April 10, 2014

NYT misses forest for the trees on Ford in China

Oh, this New York Times piece about the rise of Ford (and other non-Chinese automakers) in China is nice, or "nice," as far as it goes. It tells something about the growth in non-Chinese car sales. It tells a bit about why. It tells a bit about how Chinese carmakers are kind of worried.

But, it tells nothing about the "why" of the 50-50 joint venture requirements for foreign carmakers. It includes not telling that deals of this general nature apply to all sorts of foreign manufacturers. It includes not telling that this is done so that the Chinese can steal foreign technology.

It hints at possibly telling that story with this graf:
State-controlled giants largely provide the labor and government connections for the joint ventures: Shanghai Automotive is a partner for General Motors and Volkswagen; Guangzhou Automobile is the partner for Toyota; Changan Automobile is a partner for Ford; and Dongfeng Motor juggles partnerships with Nissan, Honda, Peugeot and Kia.
And a bit more here:
 Most of the state-owned giants have experimented with their own brands, but with limited success. Their offerings frequently look a lot like the cars from their partners.
But, the "whys" of what that could involve aren't spelled out.

Nobody asks if the state-owned companies are failing because they haven't stolen enough technology yet, or gotten the workplace skills to build those components, or haven't bribed people enough to get those components, or if bribery was part of their past success before things like pet food with melamine

And, speaking of stealing and bribery? The whole element of bribery is missing.

NPR's Marketplace program had a piece on that last week. There's bribing people to get jobs at Ford instead of a Chinese maker. There's bribing people to get those "government connections" and much more.

That said, Marketplace didn't ask the really big questions.

Given that "engagement" with China was supposed to move the country more toward democracy in particular and "rule of law" in general, why is it still not happening? Or, to the degree a Ford is willing to pay some of these bribes, hire shady middlemen, etc., does it just write this off as "part of the cost of doing business"? Does it even care about "engagement"?

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