After a late arrival last night the morning program was individual. A small group of six students decided to take up Professor Rüttimann’s suggestion and visit the Guangzhou watch market, currently the largest whole sale market for watches world wide. The array of fake and cheap watches on offer was breath taking, with hardly any marketers wanting to sell single pieces.
One student even got CHF 1’500.- offered to him, should he be willing to part with his Omega Speedmaster. Needless to say, the student did not want the Swiss watch industry to be cheated and therefore declined the offer.
It was interesting to see how many foreigners (not tourists) were in the market to profit from the products at hand. The number of African and Arab people in and around the market was so great that the Swiss group started chatting to one of them. The Nigerian currently lives in Guangzhou and services the Nigerian and Ghanaian markets with thousands of fake Swiss watches by sending them via FedEx and DHL or transporting them personally to West Africa.
We now had more than enough ammunition to question our next host. In the early afternoon we were invited to the Swiss Consulate to meet Consul Werner Nievergelt and his staff. After a very warm welcome, Mr Nievergelt highlighted some facts and figures to the Pearl River Delta (PRD). This free trade area spreads over 180’000 square kilometres, includes the cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, and is home to over 94 million people. Dongguan responsible for 80% of the world production of office printers and Zhongshan accounting for over 40% of all microwaves produced world wide. The major cities in the region such as Guangzhou (Automobile, Pharmaceutical, Chemical and Logistics), Shenzhen (Telecommunication, Elctronics, Jewlry and Finances) and Foshan (Cermaics, Textiles and Furniture) are all located in the hinterland of Hong Kong where the products manufactured in the PRD get traded and distributed to the rest of the world. Together with the Yangtze River Delta Mr. Nievergelt showed us impressively that this is where almost all of our consumer goods are produced.
He also illustrated what problems companies in the PRD are currently facing. These include, increasing labour and energy costs, sinking governmental support for simple manufacturing, higher quality demands and environmental standards and last but not least a crippling inflation of roughly 20% (official figures only state 8%).
Next up was Urs Boesiger from Soundmatters.com. This former ZHAW student has worked in Taiwan, Germany and the Silicon Valley in California before settling down in the Pearl River Delta to set up his own company developing high-end loudspeakers. Mr Boesiger illustrated all the pitfalls that need avoiding when leading a start-up in China and described to us how he implemented his company’s structures from scratch. Listening to such experienced professional most definitely was one of the highlights of the trip to South China.
After an impressive demonstration of the soundmatters’ products we received a guided tour to a hill in central Guanzhou from where Consul Nievergelt showed us how the city is changing and what projects are currently under construction. The ambitious goal of the city development office is to completely restructure the downtown area by the time the Asian Games are held in Guangzhou in 2010. The area consists of a 600m high TV tower, two 400m plus Twin-Towers, numerous five star hotels and an extended green area under which a huge shopping mall and a highway are planned.
By this time hunger had begun to strike so we all boarded our coach, that drove us to the Consul’s private residence. The evening ended in style 23 floors above the Pearl River and with a view of the entire city where the Consul’s staff had prepared a delicious meal.
We would like to thank Consul Werner Nievergelt, his staff and Urs Boesiger for providing us with in-depth insights to their work and for sharing an interesting and pleasent evening. The great impressions we made will surely stay with us for a very long time.
PS: Late that evening the three students that had stayed in Guilin rejoined us well and sound.