Can the “Engineering Apocalypse” save China from its perfect storm?
According to the South China Morning Post, the impending economic crisis is rooted in expansive fiscal policy, increased government spending, rising property values, extremely lax monetary policies, record-high bank lending, and exploitation of regulatory loopholes. __ China’s Perfect Storm
According to “Spengler:”
Only 8 percent of American undergraduates choose engineering as a major, compared to more than 30 percent in China (which now graduates four times as many engineers as the United States).
What about China’s engineers — the ones educated inside China?
China’s figures include graduates from 2 and 3 year programs and vocational fields such as car repair. U.S. numbers, in contrast, exclude computer science and information technology majors, which Gereffi and Wadhwa argue should fall under a broad definition of engineering. Their reanalysis of the 2004 numbers found that 137,000 students graduated from rigorous 4 year engineering programs in the United States compared with 351,000 in China and 112,000 in India.
Just how talented are the droves of overseas engineers? “The bottom line is that the Chinese increased quantity at the cost of quality,” says Wadhwa, whose team examined this topic in the January 2008 issue of the Journal of Engineering Education. __ Duke.edu PDF
This is why China sends its most promising young proto-engineers to the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and Europe for training. This will likely remain the case for many years or decades to come.
Inflated Numbers Plague China
China’s provinces lie about their GDP levels. Lying at the national level is perhaps as bad, but more subtle and difficult to prove. More
By looking at a number of underlying statistics — which were until recently not quite as subject to “fudging” by authorities as GDP figures — one begins to understand a small part of the grand deception being put on by “Potemkin China.” Quantities such as “rail car loadings, truck loadings, cement consumption, steel consumption, exports, natural gas consumption, electricity consumption” [Source] tell a different story than official government claims. These underlying economic statistics are now almost certainly being altered by government statisticians to fit official GDP pronouncements. But before 2016, they provided an intriguing window into official Chinese deception.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the growth in old China for the past year or so has been somewhere around zero — it’s nothing like 6.8 percent,” Straszheim said, explaining that the “new” China of services and consumer spending is tough to measure in the absence of robust data from the private sector. __ Source
China’s Quality Problem is the Real Story
Poor Quality Chinese Concrete Leads to Building Collapse. The problem is built into the system, particularly in the corrupt nature of the Party – Banking – Industrial complex. Chinese steel suffers from the same quality control problems as Chinese concrete.
Corners are cut at every level due to corrupt incentives.
“For every one Chinese company that is improving [product quality], there are probably 10 out there that are still cutting corners and two [other] new companies are coming into the market by cutting more corners.” __ Wharton Business School
Bottom Up Incentives are Just as Bad as Corrupt Top Down Incentive
Chinese consumers share part of the blame for the abysmal state of Chinese manufacturing.
Chinese consumers are not generally looking at quality; it is assumed that if you want quality, then you buy the best one; otherwise just buy the cheap one. So manufacturers are not rewarded for making incrementally better products.
… with lax enforcement of a lot of product safety requirements, many Chinese domestic suppliers become accustomed to cutting corners where possible. Plastic too expensive? Add some re-grind material back into the hopper. Solder hard to work with? Use the one with lead in it, as it flows better. Price of copper rising? Get thinner printed circuit boards. You get the idea. __ Low Quality in China
The same quality control problems occur at the university level, in the training of Chinese engineers. This is a problem that is not likely to be solved for decades more.
The China Bubble is Real at All Levels
The China Bubble extends far beyond real estate. At all levels, China inflates its image and its reality far beyond healthy levels — in an attempt to impress and intimidate particular troublesome, gullible, and potentially influential actors on the world stage.
China Steals, Pirates, Poisons, and Corrupts Everything
If you pay attention to mainstream media, you will miss 99% of what is important. The media has a particular narrative that its wealthy owners wish to promote. That narrative-agenda does not include informing the public, so most crucial information about what happens in the world is left out — including what is happening in China. Censorship takes many forms, and is not just ubiquitous in the usual one-party nations of oppression.
China grew rich economically via foreign direct investment and technology transfer. Its huge consumer market combined with a cheap and willing labour force enticed large and wealthy commercial powers to invest in China, and to take the chance of transferring critical technology to China. China Inc. turned around and stole – reverse engineered – pirated and otherwise co-opted the property of others for itself.
In the process of China’s rapid growth and expansion of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, its air – water – soil – and food were poisoned. The toxicity and corruption that naturally grew up at all levels of Chinese society laid the groundwork for a near infinity of future problems that will never show up in the GDP calculations explicitly. But by poisoning and corrupting the things it controlled, China was forced to continue moving outward from the dead zones of destruction, seeking ever more pristine lands to spoil.
The nearly 50 million Chinese killed by Mao’s “cultural revolution” are considered something from the past, not likely to be repeated. But the ongoing “Bloody Harvest” of today’s political dissidents is constantly being airbrushed out of the picture. No, nothing has really changed. And that presents a problem — and a built-in limitation — on what China can ultimately achieve.
These are things that China promoters choose not to discuss publicly. But whether spoken of or not, reality follows its own path — regardless of the official narrative.
Remember: China is growing old before it can bring prosperity to the masses of its people. The one child policy has become engrained into the psyche of China, so that it continues in a de facto manor long after it is no longer law. In most of China there are no brothers and sisters, no cousins, no uncles or aunts, no family networks. It is a society of alienation where saying the wrong word can make you an organ provider.
China cannot help shooting itself in the foot. Hey Xing: Potential investors are paying attention!
“Only 8 percent of American undergraduates choose engineering as a major,”
This is actually a good ratio, arguably too high, and the number of junior engineers being produced is excess of demand. A significant fraction of engineering graduates never enter the profession but rather go into cognate fields like technical sales or pursue other careers like the military, law and medicine. Earning a BS in engineering requires well above average intelligence and a strong work effort. The degree recipients are well-grounded in mathematics and basic sciences. All of this translates into success in many areas.
Over the last 50 years, automation has sharply reduced the demand for junior engineers. Until the computer age, large numbers of junior engineers were employed as calculators (my first engineering job), but main frames, mini computers, and desktops along with software like Visicalc and its successors eliminated those jobs. Demand for engineers has continued because of the rapid growth of the economy, but the percentage of junior engineers in the profession has fallen.
Computer engineering is indeed an engineering discipline. It is almost always housed in an engineering college. It is accredited by ABET, the engineering accrediting agency, and there is a PE examination and license for it.
Virtually everyone who has written on engineering education is woefully ignorant of the realities out there.
China needs lots of engineers because of its huge manufacturing establishment and its need for infrastructure. The need is further amplified by the wild west character of its economy, which allows all sorts of bad practices resulting in projects that have to be redone. Also, China’s high education system is relatively small, so the 30% figure quoted in the article is simply irrelevant to the discussion.