GE CEO's China Advice: "Be More Chinese Than the Chinese" and Think Green

Last Updated Nov 5, 2008 12:13 PM EST

  • Currently, China is less than a green paradise.The Find: If you want to succeed in China despite the downturn, Ferdinando "Nani" Becalli-Falco, CEO of GE International, suggests you "need to be more Chinese than the Chinese" and also argues that the people's republic of pollution is starting to go green.
  • The Source: An interview with Becalli-Falco on the environmental blog, Treehugger. Plus, a related (but less positive) China tid-bit from Dr. Doom himself on Clusterstock.
The Takeaway: The global economy may be going to hell in a hand-basket, but GE is still set to do pretty well in China. The company is predicting $10 billion in revenues in the country in 2010, up from $5.4 billion in 2006. How are they doing it? By being more Chinese than the Chinese. Becalli-Falco explains that importing goods manufactured elsewhere into China allowed his company to get to a certain level but revenues then leveled off. The key to continued growth, GE found, was manufacturing in country to local tastes. Becalli-Falco elaborates:
That means creating products that are designed locally for the local market. Products that are designed in Milwaukee in the US have got all the bells and whistles you can imagine. They are complex, top technology. But they may not be working in a country which is mostly farmland like China. Or India. So we've been beefing up our research center in Shanghai.... 60 percent of the manufacturing of health care products sold in China are manufactured in China. Because China is no longer the center of cheap manufacturing. It's becoming a creative technologist.
It's a worthwhile point but it doesn't explain what on earth the interview is doing on Treehugger, which is usually home to anti-whaling protests and the latest in LED lightbulbs. Despite China's (well-earned) reputation for pollution, Becalli-Falco also sees massive opportunities in an expected shift towards green tech in the country. The clean technology industry in China is expected to grow to be the world's biggest, and already markets are opening up for wind technology, biomass machinery, nuclear technology and cleaner burning gas turbines. All of which GE is happy to supply.

But before you get too optimistic about your business's prospects in China, you may also want to take a look at another piece of commentary on China's future out today: a prediction by NYU economist Nouriel Roubini (aka Dr. Doom) that China is the next stop on the global economic train wreck.
The Question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about growth opportunities in China?

(Image of heavy Chinese air pollution by Andrew Turner, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.