《经济学人》:中国制造业-廉价商品的终结?
日期:2011-06-16 11:09

(单词翻译:单击)

中国劳动力成本提高是否预示着中国制造业的终结?还是在这背后,中国大地上正在酝酿着另一个产业的崛起。

Some are predicting the end of the cheap “China price”; others are moresanguine

“IT IS the end of cheap goods,” says Bruce Rockowitz. He is the chief executive of Li & Fung, a company that sources more clothes and common household products from Asia than perhaps any other. In the low-tech areas in which Li & Fung specialises, the firm handles an estimated 4% of China’s exports to America and a sizeable chunk of its exports to Europe, too. It has operations in several East Asian countries, where it diligently searches for cheap, reliable suppliers of everything from handbags to bar stools. So when Mr Rockowitz says the era of low-cost Asian production is drawing to a close, people listen.

"廉价商品的日子已经过去了,"利丰公司总裁布鲁斯说。利丰公司是亚洲地区服装面料和日用品最大的采购商。利丰公司专注于低技术商品领域,中国每年向美国出口业务量约4%以及向欧洲地区大多数出口业务均通过该公司进行操作。利丰公司在东亚几个国家开展业务,力求寻找到可靠的廉价商品供应商,从手提包到酒吧的凳子,几乎所有廉价商品都是他们的目标。因此,当布鲁斯先生说“亚洲生产低成本商品的时代即将终结”,人们都会相信。

He argues that Asian manufacturing has gone through a number of phases, each lasting about 30 years. When China was isolated under Mao Zedong, companies in Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea grew expert at making things. When China reopened in the late 1970s, after Mao’s death, these experienced Asian operators converged on southern China. With almost free access to land and labour, plus an efficient port and logistics hub in nearby Hong Kong, they started to make things ever more cheaply and sell them to the whole world.

布鲁斯认为,亚洲的制造业经历了几个阶段,每个阶段持续了约30年之久。毛泽东领导下的中国处于孤立时,香港、台湾和南韩的公司是制造业的主力军;在1970年代末期,也就是在毛泽东去世之后,中国实行改革开放,这些经验丰富的亚洲制造业经营商纷纷在中国南部各省开设工厂。几乎免费的土地和劳动力成本,外加上高效的港口和邻近香港的物流枢纽,让他们生产的产品价格更加低廉并销往全世界。

For the next 30 years manufacturers in China helped to keep global inflation in check. But that era is now over, says Mr Rockowitz. Chinese wages are rising fast. A wave of new demand, especially from China itself, is feeding a surge in commodity prices. Manufacturers can find some relief by moving production to new areas, such as western China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Malaysia, India and Indonesia. But none of these new places will curb inflation the way southern China once did, he predicts. All rely on the same increasingly expensive pool of commodities. Many have rising wages or poor logistics. None can provide the scale and efficiency that was created when manufacturers converged on southern China.

在随后的30年中,中国的制造业让全球抑制住了通货膨胀。但是,布鲁斯说,这样美好时代即将过去。中国的工资水平上涨很快。来自中国的一个新的需求浪潮正在推高商品的价格。制造业企业家也许可以通过将制造业向中国西部、越南、孟加拉、马来西亚、印度及印度尼西亚进行转移,缓解一些成本压力,但是,布鲁斯预测,这些新的区域无法像当初中国南方的制造业那样有效抑制通货膨胀。一切都受制于日益上涨的生产要素价格,这些地方不是工资上涨就是物流运输落后。没有一个地方可以像当初中国南方制造业那样,规模和效率并举。

Nothing can replace the Chinese miracle. “There is no next,” says Mr Rockowitz. Prices will now start to rise by 5% or more each year, with no end in sight. And that may be optimistic. So far this year, Mr Rockowitz says, Li & Fung’s sourcing operation has seen price increases of 15% on average. Other sourcers of Asian toys, clothes and basic household products tell similarly ominous tales.

没有任何一个国家可以替代中国所创造的奇迹。“没有替代者,”布鲁斯说。从现在开始,商品价格将以每年5%以上的速度上涨,且无法预见何时可以结束这种趋势。这可能还是一种乐观的判断。布鲁斯说,今年截至到目前为止,利丰公司的采购业务已经面临了平均15%的价格上涨。其他亚洲玩具、服装和家庭日用品的采购商,也传递着同样不祥的信息。

Yet manufacturers in some other fields see things differently. On May 31st, the day Mr Rockowitz spoke in Hong Kong, the annual Computex fair opened an hour’s flight away in Taipei. Hotels were packed, even at inflated prices. The world’s hottest technology companies, such as Apple and even Taiwan’s HTC, were absent. But nearly 2,000 vendors showed up to hawk cheap and innovative gizmos.

