Edward Tse: China’s Shift into Industrial Automation

Another new article authored by Gao Feng Advisory’s CEO Dr. Edward Tse was published, where he discussed china’s shift into industrial automation. Dr. Tse said robots will become a strategically important constituent in China’s labor force going forward.

China’s labor market is evolving from a mass of unskilled labor into one featuring an increasingly sophisticated labor force. Now, it is transforming as automation and the use of robotics in manufacturing or logistics sectors are rising fast.

Cheap labor has long been considered as one of the main factors propelling the country to the status of the word’s factory, which shifts global supply chains and attracts thousands of companies in other countries moving their plants to China. However, economic growth during the past 20 years has led to a rapid increase in wages. China’s average wage increased by 8.2 percent annually in the decade, much higher than the global growth rate, according to the International Labor Organization report. In the report, it also mentioned the average real wages of China has almost doubled between 2008 and 2017. That’s the result of an economy that’s been growing by high single digits to double digits annually for two decades.

In 2008, Beijing updated its Labor Contract Law to improve the labor contract system by defining labor right, reducing working hours and improving the welfare benefits and working environment. Labor conditions have largely been improved since that time. At the same time, there are an oversupply of educated workers and a shrinking low-cost labor force as more high school graduates go on to obtain university degrees. With increased labor union activities, better wages and higher levels of education improving the plight of workers, manufacturing becomes less profitable before the country can shift to less labor-intensive and more value-added industries.

“Made in China 2025”, a strategic plan of the People’s Republic of China issued by Premier Li Keqiang and his cabinet in May 2015, aims at rapidly moving from being a low-end manufacturer to becoming a high-end and high-tech producer of goods. Under the plan, the number of industrial robotics operating in China is targeted to expand tenfold to 1.8 million units by 2025. As part of its effort to upgrade its manufacturing sector, the Chinese government started a campaign in 2014 with the overall aim to gradually replace manual labor with robots, with the heavily industrialized provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Guangdong among those introducing the new technology on a massive scale.

According to the World Robotics 2019 report released by International Federation of Robotics (IFR), China has been the world’s largest industrial robot market since 2013. The city government of Dongguan, in the heart of the Guangdong province that is known as China’s industrial and export hub, has allocated 385 million yuan (US$56.8 million) to boost automation in factories last year alone. Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics giant which makes half of the world’s iPhones, plans to fully automate 30 per cent of its production by 2020. In the logistics sector, robotics is also changing the whole industry. Cainiao, one of China’s leading logistics players (~63% owned by Alibaba), has opened China’s largest and most efficient robot-operated warehouse in 2018, with the application of nearly 700 robots, including robotic arms and unmanned drones.

China began its economic ascent as the “world’s factory” over the past several decades by taking advantage of cheap labor. Now, a robot revolution is under way and robots will become a strategically important constituent in China’s labor force going forward.



高端战略咨询顾问的工作是为客户解决他们最棘手的问题。今天对企业影响最大的驱动因素不只是来自于它所处于的行业里,更重要的往往采自于行业之外,特别是地缘政治、国家政策、国家相对实力等方面。因此客户最需要的顾问是T 型或丌 型的顾问。不单有深度亦需要有广度。可惜大型咨询公司们老早就分开工去,把合伙人们按行业或功能分成不同的”小微”。专可能是专,但广往往不够。所以许多客户用完这些咨询公司往往有些失望,觉得他们不接地气。高端战略咨询的需求庞大,但供给倾出了问题。大数据是不能完全代替这种复杂的工作的。

Edward Tse: Are Chinese Workaholic?


This is a new article authored by Gao Feng Advisory’s CEO Dr. Edward Tse, in which he discusses the culture of “working hard” —”996″ schedule of the Chinese businesses.

After decades of tremendous growth, China is now an upper-middle-income nation, according to the World Bank. Its reputation as an innovative economy is increasing. Along with its economic growth, China’s productivity too has been growing well.

The growth of China’s productivity during the last few decades is mainly due to the opening-up and reform policy implemented from 1978 onwards, its labor intensive exports driven manufacturing and investment-led growth model underpinned this extraordinary progress. Yet some strains associated with that approach have become evident in the last one decade or so as these economic drivers seem to be running out of steam.

China stepped into the innovation wave after the wireless internet (together with smart phones) became prevalent. Chinese entrepreneurs have leveraged this technology to create a range of new business models and products that cater to the evolving consumer and business needs. In the race against time and in the midst of hyper-intensive competition, Chinese entrepreneurs have to be fast, agile and adaptive in order to remain ahead of others. They often don’t mind using the market as a test bed for experimentation as they fine-tune their business models along the way. Quick experimentation often becomes the core part of the very culture of Chinese companies. Speed, rhythm, intensity and multi-tasking have become parts of the DNA of many Chinese companies. On top of this, evolving government policies and regulations are often a source of uncertainty and they keep Chinese entrepreneurs persistently and highly alert and vigilant.

As a result, many Chinese businesses have formed a culture of “working hard.” This is the now widely known as “996” schedule – which means working from 9am to 9pm, six days a week. This has become common place among Chinese entrepreneurs, particularly among large internet-based businesses. The 996 schedule was initially applied in order to improve overall productivity of companies by increasing working hours.

