January 14, 2016
Why Chinese Factories Fare Poorly in the U.S.
By Jeffrey Rothfeder
China’s manufacturing strategy, made possible by low wages and subpar conditions, can succeed in emerging nations, but it’s not feasible in developed economies.
In September, on an abandoned forty-acre Westinghouse factory site in Springfield, Massachusetts, the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (C.R.R.C.) broke ground on a sixty-million-dollar plant to assemble subway cars for Boston’s Orange and Red lines. Although commentary on the Chinese-American trade relationship is often colored by suspicion and xenophobia, virtually no one in Massachusetts publicly opposed the arrival of C.R.R.C., a state-owned enterprise controlled by Beijing.
After all, Springfield is not a position to be picky about its economic partners. Once a dominant manufacturing city—the assembly line and the concept of interchangeable parts were invented there, in munitions factories that were centers of global innovation for much of the nineteenth century—Springfield has been spiralling downward for decades. Currently, unemployment there stands just above the national level, but the city depends on state government and municipal services, not the private sector, for much of its cash flow and jobs. In just the past five years, even as U.S. industrial employment has surged some 7.5 per cent, representing nearly a million new jobs, about two thousand additional manufacturing positions have disappeared from Springfield.
Curiously, though, no one has been complaining about the growth of Chinese manufacturing elsewhere in the U.S., either. For at least the past seven years China has been the fastest-growing source of non-domestic business expansion in the U.S. In fact, Chinese foreign direct investment here—that is, the amount of money used to acquire American companies or to build factories and other commercial facilities—reached record levels in 2014, about twelve billion dollars, up from five billion in 2009. Moreover, in the first six months of 2015, Chinese direct investment in the U.S. rose nearly fifty per cent compared with the same period the year before, according to the Rhodium Group, which tracks Asian economies.
但让人感到好奇的是，美国其它地区也并没有人对中国制造业在当地发展产生过抱怨。至少在过去的7年中，中国成为外来国家（地区）在美发展最快的企业来源国。根据一直追踪亚洲经济体的荣鼎集团(the Rhodium Group)的报告，事实上中国在美的直接对外投资（即用以收购美国企业或建造厂房和其它商业设施的资金）在2014年达到创记录的120亿美元，该数字在2009年仅为50亿美元。此外在2015年上半年，中国对美直接投资同上年同期相比上升了将近15%。
Lately, most of this investment has been in real estate (such as Anbang’s $1.95 billion purchase of the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan, from Hilton) and technology (such as Lenovo’s $2.9 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility, from Google). But manufacturing has also been a frequent target, beginning as early as 2000, when the Qingdao-based appliance maker Haier made Camden, South Carolina, the site of the first Chinese factory in the U.S. Since then, Chinese manufacturers have acquired or built facilities to produce textiles, copper, steel, automobile supplies, renewable-energy equipment, and industrial machinery, among other items, in dozens of states.
China’s emergence in the U.S. economy recalls another transplant frenzy some three decades ago, when Japanese companies entered the U.S. in droves, swallowing up iconic symbols, like Rockefeller Center and Pebble Beach Golf Club, and raising automobile and steel plants in the Rust Belt. Back then, the general response was anger and fear. After Honda Motors opened the first Japanese auto plant in the U.S., in Marysville, Ohio, in the early nineteen-eighties, followed by an engine factory in nearby Anna, Ohio, the company faced an onslaught of vicious anti-Japanese ads on TV and in print, often supported by American manufacturing trade and labor groups. In one memorable incident that grabbed headlines across the country, William Leitz, the mayor of Wapakoneta, Ohio, angrily resigned his position, saying that he could not work side by side with the Japanese. “I was on a destroyer [in the South Pacific] that was sunk,” he said. “I’m an American, and I love my country.”
