It was not easy coming to the decision to join the National Roofing Contractors Association study tour to Beijing, China, in July. The cost in terms of time away from regular duties added to the cost in time that it takes getting over a 12-hour time difference is considerable on an adventure such as this. Nonetheless, what pushed me over the edge is that I am always curious about how roofing is done whenever or wherever, and China has emerged as an "A" topic in construction industry news as the alleged culprit consuming all our steel and cement.
The NRCA-sponsored tour was held at this time to give us the opportunity to attend the 2nd China International Exhibition for Building Waterproofing Technology. This trade show was sponsored jointly by the China National Waterproof Building Materials Industry Association, China National Building Materials Group Corporation, and NRCA. All tour participants were rewarded with gracious hospitality from leaders of the Chinese roofing and waterproofing industry. The only glitch in the entire trip came because we are in the roofing industry-one of two job-site visits had to be cancelled because of rain.
There is no space here to give you many of the details. That will follow in a subsequent issue of Roofing Contractor. I do, however, want to share some quick observations about many of the things we learned.
Asked for the "secret recipe" for doing business in China, one of the executives we spoke with told us through an interpreter, "It is the Guan Xi" (pronounced kwan gee), which loosely translates to "relationship." Sounds familiar, doesn't it? You do business with people whom you know and like and trust. No real revelation there except that we learned it takes a great deal of time and an understanding of the Chinese culture and ways of doing business to establish Guan Xi.
As for the question of cement and steel, there is little doubt that the construction industry in China is in overdrive. It seems that nearly every block in central Beijing is sporting one or more tower cranes. The construction sites all operate 24/7.
We learned that the roofing and waterproofing industry is distinguishing itself as an important part of the construction industry in China. I will admit to being downright jealous of the fascinating museum they have built that is dedicated to the trade. Most of the museum exhibits are dedicated to modern construction methods, but some feature slate and tile roofing materials whose uses date back thousands of years. The museum is housed in a building all its own on the site of a roofing plant operated by the Beijing Oriental Yuhong Waterproof Technology Co. Ltd. The pride and joy of Yuhong chairman Weigouo Li is the new modified bitumen plant furnished by American firm Reichel and Drews.
China remains worlds apart from us both physically and culturally. The impact we have felt from the growing Chinese construction industry is not the last we will hear from China. Manufacturing and materials technologies from Europe and America together with the nuances of the Chinese industry, government and culture will define the future of the roofing and waterproofing industry in China.
NRCA is to be congratulated for maintaining a position of leadership in the roofing industry worldwide. This kind of forward thinking becomes more important as our world continues to grow smaller.