You read it here, a six-month series about surviving as a rubber processor in America. Now read about the other side of the coin, entering business with one of the biggest causes of the problems of basic manufacturing-China.
The ``Future of Rubber Manufacturing in America'' series in the first half of the year told about the challenges, the defeats, the victories-and survival certainly is a victory-U.S. rubber product makers are facing. China loomed large in many of those stories, a behemoth drawing customers away from their American suppliers; a growing manufacturing powerhouse with an unquenchable thirst for materials and ingredients for rubber processing, causing shortages and price increases in the rest of the world.
The special section running in this issue, ``Doing Business in China,'' tells how rubber firms are engaging with China, as a site for manufacturing and as a potential market.
The business climate is changing rapidly in that nation. It's still not easy for a foreign company to set up shop there-horror stories about dealing with the bureaucracy abound, and many companies have had problems with joint ventures and licensing agreements. Still, foreigners can operate wholly owned businesses in China today, and that has given U.S companies the control they need.
Control of intellectual property remains of paramount importance. China has a well-earned reputation for copying or, to be less kind, just stealing companies' ideas and products. It remains an issue, but American firms increasingly have found ways to ensure the security of their proprietary processes and materials.
Besides being a source of low-cost production, China has incredible potential as a market for U.S. rubber companies. Today, only a third of the country has reached middle class status, yet that number exceeds the entire population of the U.S. That's opportunity.
Tapping into China's potential, or just withstanding China's threat, American rubber companies all must deal with its existence. Like it or not, their future depends on it.