中国介入美国经济，让人回想起大概30年前的另一场投资热。当时日本企业成群结队进入美国，占领了像洛克菲勒中心和圆石滩高尔夫球场这样的标志性地带，并在陷入经济困境的老工业区（Rust Belt）设立汽车和钢铁厂。那时，普通大众对此的反应是愤怒和害怕。20世纪80年代早期，本田汽车在美国俄亥俄州马里斯维尔建立了第一家日本汽车制造厂，随后在邻近的、同样位于该州的安娜地区设立了引擎制造厂。但接着，本田就遭遇到了一系列充满敌意的反日电视广告和出版物的攻击，其背后通常有美国制造贸易商和工会团体的支持。俄亥俄州沃帕科内塔市市长威廉莱茨(William Leitz)在一起占据全国各大报纸头条的事件后愤然辞职。他表示，他本人不能同日本人共事。“我曾在南太平洋的一艘即将沉没的驱逐舰上待过，”他说，“我是美国人，我爱美国。”
The comparably subdued response to Chinese manufacturers speaks, on one hand, to changing circumstances, especially the broad acceptance of globalization in the United States and the desire, on the part of some politicians and business leaders, to create manufacturing jobs by whatever means necessary. But it also follows from a conclusion that American companies have reached about their Chinese counterparts: namely, that they are, thus far, relatively inconsequential rivals. Despite contracts like the one in Springfield, most U.S. producers don’t think Chinese manufacturing is good enough to pose nearly the same level of threat as Japanese companies did, decades ago.
The arrival in the U.S. of Japanese manufacturing methods precipitated a radical transformation in the accepted ideology behind how assembly lines should operate and how the highest levels of industrial productivity are achieved. This new factory model, which the Japanese call lean manufacturing, offered a blueprint for continuous plant improvement and innovation, driven by workers who are encouraged to experiment with new ways to enhance quality and productivity, and to minimize waste and inefficiency. In a lean factory, employee creativity and coöperation between management and assemblers are paramount, even if plant output is temporarily slowed to, for example, fix defects before a product is finished or to implement an untried process.
Armed with this uncluttered but potent a set of ideas, Japanese factories were consistently more efficient and inexpensive to operate than their American counterparts, and their products were more reliable, durable, and attractive to consumers. Faced with these advantages, the initial disdain aimed at the Japanese companies was impossible to support for very long. In the early nineteen-nineties, Japanese manufacturing became the subject of an unlikely best-selling book, “The Machine That Changed the World,” and inspired a spate of analysis, implementation programs, educational programs, and self-help pamphlets. Today, no Western manufacturer can hope to compete on a global stage without adopting some version of lean production—an undertaking that remains difficult for many firms, because it can require altering not just assembly processes but a company’s culture, especially where worker roles, management, and methods of innovation are concerned.
日本企业将这一精简但有效的方法运用到位，公司运作始终比它的美国伙伴们更高效率、低成本，产品也更可靠、耐用、更能吸引消费者。面对着日本企业的这一系列的优点，原先针对它的一系列鄙夷也注定不能长久站住脚。20世纪90年代早期，日本制造业成了一本原先不曾料到的畅销书——《改变世界的机器》(The Machine That Changed the World)的主题，同时也促成了一连串的分析、贯彻、教育方案的实施和自我帮助小册子的印发。今天，没有一位西方的制造商奢望在不采取某种形式的精益化生产的方式而能在国际舞台上进行竞争——这一方式对许多企业来说仍然是挑战，因为这不仅仅意味着改变生产流程，还需要转变公司的文化，特别是在那些工人的角色、管理和创新方式息息相关的公司。
It’s in these areas, though, that Chinese manufacturers are weakest. The country’s factory boom was made possible, instead, by low wages, subpar conditions, and few benefits. That strategy can succeed in emerging nations, especially ones with large labor pools, but it is not feasible in developed economies. The shortcomings of Chinese factories are most apparent in the relationship between managers and employees, which is based on an anachronistic top-down view of a factory as a place where the authority of supervisors is paramount, and workers are expected to take directions, perform tasks, do their work, and go home. There have been multiple reports of Chinese employers in the U.S. complaining that American workers are too outspoken and independent and are unable to follow rules. An American former executive of a Chinese firm operating in the U.S. told me that Chinese managers would complain, for example, that factory workers would arrive at a job five minutes late and not feel inclined to apologize. Such insouciance at plants inside China would lead laborers to be punished, for example by being sent home for the day, losing pay, forfeiting benefits, or being reassigned to more menial tasks. In the U.S., this approach has typically led employees to become more defiant and less assiduous. At Haier’s factory in South Carolina, Chinese managers had to be sent back to Asia because they were alienating workers and threatening productivity.
