China in the World Market: Chinese Industry and International Sources of Reform in the Post-Mao Era

By Thomas G. Moore | Go to book overview

7
Chinese Shipbuilding:
The Modest Origins of an
Emerging Industrial Giant

BEHEMOTHS IN THE MAKING?: CHINA's SHIPYARDS
ON THE RISE

In the space of a single decade, from the early 1980s to the early 1990s, the Chinese shipbuilding industry was transformed from a technologically backward, poor-quality manufacturer of basic ships to a bona fide force in the world industry. Although Japan and South Korea still far outclassed the rest of the field, China had risen by the early 1990s to a position atop the middle-ranking shipbuilding powers, a group that included such notable European builders as Germany, Poland, Denmark, Spain, the Netherlands, and Finland. In fact, the Chinese industry had by that time already eclipsed such traditional maritime powers as Britain and Italy, as well as promising developing countries such as Brazil and Taiwan. Ranked only sixteenth among world ship exporters in 1982, the year in which the China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) was formed to oversee the country's major shipyards, China moved into third place only a decade later, a position in which it quickly became ensconced. For several years prior to the Asian Financial Crisis, an episode that threw the regional (and indeed global) shipbuilding industry into turmoil, China had averaged about 15 percent of the world market. While far behind Japan and South Korea, which jockey perennially for the top spot and together account for 60 to 70 percent of the world market, China typically enjoyed a comfortable lead over fourthplace Taiwan.1 As Figure 7.1 shows, China's ship exports grew by 1997 to more than 30 major vessels a year, totaling more than 1.3 million deadweight tons. Indeed, exports have accounted for more than 50 percent

____________________
1
See, for instance, “South Korean Shipyards Retain Top Rank, ” Journal of Commerce, 1 February 2000, p. 14 (Maritime section).

-163-

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