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A Spirit of Craftsmanship Transforms Society

China Today,June 13, 2018 Adjust font size:

As early as 3,000 years ago, craftsmen had become a major stratum in Chinese society. According to Guan Zhong, a great statesman in the Spring and Autumn Period (770 – 476 BC), craftsmen ranked second in the social hierarchy – lower than aristocrats but higher than businessmen and farmers. Over millennia, highly accomplished craftsmen contributed a lot to the repository of Chinese culture – ornamented buildings, exquisite furniture, fine ceramics, and ingenious tools, among other things.

Thanks to the long tradition of craftsmanship, China established its light industry from scratch in the 1950s. For example, bicycle manufacturing was known for its quality in the world, and earned China the alias, “Kingdom of Bicycles.” The best known brand Feige (Flying Pigeon) was exported to more than 50 countries and regions. The spirit of craftsmanship never withered in China, though was temporarily overlooked in the era prior to the reform and opening-up. After the reform and opening-up kicked off in the late 1970s, the spirit was embraced again and has since played a part in China’s development.

China is now the world’s largest manufacturer, which attributed greatly to its fast development in the first three decades of reform and opening-up and its position in the division of labor in world market. Chinese commodities, for their affordability and good quality, can be seen in every corner of the world. They brought in wealth that helped the Chinese shake off poverty. However, at the outset of reform, the merchandise China produced was not meant to be sold to Chinese people. At that time, Chinese got only a small part of the profits, as they mostly engaged in product processing for exports that was at the lowest tier of the global industrial chain. During that phase, to reduce costs and make more money, some companies even cheated on workmanship and materials, and used shoddy raw materials. These near-sighted people undermined their own credit and also destroyed the natural environment.

Over the past five years, better-off Chinese have been more aware of the environment. The country vowed to transform and upgrade its industries by phasing out obsolete, low-efficient production facilities. On the other hand, the government steered industries to hi-tech sectors with higher added value. In such context, the spirit of craftsmanship, once overlooked, returned to society. 

Nowadays the spirit of craftsmanship can be found not only in traditional handicraft industries, but also in hi-tech industries. Smart phones, home appliances, drones, and robots that China produces are popular across the world, albeit still having some technical gap compared to those manufactured by advanced countries. Chinese technicians keep making innovations in skills and processes to optimize each link of manufacturing, so as to perfect quality and performance of products.

At the same time, personalized markets are booming, empowering companies to better cater to the demands of customers. They have increased the variety, improved the quality, and promoted brand reorganization and recognition. 

Craftsmen used to only deal with physical objects. Nowadays, as digital technology is applied to the real economy, they also utilize the Internet and big data to transform products and upgrade the quality. A large number of network platforms have been created and interacted well with the real economy, which have improved both tangible and intangible sectors.  

As highly skilled technicians are always in shortage, the Chinese government has set great store on the vocational education to help technicians improve their skills and give them access to the largest manufacturing base in the world. Advocating the spirit of craftsmanship will encourage society to pursue excellence and high quality in work, and help people maintain integrity and harmony of their minds.