Perhaps the most extraordinary illustration of strained relations in Chinese factories occurred at the Golden Dragon copper-tube factory in Wilcox County, Alabama, last year, when workers voted to unionize the plant—an unlikely step in a right-to-work state where only about ten per cent of factory employees belong to organized labor, and in the face of a relentless and expensive “vote no” campaign led by Governor Robert Bentley. Golden Dragon workers complained that they received few benefits and that their wages, about eleven dollars an hour, were far below the pay for similar jobs in American copper plants in the South. Moreover, according to the union, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had found fourteen serious health and safety violations in the factory in the first few months after it opened, in May, 2014. The vote was an extraordinary step, and an indictment of the factory conditions that at least one Chinese manufacturer expected to be able to export.
也许在中国工厂内，关系紧张的最好例证可以在位于阿拉巴马州威尔科克斯县的金龙铜管厂(Golden Dragon copper-tube factory)一见端倪。去年，工人们投票成立工会——这在一个“适合工作的”州内并不常见，因为该州只有十分之一的产业工人属于一个劳工组织，并且是在州长罗伯特宾利(Robert Bentley)所领导的“投票说不”(vote no)的旷日持久的烧钱运动眼皮底下发生了。该公司工人们抱怨他们的奖金过低，并且他们约$11/时的工资远低于在美国南部的铜厂中干类似活儿的收入。此外，援引工会的说法，美国职业安全与卫生管理局(Occupational Safety and Health Administration)在2014年5月该企业开张后最初几个月内，就发现了14例严重的卫生和安全违规事件。这一投票是不同寻常的一步，也是对于至少一家中国出口企业的工作环境状况的控诉。
The perception that employees are interchangeable and replaceable has led turnover at factories in China to average an astounding thirty-five per cent a year among workers employed at least six months, according to Renaud Anjoran, an operations manager at China Manufacturing Consultants, in Shenzhen. “They’re seeing similar rates in their American operations. That’s a death sentence in the U.S., where employee skills, loyalty, continuity, job satisfaction and creativity—in other words, lean requirements—determine profitability,” he said. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, given these dynamics, Chinese factories are rapidly automating. Chinese companies now account for more than twenty-five per cent of global robotic-equipment sales, and it’s not unusual to come across a Chinese facility where as many as ninety per cent of the tasks are assigned to robots. Japanese manufacturers are among the least automated, by contrast, because, in their view, removing the human element eliminates the possibility of innovation.)
Moreover, some of the new facilities in the U.S., including the new C.R.R.C. plant in Springfield, are unlikely to be able to adapt their methods to the Japanese-inspired ones that predominate elsewhere here. C.R.R.C., like many other Chinese manufacturers in the U.S., is a state-owned enterprise, controlled by the Chinese government. State-owned enterprises accounted for about twenty-five per cent of Chinese investment in the U.S. this year, and since 2000 they have backed seventy per cent of China’s North American forays in the auto industry, according to the Rhodium Group. These companies do not enjoy a good reputation: recent research from C.E.I.C. Data found that they own forty per cent of the assets in China but deliver only twenty per cent of the country’s profits, and that their average return on assets is a meager two per cent, about fifty per cent below the private sector. But precisely because they lack the imperative to be profitable, productive, or competitive, state-owned enterprises like C.R.R.C. can underbid most other companies, winning contracts even when contract stipulations about quality, timeliness, worker treatment, salaries, and benefits are beyond their capabilities. Indeed, C.R.R.C.’s price for the Boston subway-cars job was two hundred million dollars lower than its nearest rival. Analysts contend that C.R.R.C. will almost certainly lose money on the deal, but that it was a strategic bid to gain a foothold in the U.S.
