When Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Washington, D.C., last week, he summed up his view of the Sino-U.S. economic relationship, saying, “We should abandon the zero-sum Cold War mentality, view each other’s development in an objective and sensible way, respect each other’s choice of development path and pursue common development through win-win cooperation.”
Economic interconnectivity was also a focus of the 16th annual China Jushi Conference on Fiberglass, held in Tongxiang, China, on Dec. 4-6, 2010. Jushi Group Ltd., based in China’s Tongxiang Economic Development Zone and wholly owned by state-controlled China Fiberglass, sponsored a gathering of its customers from across China and around the world. At the conference, Jushi executives announced a worldwide reorganization of the company’s distribution system as well as an effort to improve the image of the “made in China” label.
Fiberglass is used widely in construction, not just in insulation. Fiberglass composites are used extensively in pipes, water tanks, doors and many interior finishings. High-strength fiberglass composites form wind-turbine blades, a growing market for the composites industry.
Today the U.S. is the largest market for fiberglass products, and Owens Corning, Toledo, Ohio, is recognized as the leading global producer of fiberglass. Jushi Group is the largest fiberglass producer in China and one of the largest in the world, but its leaders acknowledge there is room for improvement. Unlike other construction materials, fiberglass is often described as being both an easily reproducible commodity as well as a sophisticated material for specialized products. Jushi executives stated that while the company’s products perform well in the first category—selling standard quality fiberglass composites in the U.S., Canada and Europe—they feel there is room for improvement in the second.
“What makes Jushi special is its size,” said Zhang Yuquiang, president and chairman of Jushi Group Ltd. “We have excellent capacity, but we still need to focus more on upgrading technology and product research and development. We want to turn Jushi from big to strong.” Jushi Group announced that it has the capacity to produce nearly one million tons of glass fiber a year and is investing heavily in new product development. At the conference, Jushi introduced ViPro, a high-strength fiberglass composite intended for demanding applications such as wind-turbine blades and high-pressure pipes.
Jushi products previously were sold in the U.S. through its distributor, Gibson Enterprises. Under a new plan adopted at the 2010 conference, Gibson Enterprises will become Jushi America and act as a direct sales arm of Jushi, similar to its arrangements with Jushi Singapore, Jushi France and the recently created Jushi Japan. Joe Peng, president of Gibson Enterprises, sees several reasons for optimism about the American construction market. “First, fiberglass is a great material to replace other important materials such as wood, metal, etc. Second, the U.S. construction industry is at an all-time low and has to rebound.” Jushi is already a known fiberglass supplier among American customers, but much of the talk at the global conference focused on selling directly to international customers and overcoming negative connotations attached to Chinese-made products in the U.S. and the European Union.
Repeated accusations of “dumping” from the E.U. and other markets have been a problem for many Chinese manufacturers of late, Jushi included. A steady stream of Chinese-made goods coming into economies still weak from the financial crisis has prompted anti-dumping measures in the E.U. to limit imports and aid domestic industries. The position of Jushi on these measures mirrors that of the Chinese government’s: protectionism among trading partners is an unfair practice that goes against free trade. India, another major market for Jushi, revealed this month it is considering a steep anti-dumping duty on Chinese-made glass-fiber products. Jushi President Zhang was hopeful Jushi would “make a breakthrough under the anti-dumping pressure and expand the overseas markets. China can’t be blamed for dumping, as it was a result of the financial crisis.”
The slow recovery from the global economic crisis was an acknowledged obstacle to international expansion at the Jushi conference. Zhang had his own appraisal of the global response to the downturn. “The financial crisis was a wound that will take time to heal … every country has its own problems. Some use Western medicine, but we prefer Chinese medicine.”