Business / Industries

In praise of China's engineering

By Cecily Liu (China Daily Europe) Updated: 2015-02-20 08:51

China is also showing its engineering prowess in the auto industry, Browne says.

Many Chinese carmakers that greatly value engineering have established overseas R&D centers to work with global talents. Chang'an Automotive has an R&D center at the University of Nottingham, and SAIC Motor has an R&D center in Birmingham that was created through its acquisition of the UK's MG Motor.

Browne says the competitive costs of Chinese-manufactured products and solutions offer a great advantage because consumers have greater accessibility to them.

"I think great engineering is something that works at the right cost, and it has to be reliable. I think one big advantage in China is the scale of the market that allows people to experiment, innovate and learn very quickly, and also to reduce costs through economy of scale."

The market has been a factor in advancing engineering solutions and inventions in the US that now have significant global impacts, he says.

"As engineers in China learn more, they create more competition, and consumers can become more discriminating. That thus puts more pressure on engineers to make products better and better."

Another factor advancing engineering development in China is the large supply of engineering talent.

"I think innovation is all about having great people who are always unsatisfied with what they are doing. I can see this happening in China, with great people like Jack Ma (of Alibaba)."

He says in China the scale of engineering is very impressive, and sectors like software and mobile platforms are all growth areas to keep an eye on.

Browne, who was born in 1948 in Hamburg, gained a first class bachelor's degree in physics at the University of Cambridge and holds a master's degree in business from Stanford University in California.

Browne joined BP as an apprentice in 1966 while still at university. He remained with the corporation until 2008 when he stepped down from his chief executive role.

Browne is currently managing director and managing partner (Europe) of Riverstone Holdings LLC, a private equity firm, and chairman of the British shale gas driller Cuadrilla Resources.

Browne says he first went to China in the late 1970s as a part of a business delegation and has witnessed the massive changes in the country over the years, both in terms of its economic growth and level of internationalization.

"It was a very different place. I remember there were so few white people in China that people would stare at you. There were lots of bicycles and everyone dressed up the same," he says.

Browne attributes the great changes in China to the great aspirations of Chinese people.

"They want to do better than their parents, they want to create a different life, but they want to do it the Chinese way," he says.

And with this mindset, Browne is confident that China will one day produce globally celebrated engineers.

"China compares itself with the rest of the world, and there is nothing like a comparison to drive people forward," he says.

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