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Multinational firms in China move up the global value chain

2020-1-29 13:04

 

Major players embracing transformation into modern service industries, high-end manufacturers

 

The operations of multinational companies in China have changed over time, moving up the global value chain as the country has diverted its focus.

 

China is no longer the world's factory. Today, it is a cradle embracing and nurturing advanced technologies, a production base for more sophisticated and higher value-added products, and one of the best choices for regional headquarters and research and development centers, said experts.

 

In early July, Japanese electronics company Nintendo Co Ltd said it would start making its Switch video game consoles in Vietnam this year, transferring some of its production operations from China. But only one month later, Nintendo announced that it would team up with China's leading technology giant Tencent Holdings Ltd, which would power Nintendo's online services in China, operate a localized version of the Switch online shop and provide electronic payment services for the games.

 

In early December, Nintendo announced that its signature Switch consoles would be officially available in China on Dec 10.

 

Dong Yan, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, finds such moves reasonable for business operations, as traditional manufacturing in China, including digital camera production, has been influenced by the fast development of the digital economy and the internet. Vietnam is a better choice given its lower production costs and large young labor force, he said.

 

After a successful second fiscal quarter last year, Brian Goldner, chief executive officer of the world's largest toymaker Hasbro, announced in late July that the company would reduce its toy production in China and keep it under 50 percent this year due to global trade uncertainties. India and Vietnam would be the new production powerhouses, he said.

 

But Goldner also stressed that China will continue to be a major producer of quality toys and will remain "an important constituent of the company's global network".

 

Giovanni Pino, director of the Australian sourcing service provider Sourci, said China would be producing more high-quality equipment, more higher priced and higher value goods as the country moves up the value chain and its manpower develops greater technical skills.

 

Pino's observation has been proved by events in the consumer sector in China. World leading footwear giant Adidas has halved production of footwear in China since 2010, shifting manufacturing of this category to Vietnam and Indonesia.

 

But as noted by business media Quartz, China has started to move up the value chain to produce more pricey products instead of churning out Nike and Adidas shoes as it did a decade ago. Luxury brands such as Burberry, Armani and Prada have transferred parts of their production operations to China, according to Quartz.

 

As explained by Cherrie Shi, senior counsel of legal firm FenXun Partners, major reasons for multinational companies moving their manufacturing bases from China to counties in Southeast Asia include China's rising labor costs, overcapacity in heavy industry, and stricter rules and regulations on environmental protection. On the other hand, technology development and skills of the labor force have improved over time in China.

 

"Therefore, the transfer has been quite noticeable in heavy and labor intensive industries such as manufacturing and consumer products," she said.

 

But she also pointed out that most Southeast Asian countries will not be able to build a complete supporting industrial chain or system in the near term. Meanwhile, China's central government has been making continued efforts to attract foreign capital to invest in high-end manufacturing and modern service industries in the country.

 

"In this sense, manufacturing of low-tech and low value-added products will be moved out of China at a faster pace in the short term. But for high-end manufacturing and high value-added products, there is no sign of transfer to Southeast Asia at this moment," she added.

 

Since 2015, the central government has promoted the country's manufacturing transformation and upgrading, aiming at a higher production level not only for the consumer goods sector, but also large equipment.

 

Statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that the added value of the high-tech manufacturing sector increased 9 percent year-on-year during the first half last year. The growth rate for emerging and strategic industries was 7.7 percent. Both sectors have registered faster growth than the 6 percent industry average.

 

Meanwhile, China has never stopped its efforts to attract foreign investment and multinational companies. The negative list mechanism, which was promoted from the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone to the whole country in 2018, the Foreign Investment Law, which took effect on the first day of this year, and the ongoing financial opening-up have all facilitated multinational companies' deeper reach into the country.

 

According to the Ministry of Commerce, the actual utilized foreign capital was more than 683.2 billion yuan ($98.1 billion) for the first three quarters of last year, up 6.5 percent from a year earlier. Of the registered foreign capital, 29.8 percent was invested in high-end technologies.

 

As the frontier for many of the country's first reform and opening-up attempts, Shanghai has always attracted many multinational companies. Shanghai rolled out the first batch of favorable policies to attract the regional headquarters of multinational companies 17 years ago. So far, a total of 710 multinational companies have set up their regional headquarters in Shanghai while another 453 firms have built their R&D centers in the city, according to the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce.

 

The Shanghai facility of German heating and sun roof solutions provider Webasto now works as the company's regional management headquarters and R&D center. Zhang Lihua, deputy president of Webasto Roof Systems China Ltd, said the company's China R&D team is working together with its clients for the development of luminous glass, the first time that China will lead in the development of a product.

 

"Shanghai working as a hub for both management and technology talents is one of the major reasons for establishing regional headquarters here," he said.

 

French industrial group TLD chose to build its regional headquarters in Shanghai in early August. Shanghai's good transport connections to other parts of the Asia-Pacific region, the large scale of the Chinese market, and the sufficient supply of manufacturing talents in Shanghai, have made the city the perfect choice for the regional headquarters for TLD, said Thomas Dorn, the company's Asia chief executive officer.

 

"Multinational companies have shown their confidence in China's human resources supply and investment environment by setting up R&D centers in the country.

China's world-leading position in mobile internet and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence is a major attraction to multinational companies," said economist Song Qinghui.

