Living in today's 'China 2.0'
Allan Gabor, president of Merck China and managing director of Electronics China. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
When I first arrived in China some 20 years ago, I was thrilled to witness the reform and opening-up policy that had started to change this country.
Recently, China has overcome the corona crisis faster than any other big country, and it is now evolving from it even stronger. But there is more: The pace of change is accelerating. If China was in its "Version 1.0" when I first arrived, I'd rather call it "China 2.0" now.
As a foreigner living and working in China for the past two decades, I have witnessed a lot of changes already. I first arrived in Suzhou and then moved to Beijing. How much greener that city has become through all the landscaping during the Olympics! Later, after moving to Shanghai, I witnessed the arrival of high-speed trains moving at a speed of 350 km/h, but with a stable wifi-connection to share.
Now, however, the change has gone into overdrive. China has decided that it no longer wants to be just the "factory of the world" relying on labor-intensive industries, but to become a global leader in technology and innovation. This is officially outlined in the new 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25). When I look at the confident faces of young people at my office every day, I can almost feel the energy that is driving all this change. China is fast becoming a whole new place.
While the rest of the world is now also recovering from the corona crisis, China is an especially inspiring place to be. Not only did the Chinese economy bounce back from the crisis faster than any other major economy, returning to growth after only a few months. China is also continuing the great project of transforming itself into a high-tech nation, doing so with renewed vigor. At home, it is embracing future trends like digitalization, artificial intelligence or biomedicine with a very unique, breath-taking "China speed".
The Chinese people believe that – with science and technology and hard work – any goal can be achieved, and no problem is too big to tackle. And there is something infectious about this belief, about this optimistic outlook into the future and all this dynamic change and ambition.
There is a distinct "can do spirit" in this country that I have liked very much for quite a while now. Originally, I thought I would stay here only for a few years. Helping to successfully establish a big company's healthcare business in China, I could have moved on and taken on other challenges in other countries. Instead, I decided to stay here in China – and have never regretted it.
I am now the managing director of Electronics China, as well as the president of Merck China. In our Merck Group, headquartered in Darmstadt, Germany, 58,000 employees work every day to make a positive difference in millions of people's lives across the three business sectors Healthcare, Life Science and Electronics.
We work to create a more joyful and sustainable way to live. From advancing gene editing technologies and discovering unique ways to treat the most challenging diseases to enabling the intelligence of electronic devices – our company is everywhere.
I mentioned the word "dynamic". As China is speeding up the digitalization of its industries, aiming to be a new world leader in advanced manufacturing, our Electronics business very much functions as, the company behind companies that is enabling digital living. Our performance materials are exactly what China needs to produce the semiconductors, next-generation OLED displays and surface solutions for all kinds of devices.
"Healthy China", "Digital China", "Green China" – these are all areas of priority in China's new five-year plan. All these three areas are a great match with Merck's field of expertise.
Semiconductors, for which our modern performance materials lay the foundation, are at the heart of the digitalization of China which has been adopted as an official goal in the new five-year plan for the first time. I believe that we are at the beginning of golden decade for semiconductors and a decade of materials-driven innovation.
Our Merck Electronics Business is investing 18 million euros into a new "Electronics Technology Center" in Shanghai. Together with our clients we aim to discover new materials and process innovations for China's semiconductor and display industries.