Thursday, January 12, 2012

Supply Chain Sustainability and China's Choices.

I was born in the Gobi in GanSu Province. There is a place not far from where I lived called JaYuGuan. It’s the far west end of the Great Wall and also known as the first gate to the west on the Silk Road. At its prime, it’s the gate where all the traders passed between the east and west.

When I was young, my grandpa would tell an amazing story of its construction. The builder requested an exact amount of bricks for the building of the gate and its castles. The emperor questioned the builder’s confidence and asked if there should be a slight excess in supply to plan for contingencies. The builder refused; but to save the emperor’s face, the builder requested one extra brick for the emperor’s “contingencies.”

Sure enough, at the end of the construction, the builder had used the exact amount of supply he had requested. He proudly displayed that one extra brick on top of the gate.

“To this date, you can still see the one brick sitting idle.” My grandfather would say. My grandfather passed away many years ago, but his pride lives on.

These days, building and construction in China is no such exact science. Builders bribe officials for the job, order cheap supplies and build buildings that crumble and fall in the slightest of shakes; and waste is as common as the sandstorms. These days, builders do not pride themselves on accuracy and efficiency, but on profit not recorded but spent on luxuries for themselves.

The pride of China in these things has been washed away in scandals and corruptions, in pollution and excess.

But China is trying to upgrade itself. China is trying to reclaim its once glorious past in the present. I soon hope to walk pass the first gate again and look upon the mighty structure and hope to say that we have made positive progress.

Many Chinese, I suspect, shares my sentiment. We are a proud people with a proud history.

I’ve been doing some baseline research lately on China’s new Circular Economy Laws. It’s ambitious, aimed to reduce cost and environmental impact starting from the sources of the raw material, supplies and consumables and ending with eventual return, recycling or disposal of products. The Germans and the Japanese have also boasted their versions of a recycling economy laws, but non are so proactive and ambitious as the Chinese; at least not on paper.

All high hopes aside, I know the enforcement of China’s ambitious laws is yet to be seen. In practice, we shall see if China can once again place its pride on display; or will China take the excess and squander it in dark secrets.

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