Given the deficiencies of Chinese manufacturers, the ho-hum response from U.S. manufacturers to the influx of new rivals makes sense; the welcome mats laid out by cities like Springfield are another matter. New factories are generally viewed as a source of good jobs and long-term economic improvement, and for that reason communities frequently offer companies discounted land and substantial tax breaks to open them. Springfield is forgiving about fifty per cent of C.R.R.C’s property taxes for the first three years and thirty per cent over ten years. But if the manufacturers turn out to be nothing more than low-paying loss leaders, cities may find that they’ve given away more than they receive in return. This would, in fact, be something to complain about.
《纽约客》（The New Yorker），也译作《纽约人》，是一份美国知识、文艺类的综合杂志，内容覆盖新闻报道、文艺评论、散文、漫画、诗歌、小说，以及纽约文化生活动向等。《纽约客》现由康得纳斯出版公司出版。《纽约客》不是完全的新闻杂志，然而它对美国和国际政治、社会重大事件的深度报道是其特色之一。他一方面保持了轻松幽默的主题风格，另一方面它也很快成为严肃新闻报道和文学创作的一处显要出版窗口。
1. fare (see title)
看到fare一词，也许你会想到它作名词时“费用”的意思。但fare在标题中用作动词是什么意思呢？这就要从“farewell（再见）”这个古老词语讲起。“fare”源自古英语，相当于我们今天所说的“go, travel”， farewell即为向远行人道别的“走好”。这个词经过演化，到现在则有了 “get along, succeed”之意。它的常见搭配如下：
eg. The movie ~d poorly at the British box office.
Although Chicago has ~d better than some cities, unemployment remains a problem.
He wondered how Ed had ~d in the interview.
2. subpar (see under picture)
→ up to par 达到水平；达到标准；在常态
→ be on a par (with sth) （水平，标准等）同等，与……不相上下
eg. The wages of clerks were on a par with those of manual workers.
→ par value 票面价值
→ par for the course 意料之中；司空见惯，家常便饭
eg. My brother is very clumsy so it was par for the course when he bumped into the table and broke the vase.
【Although commentary on the Chinese-American trade relationship is often colored by suspicion and xenophobia (Para 1)】
If something colors your opinion of something, it influences your opinion in a negative way [often passive] 影响；扭曲
eg. You must be aware that personal feelings may color judgement.
extreme dislike or fear of foreigners, their customs, their religions, etc. 仇外；恐外
5.Once a dominant manufacturing city (Para 2)
a dominant industry 主导产业；优势产业
a dominant theme 主题，主旋律
6. …the company faced an onslaught of vicious anti-Japanese ads on TV and in print (Para 5)
~ (on /against) fierce attack 猛攻
They survived an onslaught by tribesmen.
* (fig 比喻) an onslaught on government housing policies 对政府住房政策的猛烈抨击
→ the onslaught of sth
the effect of something that is unpleasant and could cause damage
plants that will survive the onslaught of winter
7. … saying that he could not work side by side with the Japanese. (Para 5)
side by side
① nearest in space or position; immediately adjoining without intervening space
② closely related or associated 肩并肩地；一起
8. But it also follows from a conclusion that American companies have reached about their Chinese counterparts (Para 6)
follow (from sth): to be the logical result of sth
Just because he is poor, it does not ~ that he is unhappy.
9. lean manufacturing (or lean production, often simply "lean") (Para 7)
10. a spate of (Para 8)
“spate”的原义是a sudden forceful flow，而" a spate of" 指大批量事物（多为突然涌来）。同样形容“大批，大量“的词组有：
a batch of letters
a deal of trouble
a flock of sheep
a mass of spectators
a mint of money
a surge of shoppers
【The shortcomings of Chinese factories are most apparent in the relationship between managers and employees, which is based on an anachronistic top-down view of a factory as a place where the authority of supervisors is paramount … (Para 9)】
过时的，落伍的 [from Greek ana- 'back' + chronos 'time']
①从总体到具体的；自上而下的 starting with a general idea to which details are added later
②（组织或机构中）自上而下的，与高层有关的 starting from or involving the people who have higher positions in an organization