然而,从事其他制造领域的厂商却有不同的看法。5月31日,布鲁斯在香港出席一个论坛会议,距离香港一个飞机时辰的台北正在举办年度国际电脑展。所有酒店入住价格均上涨,但是仍然爆满。世界上最热门的科技公司,如苹果,甚至是台湾的宏达电都缺席了,但是仍然有将近2000个厂商到场,参展他们廉价但新奇的小发明。

Mainland Chinese firms arrived in force: more than 500 hired booths, up from 200 last year. Many are from the same parts of China that were once noted for cheap textiles and toys. With government encouragement, the belt that stretches from Shenzhen to Guangzhou has been shifting to more sophisticated products, such as electronics.

中国大陆的厂商蜂拥而至:预订的展位从去年的200个激增至500个。其中多数厂商曾是中国廉价纺织品和玩具的制造商。在政府的鼓励下,从深圳到广州一带的厂商纷纷转型从事更加复杂的产品生产,如电子产品。

Some of the more striking offerings at the fair were ultra-cheap versions of global hits. A company named BananaU advertised tablet computers with Google’s Android operating system for $100. Another pushed Windows-based thin computers looking much like MacBooks for under $250. E-Readers were everywhere and available for a song.

在展会上更为引人注目的是一些超级低价的全球热销产品。一家名为BananaU的公司为其Android操作系统的平板电脑做广告,售价为100美金。另一个基于windows操作系统,但是外形酷似苹果笔记本的超薄计算机售价是250美金。极度便宜的电子阅读器更是到处皆是。

Whether these products can be produced or sold in developed markets is unclear. The quality may be “B” for Banana rather than “A” for Apple. The intellectual property embedded in some devices may not, ahem, have been paid for. But still, the booths were packed. Buyers goggled and haggled over motherboards, memory chips, solid-state drives, servers, graphics cards, non-tangling cables, connectors, monitors and so on.

目前还未知这些产品是否允许在发达国家生产或销售。Banana公司的产品质量等级也许是B,而Apple公司的产品质量等级是A。一些电子设备中内嵌的知识产权也许并未取得使用授权。但是,展位仍然爆满。买家为主板、内存、固态硬盘、服务器、显卡、集线器、连接器和显示器等讨价还价。

In 2009 the prices of these electronic goods jumped suddenly, as buyers emerged from the financial crisis and started ordering more equipment from manufacturers which had slashed capacity. But data collected in Taiwan suggest that prices are now falling sharply again (see chart). If the vendors at Computex had a common slogan, it would be “more for less”.

在2009年,这些电子产品价格暴涨,采购商摆脱金融危机影响,并开始大规模向已经消减产能的制造商采购设备。但是在台湾采集的数据表明,这些电子产品的价格开始陡降(见图)。如果参加台北国际电脑展的厂商有个口号的话,那一定是“更多的产品,更低的价格”。

Among the products that generated the most heat were those that saved energy. These included alternating- and direct-current converters, and sensors that could moderate the power consumption of streetlamps, fridges and air conditioners. Such devices were initially marketed for their “green potential”, but what buyers liked was their ability to enhance productivity. Japanese firms, which have had to make do with less power since the earthquake, were particularly eager.

其中一些产品虽为节能设备,但是在使用过程中却产生最多的热量。这些产品包括交流和直流转换器以及使路灯、冰箱和空调耗电量平稳的传感器。这些设备最初以其“绿色节能”为卖点,但是采购商所中意的是这些设备提高生产效率的能力。日本公司在经历了地震之后,对“环保节能”的需求尤为迫切。

Chinese firms were curious about any product that lowered costs or made it easier to automate. When labour was cheap, Chinese firms used it inefficiently. Now they are learning how to get more from fewer hands. Li & Fung may be sounding the closing bell on one era of production, but the Taipei computer fair suggests that another is emerging.

中国公司永远对降低产品成本或使产品更容易自动化生产颇为好奇。当劳动力便宜的时候,中国公司非常低效率得使用它。现在他们正在学习如何让更少的手创造更多的财富。利丰公司敲响了一个制造业时代终结的晚钟,但是台北国际电脑展的繁荣预示着一个新制造业的崛起。

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重点单词
  • drivesn. 驱动器;驱动力;驱动程序(drive的复数形式)
  • surgen. 汹涌,澎湃 v. 汹涌,涌起,暴涨 v. [海]放
  • initiallyadv. 最初,开头
  • orderingn. [计]定序;排序;订购 v. 命令;指挥;订购(o
  • diligentlyadv. 勤奋地
  • inflationn. 膨胀,通货膨胀
  • curbn. 抑制,勒马绳,边石,路缘 vt. 抑制,束缚,牵(
  • globaladj. 全球性的,全世界的,球状的,全局的
  • miraclen. 奇迹
  • curiousadj. 好奇的,奇特的