess that is a sign I best get moving on the blogging front.

I will try to re-establish my blogging discipline, with at least a few posts per week.

In the meantime, here is the article that got me off my duff (hat tip to Dan Beach, aka, “Canada Dan”):

China’s ‘miracle’ Shenzhen marks 30 years. I first visited Shenzhen in 1994 and at the time never imagined it would become my second home. How different it is today than the ugly, gray city 16 years ago. China has a long way to go, but the distance it has traveled has been astonishing.

Other fun stuff:

  • There Are Now Enough Vacant Properties In China To House Over Half Of America – bubble, anyone?
  • Obama Added More to National Debt in First 19 Months Than All Presidents from Washington Through Reagan Combined, Says Gov’t Data – hmmm…wonder how the Chinese feel about that?
  • China’s UN diplomat in drunken rant against Americans – well, at least we are clear on how China’s UN ambassador feels about it.
  • Report: Castro says Cuban model doesn’t work – reaaaaaally, you don’t say. As unsurprising as this is, imagine if Cuba tries a “Shenzhen Special Economic Zone” 90 miles off the coast of Florida to turn things around. Another interesting interview with Castro (nothing to do with China, but very interesting what he has to say about the Jews, Israel and Iran).
  • You Know The US Is Screwed, When China, Gambia, And Jordan Have Better Property Rights – I’ve felt this in my bones for a while. The USA has been acting for some time as though it didn’t want to be an economic powerhouse, and this is just another example. More on America’s competitiveness here.
  • Buck Up, America – for a much more optimistic take. The points he makes about China and India strike me as valid.

More blogging soon, I promise. I really mean this time. Seriously, quit laughing.

Account Manager- take 1

For my internship I’ve been given 3 duties- this blog, getting the “China Sourcer” magazine launched ( and assisting my boss Pramod with vendor coordination as an account manager. Fortunately I’ve been assigned to a small account for the time being (per my request as I desire to learn, and not completely screw something major up!) that is starting to get into crunch time. Just being attached to this case a week, I can see how PassageMaker has continuously been able to grow these past few years.

My client, a good guy from Canada, found his own supplier here in China (something that PM also does, but is able to do a much more thorough job of investigating as it’s a backbone of the business). And of course, the supplier has not really been a good fit so PM has been hired to help clean up the mess, and get his project finished and sent out.

I feel for our client, as he’s spent a lot of money on what I would call a very luxurious model in this particular market. He’s gonna have to spend a lot more money to get this project out of china and into the stores. He himself has seen the light and will most likely use PassageMaker for any future orders he may place.

I don’t really think it’s a situation that the supplier doesn’t care, but I also don’t get the feeling that my client is this supplier’s biggest customer either. My client is a good source of some money, but certainly not the big fish in the pond so to say, and so things get done, just slowly and not as thoroughly as it could be. But soon enough this project will be done (knock on wood) and the client can move to a better situation via PassageMaker. It’s a good account to start with, and I see things only getting harder from here.