Business / Industries

Manufacturing is strength, and therein lies future

By Man Ranjith (China Daily) Updated: 2015-09-23 08:11

Manufacturing is strength, and therein lies future

Employees assemble a motorcycle on the production line at Royal Enfield Motors Ltd's manufacturing facility in Chennai, India. India's economic growth rate is expected to surpass that of China by 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

Call me old-fashioned-but I'm still one of those votaries of traditional manufacturing, yet to be swayed by the modern notion that 21st century economies are better fueled by a successful services industry.

Most of my friends here and back in India tease me that I am stuck in a time-warp and have got my priorities all mixed up. But I beg to differ.

While there is still little evidence to prove that manufacturing is growing again globally, I am comforted by the steady flow of indicators, which show it has at least started to recover from the abyss.

My biggest gripe against the services sector-which includes restaurants, hotels, marketing firms and a plethora of other activities that people pay for-is that it doesn't actually produce anything tangible. With manufacturing, you can at least see items that you can feel, touch, and use.

It creates factory jobs, it makes solid things that form an industrial foundation, and it leaves lasting legacies. In times of real crisis, it's manufacturing that can act as a buffer and shock absorber, whereas the services sector may crumble and collapse at any moment.

In my experience, there can be no economy worth its salt without a solid manufacturing base. Most economists and experts in their over-enthusiasm to vouch for services tend to overlook one crucial aspect: That a vibrant manufacturing sector is a sine qua non for sustained economic development.

Yes, there have been troughs and peaks, blips and job losses, but what sector is immune to economic downturn in a highly integrated global market?

By producing more goods, not only can China export more and rely less on imports, it can also make itself more self-sufficient and weather future economic crises.

I'm not suggesting we relegate services to the back benches.

But my ideal growth scenario would be a combination of services and manufacturing. Growth in services is crucial for manufacturing, as the former makes businesses more competitive over the long and short terms. But they need to supplement, not supplant, each other.

And in this respect China appears to have hit the bull's eye. How else would one explain its "Made in China 2025" plan, the purpose of which is an innovation-led manufacturing transition.

Critics of manufacturing have gone gaga over a string of subdued economic data in recent months.

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