Update: Version in Chinese
(April 2011) The China Stone Material Association is the nation-wide stone trade organization. 1000 companies ranging from producers to manufacturers and traders are its members. Membership is voluntary. President is Zou Chuansheng. BusinessStone.com‘s Peter Becker was granted a rare interview.
ssS: What are the challenges which the Chinese stone industry presently faces?
Zou Chuansheng: The most important area in urgent need of improvement is sustainable production. The past decades were driven by the desire to expand. Now that we have developed to a real industry, clean production and responsible handling of natural resources are also important aims.
ssS: How do you plan to achieve these goals?
Zou Chuansheng: It will take some time and it is a stony road.
ssS: Which are the most urgent themes?
Zou Chuansheng: First we must reduce emissions, that is cut down on air and noise pollution for workers and ensure clean waste disposal. Water recycling is another central theme. In this respect the government has already set down rules which are already followed by the bigger companies.
ssS: What more can the China Stone Material Association undertake?
Zou Chuansheng: We are setting standards to which the companies do have to comply. E.G. there shouldn’t be use of explosives in quarrying.
ssS: Who sets the standards and who controls?
Zou Chuansheng: We have called a commission into being to set the standards. It is composed of company representatives in the majority plus scientists, technicians and representatives of our association. If a company doesn’t comply with the standards it will be eliminated.
ssS: What is the state of the art in respect of machinery and technique in the Chinese stone industry?
Zou Chuansheng: There is certain gap comparing with the west. The same holds true for design and art, by the way. But our aim is to produce value added or finished products rather than raw materials.
ssS: What is the position of workers where refined products require additional technical engineering?
Zou Chuansheng: China already lacks skilled workers. We have no alternative but to implement more machinery to a certain extent. But this, too, requires specialized staff. That is why it is a key assignment or our organization to provide professional training (*).
ssS: There is a strong voice in the Western world to increase the value of the Chinese currency. What would that mean for the stone industry?
Zou Chuansheng: Most of our companies working internationally are involved in export as well as in import, so the consequence of currency appreciation would balance out for them. Remember: We export but a small fraction of our production, somewhere around 10 or 15%. Our most significant market is local.
ssS: Where are the chances for foreign companies wanting to break into the Chinese market?
Zou Chuansheng: The opportunities are the same as for local companies. The current trend of urbanization is an enormous chance for the stone industry. The East Coast has already developed in great strides. Their high value products are in great demand. In the West and Central China the development is in the fledgling phase.
(*) The present bottleneck in skilled workers especially in the East Coast and Central regions was called a „structural problem“ by the Minister in charge according to „China Daily“. The paper cites a demographer: „Skilled workers will remain in sharp demand during the entire course of the 12th five-year plan (2011-2015).“ The reason is the increase in local consumption and the fact that migrant workers from the West and Central China are finding more and more work locally.