China is often called “The World’s Factory” because it produces such a large amount of the world’s goods. From cleaning products to clothing to electronics to home gyms. Chinese manufacturing has become increasingly ubiquitous with consumer goods. Well known brands from Apple to Patagonia utilize Chinese manufacturing in creating their products. There are many reasons that companies choose to partner with Chinese manufacturers including being closer to the supply chain of component parts, to the cheaper cost of labor, to the network of skilled workers who share trade secrets, like in the streets of Shenzhen. And the cycling industry is no different, Asian factories account for around 95% of the bikes sold in America, and the two biggest players here are Taiwan and, of course, China.
So how did China become the manufacturing powerhouse that it is today?
China has been booming economically over the last 40 or so years and this is due almost entirely to the manufacturing industry. The growth of this industry can be traced back to 1978, when Deng Xiaoping took over the People’s Republic of China. Xiaoping decided that China needed to start trading with the rest of the world and for the first time he allowed outside investment in China. He also privatized some businesses and designated four special economic zones. These zones are exempt from oversight and have large tax incentives (basically free market cities in China). Shenzhen, arguably the most successful of these zones, is now the electronics manufacturing capital of the world. 90% of the world electronics are, at least in part, made in this city. And it’s not just electronics that are being manufactured in Asia.
Just as Samsung, Microsoft, Canon and other tech giants manufacture in Shenzhen; Trek, Specialized, Giant, and most big bike companies manufacture in China and Taiwan.
We often get asked at Bakcou where our bikes are made. And like the big players in the bike industry we manufacture our frames with partners in China. Many people are put off by the idea of Chinese manufacturing for various reasons but the truth is there are many benefits, that’s why most companies are utilizing it to some extent. Some people believe that Chinese manufacturing produces an inferior quality product, in reality China has some of the most advanced manufacturing processes in the world. What really is going to determine the quality of the final product is the design and the quality standards. At Bakcou we hold our partners to an incredibly high standard and we won’t accept anything less. We are also constantly taking in customer feedback and our own testing as we use the bikes to tweak and perfect our design.
Is Chinese manufacturing taking away jobs from America?
Many manufacturing jobs have moved over to Asia. Companies realized that to have competitive pricing they needed to utilize the lower cost of labor overseas. However, this doesn’t mean that there are now less jobs in the United States. Rather these days the jobs available in the US are more highly skilled or creative jobs. While the US has stepped back in the manufacturing arena, we are soaring forward with advancements in green technology, higher education, and other specialized fields.
The choice for many companies to manufacture in China has to do with economics and the ability to create goods at high volumes and high quality. This may change though and manufacturing may be on the move again in the near future. As more and more manufacturing processes are automated the cost and ability to manufacture virtually anywhere is increasing. This leaves a lot of cost savings to be had by bringing manufacturing closer to the end user and reducing the costs and logistics associated with transportation.
However while much manufacturing still takes place in Chinese factories it is important to remember that “made in China” is not synonymous with “made poorly”. Many high quality brands, especially in the bike industry manufacture in Asia. The bottom line is we would never sell a product that we don’t stand behind.