Source: Baidu

However, the notion of “996” has become somewhat controversial. Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma is a vocal supporter of the gruelling working hours commonplace in China’s tech and internet industry. He once said at an internal meeting that this is, “a huge blessing that many companies and employees do not have the opportunity to have,” according to a transcript published on Alibaba’s official WeChat account. Richard Liu, CEO of JD.com, a leading e-commerce company, responded to the recent layoffs saying that JD.com would never force employees to work in a 995 or 996 schedule, but every staff of JD.com must “have a competitive spirit!”

Besides the 996 schedule, many Chinese companies, including both state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and privately-owned enterprises (POEs), are actively seeking multiple ways of improving productivity. More and more companies, especially SOEs and some internet companies, are beginning to provide free meals to their employees in order to reduce the amount of time spent on purchasing and eating meals. Moreover, employees’ dormitories and free buses are also being offered as perks to simplify the lives of employees and make sure they can get to work on time. In some companies, a military-style management has also been deployed to improve the efficiency and productivity of their staff’s work.

The “working hard” culture of the Chinese businesses probably won’t go away any time soon.



前不久12月3日,谷歌两大创始人拉里·佩奇(Larry Page)和谢尔盖·布尔(Sergey Brin)宣布,分别卸任谷歌母公司Alphabet CEO和总裁职务。现任谷歌CEO桑达尔·皮查伊(Sundar Pichai)将同时兼任Alphabet CEO,总裁职务将被取消。


1972年,皮查伊出生在印度金奈,是印度典型中产家庭长大的,他是一名品学兼优的学生。求学期间,他的成绩相当优秀,曾分别在印度理工学院、斯坦福大学、宾夕法尼亚大学沃顿商学院求学。之后,皮查伊在美国开始了自己的职业生涯,先是在应用材料公司(Applied Materials)担任产品经理,随后跳槽到麦肯锡担任管理咨询顾问。

2004年皮查伊加入谷歌,成为一名产品经理,负责包括Chrome、Chrome OS和Google Drive在内的软件产品的创新工作。2015年8月10日,皮查伊被任命为谷歌新任CEO,谷歌也重组为Alphabet。2015年10月2日,皮查伊履新谷歌CEO一职。如今2019年12月3日,他成为 Alphabet的CEO。



放眼全球,在各行各业成功人士中印度裔占了很大的比例:美国著名记者、时事评论家和作家法里德·扎卡利亚(Fareed Zakaria),国际货币基金组织首席经济学家吉塔·戈皮纳斯(Gita Gopinath),特朗普政府的前驻联合国大使尼基·黑莉(Nikki Haley),百事可乐CEO英德拉·诺伊(Indra K. Nooyi),如此人士不胜枚举。

我对于印度人近距离的观察开始于我31年前在美国加入麦肯锡公司之后,尽管当时麦肯锡主要是“WASP”(白人盎格鲁-撒克逊新教徒)的组织,但是有三位非WASP的咨询顾问在麦肯锡全球举足轻重,一位是日本人大前研一(Kenichi Ohmae),一位是德国人赫伯特·亨茨勒(Herbert Henzler),而另一位则是常驻纽约的印度人蒂诺·普里(Tino Puri)。他们三位都是卓越的咨询顾问,尤其是蒂诺·普里,他的辩论和演讲能力在芸芸资深麦肯锡顾问中已经非常出众。给我留下了深刻的印象。同时当时还有还不是很出名,但后来成为麦肯锡全球的CEO的拉贾特·古普塔(Rajat Gupta)亦是印度人。其他例子亦有不少。

后来我到了波士顿咨询公司(BCG)和博思艾伦(Booz Allen Hamilton)之后,这一现象亦存在,不少优秀的咨询顾问都是印度人。在博斯公司(Booz & Company)年代,我们的第一任CEO,亦是曾经长时间与我在亚洲地区打拼的合伙人舒梅特·巴纳吉(Shumeet Banerji)就是印度人。

除了我的同事外,我许多位于跨国公司高管地位的客户们亦是印度人,他们有些在欧美,有些在亚太地区,亦有不少在中国地区。与我合作较多的包括全球领先的音响产品制造商哈曼国际公司的CEO包利华(Dinesh Paliwal),全球最大的家用清洁用品公司之一利洁时公司的刚卸任的CEO拉克什卡普尔(Rakesh Kapoor)(该公司新任CEO拉什曼·纳拉辛汉(Laxman Narasimhan)亦是印度裔)、COO赛艾迪(Aditya Sehgal)和大型日用消费品生产及经销商安利公司的CEO潘睦邻(Milind Pant)等。

以我的观察,这些能够争取到较高社会地位的印度人普遍有以下几个特征:1. 他们擅长辩论,而且往往在之前没有任何准备,在不经意间便能作出深入浅出的辩解。2. 他们不会害怕在“权威”或资历较深的人面前发表自己的言论和观点。3. 他们善于在复杂情况中进行归纳和最后简化的总结。4. 他们在语言能力,特别是英语方面很强。他们不但很能说,更重要的是他们的讲话方式非常精巧(sophisticated),辞藻丰富,对听众们有强大的感染力。5. 一部分学习了英国人遗留下来的“幽默感”,能容易受到西方人士接受。