 

主要承接向现代服务业、高端制造业转型


随着时间的推移,跨国公司在中国的业务已经发生了变化,随着中国转移注意力,跨国公司正在向全球价值链的上游移动。


中国不再是世界工厂。专家表示,如今,它是拥抱和培育先进技术的摇篮,是生产更复杂、更高附加值产品的基地,是区域总部和研发中心的最佳选择之一。


7月初,日本电子公司任天堂(Nintendo Co Ltd)表示,今年将开始在越南生产Switch游戏机,将部分生产业务从中国转移。但就在一个月后,任天堂宣布将与中国领先的科技巨头腾讯控股有限公司(Tencent Holdings Ltd .,简称:腾讯控股)合作。腾讯将为任天堂在中国的在线服务提供动力,运营Switch在线商店的本地化版本,并为游戏提供电子支付服务。


12月初,任天堂宣布其标志性的交换机游戏机将于12月10日在中国正式上市。


中国社会科学院(Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)研究员董岩认为,这些举措对企业运营来说是合理的,因为包括数码相机生产在内的中国传统制造业受到了数字经济和互联网快速发展的影响。他说,鉴于越南较低的生产成本和大量的年轻劳动力,越南是一个更好的选择。


在去年第二财季取得成功后,全球最大的玩具制造商孩之宝(Hasbro)的首席执行官布赖恩戈德纳(Brian Goldner)在7月底宣布,由于全球贸易的不确定性,该公司今年将减少在中国的玩具产量,并将其控制在50%以下。他说,印度和越南将成为新的生产大国。


但戈德纳也强调,中国将继续是优质玩具的主要生产国,并将继续是“公司全球网络的重要组成部分”。


澳大利亚采购服务提供商Sourci的董事乔瓦尼•皮诺(Giovanni Pino)表示,随着中国向价值链上游移动,其人力资源开发出更多的技术技能,中国将生产更多高质量的设备、更多价格更高、价值更高的商品。


皮诺的观察被中国消费领域的事件所证实。自2010年以来,全球领先的鞋业巨头阿迪达斯(Adidas)将在华鞋类产量削减了一半,将这类产品的生产转移到越南和印度尼西亚。


但正如商业媒体Quartz所指出的,中国已经开始向价值链上游移动,生产更昂贵的产品,而不是像十年前那样大量生产耐克(Nike)和阿迪达斯(Adidas)鞋。据Quartz网站报道,博柏利(Burberry)、阿玛尼(Armani)和普拉达(Prada)等奢侈品牌已将部分生产业务转移到中国。


据芬迅律师事务所高级法律顾问施嘉丽(Cherrie Shi)解释,跨国公司将制造基地从中国转移到东南亚国家的主要原因包括中国劳动力成本的上升、重工业产能过剩以及更严格的环保法规。另一方面,随着时间的推移,中国劳动力的技术发展和技能得到了提高。


她说:“因此,在制造业和消费品等重工业和劳动密集型行业,这种转移非常明显。”


但她也指出,大多数东南亚国家短期内无法建立起完整的配套产业链或配套体系。与此同时,中国中央政府一直在努力吸引外资投资国内高端制造业和现代服务业。


“从这个意义上说,低技术和低附加值产品的制造将在短期内更快地撤出中国。但就高端制造业和高附加值产品而言,目前没有向东南亚转移的迹象。”


2015年以来,中央政府推动国家制造业转型升级,不仅要提高消费品行业的生产水平,还要提高大型设备的生产水平。


国家统计局的数据显示,去年上半年,高科技制造业增加值同比增长9%。新兴产业和战略性产业增长7.7%。这两个行业的增长速度都高于6%的行业平均水平。

 

与此同时,中国从未停止吸引外资和跨国公司的努力。从2018年中国(上海)自由贸易试验区向全国推广的负面清单机制,到今年1月1日生效的《外商投资法》,再到正在进行的金融开放,都为跨国公司深入中国提供了便利。


根据商务部的数据,去年前三季度实际利用外资超过6832亿元(981亿美元),同比增长6.5%。在注册外资中,高端技术投资占29.8%。


作为中国改革开放的前沿阵地,上海一直吸引着众多跨国公司。17年前,上海推出了第一批吸引跨国公司区域总部的优惠政策。根据上海市商务委员会的数据,迄今为止,共有710家跨国公司在上海设立了地区总部,另有453家公司在上海建立了研发中心。


德国供暖和天窗解决方案提供商Webasto的上海工厂现在是该公司的区域管理总部和研发中心。Webasto屋顶系统中国有限公司副总裁张丽华表示,该公司的中国研发团队正在与客户合作开发夜光玻璃,这是中国首次领导夜光玻璃产品的开发。


他说:“上海作为管理和技术人才的中心,是在这里设立区域总部的主要原因之一。”


法国工业集团TLD选择在8月初将其地区总部设在上海。TLD亚洲首席执行官托马斯•多恩(Thomas Dorn)表示,上海与亚太地区其它地区的良好交通联系、中国市场的规模以及上海充足的制造业人才供应,使上海成为TLD地区总部的最佳选择。


跨国公司在中国设立研发中心,显示了对中国人力资源供应和投资环境的信心。中国在移动互联网和人工智能等新兴技术领域处于世界领先地位,这是吸引跨国公司的一个重要因素。”

 

原作者: Shi Jing 来自: china daily