America is facing the biggest battle of her life in the next three decades. No, I’m not talking about Islamic terrorism; I’m talking about global competition. A recent Business Week cover story tells us to “Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid” of global competition. That’s a smart headline. Why? Because fear is an awesome emotion. It functions as a wake up call, a sort of slap across the face that says, “Wake up. Pay attention.” Indeed, America will need to wake up and pay attention if we are to prevent ourselves from becoming a third rate economic power in the world.
Have you ever heard of a company called Foxconn? No? Well, don’t worry, I hadn’t either until recently. But what I heard about Foxconn created fear and wonder in my life, and I imagine it will do the same for you.
Here’s the story: a top engineer for Cisco Systems recently returned from a trip to visit Foxconn, a Chinese circuit board manufacturer based forty-five minutes outside of Hong Kong. He asked me to guess how many people a single Foxconn manufacturing plant employs. I guessed 30,000. He said, “No, to be exact, it’s the largest plant in the world and employs 190,000 people in one location.” Ninety five percent of the employees are young women between the ages of 18 and 24. They come with a work permit for four years, after which they are burned out and required by contract to return to their villages of origin. They live in dorms. They eat together, sleep four to a room, and work six days a week, taking only Sundays off. The plant runs three shifts, twenty-four hours a day with the efficiency of a military operation.
Think of this – a factory campus five times the size of the University of Texas. And Foxconn is growing rapidly. Apple, Cisco and Dell all have contracts with Foxconn. It is only one example of the growing technology sector springing up in China. Both inland China and Taiwan have been copying the Silicon Valley, creating Science Centers for both hardware and software. Hundreds of plants, people, researchers and supporting universities are being built in “clusters” to maximize ideas and efficiency. This is exactly what Michael Porter, the renowned business strategist from Harvard, tells countries to do in order to develop a competitive edge in a specific sector.
Doug Wilson is the the co-author, with Edwin Feulner, of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.
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