Manufacturing News

China's manufacturers told to design their own recovery

China's design industry experts are calling for greater government support in order to help the country's manufacturers raise the competitiveness with innovation.

Zhu Tao, president of China Industrial Design Association, said the Chinese economy suffered heavily from the global economic crisis, with factory closures and layoffs.

"Without our own design, we won't have our own brands. Without our own brands, we won't be independent in the world. Being an OEM(original equipment manufacturer) is no way out," he said.

China is the world's largest producer of more than 200 product types, including bicycles, batteries, furniture, shoes and TV sets, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

But critics say "Made in China" often means cheap and low value-added goods with thin profit margins, which are frequent targets of anti-dumping measures by other countries.

If Chinese companies wanted to transform crisis into an opportunity, Zhu said they would have to focus more on industrial design and develop their own brands, and the government should help.

Beijing is to host the 2009 Icograda World Design Congress and the 1st Beijing Design Week, starting on Saturday.

The World Design Congress was initiated in Zurich in 1964 and has become one of the world's most important design events.

The Chinese mainland will be hosting the Congress for the first time and the five-day event will consist of 12 exhibitions of creative designs, forums, lectures and design events.

Expected to attend are more than 1,000 designers from about 100nations and regions, including British Design Council chief executive David Kester, Republic of Korea (ROK) Institute of Design Promotion president Kim Hyun-tae, renowned Hong Kong designer Freeman Lau, car designer Olivier Boulay, and Japanese designer Kohei Sugiura.

Organized by the International Council of Graphic Design Associations (Icograda), the event is expected to help widen the experiences of Chinese designers and to enhance independent innovation in China's manufacturing-based economy.

Lau told Xinhua by telephone from Hong Kong that creative designs could help companies to improve products and facilitate the development of manufacturing, culture and tourism.

Zhu said designers had contributed significantly to the recovery of the United States from the Great Depression in the 1930s and ROK's restructuring of its manufacturing industries after the Asian financial crisis in 1998.

ROK had been aggressive in supporting the design industry by formulating the Five-year Plan for Industrial Design Promotion, providing training and building design infrastructure. Samsung is the most frequently cited example of the country's design policy.

In the 10 years since the Asian financial crisis, Samsung won more than 100 international design awards. With better products, its sales grew by more than 200 percent, while its profits rose more than 20-fold.

Zhu said success stories in Japan and ROK served as examples of how enterprises without technological advantages could become world-class companies through industrial design.

Freeman Lau said the Chinese mainland, with a population of 1.3billion, had never been short of design talent, but it lacked professionals who could use design to help enterprises and promote brands.

"To many enterprises, design is not about being beautiful or not. It is about being right or wrong," he said.

He called on Chinese businesspeople to change their ways of thinking, discard the mindset of being a "manufacturer" and accept the concept of being an "entrepreneur."

An entrepreneur had a pioneering spirit and was willing to risk and set up brands, he said. It was time for Chinese companies to transform from OEMs to ODM (original design manufacturers) and further to OBM (original brand manufacturers).

The mainland was blessed with a huge consumer market, giving Chinese brands an opportunity to become world-class brands through more creative design and marketing, Lau said.

"If a brand sells very well in China and a quarter of the world's population buys it, it is virtually a world-class brand," he said.

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