Bom­bardier: en­gine of Sino-Cana­dian re­la­tion­ship

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG RU in Beijing wan­gru@chi­

Fif­teen years ago, when Zhang Jian­wei was sent by his company from Mon­treal, Canada, to ex­plore business in China, few peo­ple in China knew about Bom­bardier, and some peo­ple tried to find the mean­ing of “Bom­bardier” in English-Chi­nese dic­tio­nary, “Bomb…bardier? What does your company make? Bombs?” Zhang, re­called a Chi­nese client asked after hear­ing about Bom­bardier, the Cana­dian trans­porta­tion and aero­space gi­ant.

For the record, Bom­badier is the world’s third largest civil air­craft man­u­fac­turer and the largest business air­craft man­u­fac­turer.

In 1999, Zhang was the only Bom­bardier em­ployee, named “rep­re­sen­ta­tive” of Bom­bardier in China. He did not have an of­fice, but in­stalled his tem­po­rary of­fice in his 6-year-old daugh­ter’s room, stay­ing up at night, call­ing Mon­treal to re­port. His daugh­ter com­plaint about keep­ing her up. Months later, after he’d moved his own of­fice in a new res­i­dence, she came to his door, un­able to sleep, ask­ing him to call­ing Mon­treal in French, which had be­come her lul­laby.

To­day, sit­ting in the meet­ing room of Bom­bardier China head­of­fice in a sky­scraper in Cen­tral Business Dis­trict in Beijing, Zhang now leads the company which has seven WFOE (Whole For­eign Owned En­ter­prises) and five joint ven­tures and more than 4,000 em­ploy­ees in China.

From the high al­ti­tude rail­way, known as the snow­cov­ered line, to the au­to­mated peo­ple-mover at Ter­mi­nal 3 of the Beijing Cap­i­tal In­ter­na­tional Air­port, and Wuhan-Guangzhou and Beijing-Shang­hai high-speed, Beijing-Guangzhou high speed rail­ways, till metro lines in a num­ber of ci­ties, the Canada-based company played an im­por­tant role be­hind the de­vel­op­ment of China’s rail and ur­ban mass tran­sit.

In rail trans­porta­tion, Bom­bardier’s long pres­ence in China has gen­er­ated or­ders for more than 5,000 rail­way pas­sen­ger cars, more than 10,000 metro cars and more than 560 elec­tric lo­co­mo­tives to date.

The company ac­counts for one third of the business jet fleet in China with 111 de­liv­ered air­crafts and hun­dreds in back­log. Six air­lines op­er­ate 47 Bom­bardier com­mer­cial air­crafts in China now.

“Peo­ple of­ten at­tribute that (to the fact) I know China (very well),” said Zhang, who was born in East China’s Shan­dong prov­ince and left China to study in Mon­treal in 1987. “But I of­ten feel that I don’t know China — the coun­try and its in­dus­tries have changed so fast with grow­ing di­ver­sity.”

Zhang said the pri­mary fac­tor is to un­der­stand and meet cus­tomers’ needs.

“Bom­bardier has been gain­ing cus­tomers’ trust and mar­ket rep­u­ta­tion through our per­sis­tent ef­forts,” he said. “Many prob­lems in the ne­go­ti­a­tion and co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Chi­nese and for­eign en­ter­prises are not con­flicts of in­ter­ests in a real sense, but the prob­lems aris­ing from mis­un­der­stand­ing and lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The only so­lu­tion is to re­sort to mu­tual re­spect and in­creased ex­change of ideas,” said Zhang.

Dur­ing the APEC meet­ing in Novem­ber in Beijing, with Chi­nese Premier Li Ke­qiang and Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper present, Bom­bardier Com­mer­cial Air­craft and China’s sole spe­cial­ized re­gional air­line, China Ex­press Air­lines (China Ex­press), an­nounced a deal worth ap­prox­i­mately $727 mil­lion for the pur­chase of 16 CRJ900 Nex­tGen re­gional jets.

Do­mes­tic Chi­nese rail­way pro­duc­ers like China North Rail (CNR) and China South Rail (CSR) have caught up and be­come strong com­peti­tors in re­cent years.

“For Bom­bardier, they are com­peti­tors but also part­ners, co­op­er­a­tion and com­pe­ti­tion co­ex­ist,” said Zhang.

The Changchun-based joint ven­ture be­tween Bom­bardier and CNR is sup­ply­ing metro cars to Sin­ga­pore, and Bom­bardier has inked a co­op­er­a­tive agree­ment with China Rail­way for tap­ping the in­ter­na­tional high­speed rail­way mar­ket.

Bom­bardier has also es­tab­lished global mar­ket-ori­ented part­ner­ship with Avi­a­tion In­dus­try of China and Com­mer­cial Air­craft Cor­po­ra­tion of China.

Still, tech­nol­ogy trans­fer has re­mained a sen­si­tive topic in the global me­dia.

“In the Western me­dia, many Western business lead­ers claim that they would never trans­fer any tech­nol­ogy to China, but when they are sit­ting in front of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment and part­ners, they talk a lot about tech­nol­ogy trans­fers. As a mat­ter of fact, they tell the truth in nei­ther case,” said Zhang. “The col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Bom­bardier and China has gone beyond tech­nol­ogy trans­fer.”

Zhang con­tin­ued: “We de­velop the tech­nolo­gies and prod­ucts most suit­able in China with Chi­nese part­ners, be­cause tech­nol­ogy trans­fer alone can’t fun­da­men­tally im­prove the prod­ucts. The most ad­vanced train run­ning in high plateaus has been de­vel­oped by Bom­bardier’s joint ven­ture in China,” he noted.

Zhang sug­gested China seek more co­op­er­a­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties with Cana­dian business world be­cause Canada has many high-tech com­pa­nies, and es­pe­cially, Canada has many small and medium-sized com­pa­nies which have an ex­cel­lent en­trepreneur­ship, be­ing cre­ative, in­no­va­tive and hav­ing a risk-tak­ing at­ti­tude.

“China and Canada have a great com­ple­men­tary bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion in tech­nol­ogy, par­tic­u­larly in the field of civil avi­a­tion, rail trans­porta­tion and en­ergy in­dus­tries,” said Zhang.

“Canada has also the worldlead­ing ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems, in high ed­u­ca­tion, pro­fes­sional and tech­ni­cal train­ing. For ex­am­ple, some Cana­dian univer­si­ties have spe­cial avi­a­tion MBA pro­gram, and there are also many col­leges in Mon­treal train­ing pro­fes­sional tech­ni­cians in the field of civil avi­a­tion.”

Zhang be­lieves that Canada and China have a big po­ten­tial in business co­op­er­a­tion and also in cul­ture ex­change.


Zhang Jian­wei, pres­i­dent of Bom­bardier China

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