The Next Factory of the World,

The Next Factory of the World Book Cover The Next Factory of the World
Irene Yuan Sun
Harvard Business Review Press

It is no secret that manufacturing in China is no longer the cheap utopia that many once found it to be. China is also experiencing pressures and internal economic effects and in the future it may need to change. China has been extending its ‘territorial reach’ and Africa is an area of great interest for it, with a lot of Chinese investment taking place, both official and private. Africa may be the next (Chinese) factory space for the world.
This was a fascinating, well-researched and carefully presented book that provided a total look at the situation-to-date, noting how Chinese companies have been establishing a foothold in Africa. It is not necessarily a new event either, although activity is ramping up today. China’s interest in China is different to that the west has held in the past, seeking to do more than just development aid. This has led to some criticism, suggesting that China is just another asset-stripper and exploiter of the continent and its resources, albeit under a different guise. The author and her research begs to differ. The partnership may not be symmetric, but there is real scope that Africa is the next powerhouse-in-waiting, aided and abetted by Chinese money and know-how.
The book is split into two halves. The first is the realities and situation so far. The latter is the possibilities that can be generated and intimation of what may occur. Credit must be given to the author for this book and its ability to service different audiences at the same time. To a general reader it is an engaging read for the broader story and its individual components. For the focussed economist or business executive it gives all the foregoing and a lot of nuanced, detailed information as well. It is not a hagiography or fluffy PR book and extensive notes for further research and reading are provided for those who want it. The less-attractive side of this development is not being hidden, nor excused. Things may, however, get better with time and experience.
It is very feasible that even in my lifetime there will be some major tectonic shifts in economic power. In the past decade or so we may have only had a taste of what is to come. May we see one-time leaders being – eventually – being ‘developed’ by those who once did all the ‘developing’? Interesting times can lay ahead, that is for sure.
Christmas is coming. If you don’t have a direct need for this book and its intelligence today, why not treat yourself for a bit of holiday-time reading, as it will be a lot more informative and engaging than a lot of the stuff that may appear on the small screen!