Taking stock of China

Written by: Tim Fryer | Published:
I fully agree with the comment at the end of your comment column in the September Eureka: that ...

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The concept of a global recession has always eluded me. As long as we have the raw materials for civilisation, like food and fuel, then a global recession seems to be counter-intuitive - do we as a planet owe another planet a huge amount of galactic dollars?

Assuming we don't then global recessions must be a fabricated condition that presumably the majority of the seven billion inhabitants of the world do rather badly out of, while a handful are profiting quite happily. Presumably if everyone was doing badly then we could find a way of cross-cancelling debts to everyone's advantage.

There has been a theory that the UK has put itself in a vulnerable position over recent decades by whittling down its manufacturing and engineering sectors. An economic crisis exposes our reliance on service industries and we look enviously at Germany whose engineers appear to give the country a foundation that lessens the depth of recession and speeds recovery. The debate continues about what we have done and need to do in terms of technology and training to get us back on the road to self-sufficiency.

Incidentally I am not saying we are in a global recession, but there is certainly global caution and more significant consequences were being mooted as the Chinese stock exchange wobbled and collapsed. And it is China that is the interesting point here. It is the world's second largest economy has also become the world's factory. While it has millions involved in manufacturing it is now also ramping up its ranks of qualified engineers, signalling intent at least to add high value engineering to high volume manufacturing.

It doesn't, however, seem to have stopped the Chinese stock market falling off a cliff, so maybe having such an industrial base isn't so critical. More likely the quest for quick profits in the financial sector has overheated once more and this is just one of those periodic adjustments. Sadly such adjustments can cost jobs - proper engineering jobs – whatever the country. But perhaps, without wanting to trample on others misfortune, this lack of economic stability in the Far East could be another reason (and there are already plenty) why engineering design and manufacturing work best together on home soil.

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I fully agree with the comment at the end of your comment column in the September Eureka: that engineering design and manufacture work better together.

I worked at English Electric in Stafford 1958 to 1962 developing high power vacuum interrupters. I was in the main works in the high power test lab and associated with switchgear development. There was a Nelson Research Laboratory a few miles away who had done some preliminary work on vacuum interrupters. I felt at that time that it was right that my work was located in the main works. I saw the variety of manufacturing operations daily - also there was opportunity (not experienced!) for staff to ask me questions and/or make suggestions for improvements.

A ‘service’ industry services something. I believe they each need to interact directly, so people involved on the service side appreciate the breath of questions that arise in manufacturing and the manufacturing people feel that there is opportunity for interaction with those providing the various services which influence their operations. (I find it difficult to appreciate how much the financial service industry benefits the operation and long term development of innovation and manufacturing!).

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