First, China made cut-price clothes and knick-knacks. Then it learned how to make mobile phones and iPads. Now it is making a 2,050ft-long bridge spanning the San Francisco bay.
Next month, four enormous steel skeletons, the last of the 12 segments of the bridge, will be shipped 6,500 miles from Shanghai to San Francisco before being assembled on site.
The bridge, which will connect San Francisco to Oakland on the other side of the bay, is a sign of how China has moved on from building roads and ports in Africa and the developing world and is now aggressively bidding for, and winning, major construction and engineering projects in the United States and Europe.
After building forests of skyscrapers in Beijing and Shanghai, showpiece buildings like the Bird's Nest stadium and the Guangzhou Opera House, and a high-speed rail network that is the envy of the world, Chinese construction companies are flush with cash and confidence. This week, Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, lobbied David Cameron to give the contract for the UK's new high speed rail link to a Chinese company.
According to Engineering News Record, five of the world's top 10 contractors, in terms of revenue, are now Chinese, with likes of China State Construction Engineering Group (CSCEC) overtaking established American giants like Bechtel.
CSCEC has already built seven schools in the US, apartment blocks in Washington DC and New York and is in the middle of building a 4,000-room casino in Atlantic City. In New York, it has won contracts to renovate the subway system, build a new metro platform near Yankee stadium, and refurbish the Alexander Hamilton Bridge over the Harlem river.
David Fuller's view Who would have
predicted this a decade ago, and what does it tell us about China's competitiveness,
including engineering skills?
About a year ago, Andy Grove of Intel fame wrote an article: How to Make an American Job Before It's Too Late, which was first published by Bloomberg. Much of it is quoted in this item from TechIMO.com.
It was also summarised by Rajiv Sethi in this comment found on MSCI:
"An economy that innovates prolifically but consistently exports its jobs to lower cost overseas locations will eventually lose not only its capacity for mass production, but also its capacity for innovation."