Teaching Experiences — China Connection

A rise in the number of outlets selling books, magazines and other publications is a sign that many middle class Chinese are learning how to read.

A rise in the number of outlets selling books, magazines and other publications is a sign that many middle class Chinese are learning how to read.

Pictured here in Delmontagne's classroom, students pose with their teacher after making presentations about printing labels, sustainability, substrates and inks.

I did my best to convince the students that while print is leveling off or slightly declining in the United States and the Western world, not so in China. The potential in China is mind boggling, when one considers the sheer size of the population. Consider the fact that China now has a middle class of about 350 million people who are literate and do read. Also consider that there are another 1 billion Chinese people who potentially will become readers, and the numbers get scary if only 100 or 200 million actually become literate. The printing industry here has a long way to go before it starts a downward movement. So banish the concept that print is dying in China!

While I taught such familiar topics as the history of printing, size of the worldwide industry, terminology, etc., we also spent a considerable amount of time discussing standards for printing machinery and why they are important. Sustainability is a topic relatively new in this country, but one growing in importance due to all of their environmental problems. These are topics that have very recently been added to the curriculum.

We also spent a fair amount of time discussing the role of Chinese printers and their forays into the world of foreign business. For a long time, the Chinese felt comfortable knowing that their labor rates made them remarkably successful in taking business away from global competitors. They easily underbid other printers and, operating with state-of-the-art equipment and systems, carved out a profitable niche for themselves.

However, their successes also led many new Chinese entrepreneurs to enter the printing business, eager to get their share, plus more, by successfully undercutting the traditional suppliers. Competition is fierce among Chinese printers, with many of them complaining about their competitors doing the same thing they previously did–undersell the competition. Several Chinese printers relayed to me that print is becoming a commodity, quality is a given, and they can’t make money if they just put ink on paper. Sound familiar?

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