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Home / Q&A with CEO

A contributor and a student

By Zheng Xin | China Daily | Updated: 2018-12-05 09:44
A respiratory mask made by 3M is shown at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai on Nov 8. [Photo/China News Service]

3M collaborates closely with Chinese partners, leveraging its diversified technologies and innovative solutions

Editor's Note: This year marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up. China Daily interviewed top executives of well-known multinational companies for their views on the country's socioeconomic development.

Please use three words to describe China's changes in the past 40 years.

Pioneering, innovative and transformational.

In China's development over the past 40 years under the reform and opening-up policy, there has been a lot of pioneering. What has happened has never been witnessed before in the global economy, and the transformation that has taken place in China is something that has never been experienced by another society of this size, on this scale, at this speed.

The result has been the creation of an impressive domestic market filled with active consumers who are creating an exciting new market to be served by many multinational companies.

At 3M, we have pioneered all the way along with China's economic development, ever since we established ourselves on the Chinese mainland in 1984 as an active participant in this amazing transformation.

What are the biggest achievements made in China since the introduction of the reform and opening-up policy 40 years ago?

When it was first introduced 40 years ago, the policy generally informed foreign companies about how the markets will work and some fair trade practices within those markets.

Over the following 40 years, with rapid development and the evolution of the reform and opening-up policy, China has become the second-largest economy, achieving unprecedented economic growth. That alone is an impressive achievement.

Beyond just the size and scale of the market that has developed, another great achievement is the amount of innovation that is now coming out of the Chinese market. We have witnessed a number of China-developed technologies and new business models making their impact on the world.

Among them, the presence of China's high-speed rail network, communications technology and e-commerce platforms are very visible now - not just in China but around the world.

As an innovation company, which invests heavily in research and development, 3M collaborates closely with innovation leaders here in China, as both a contributor and a student.

How has your company benefited from the country's reform and opening-up policy?

In tune with the rhythm of Chinese economic development, 3M China has grown from a small factory of dozens of square meters and a single office staffed with just over 10 employees in 1984, to becoming the company's largest entity outside the United States.

Our footprint in China now comprises two R&D centers, four technical centers, nine manufacturing sites, 27 branch offices and more than 8,200 employees.

Over the past 34 years, 3M has been meaningfully involved in the development of the Chinese economy by leveraging its diversified technologies and innovative solutions.

From infrastructure construction to manufacturing and occupational safety, from Made in China to Innovated by China, from export-driven growth to boosting domestic demand, 3M is riding on the tide of China's economic development by keeping in step with and helping to drive forward the Chinese economy.

Moreover, as a strong believer of "local for local" long-term development, we have also invested significantly in the local market. This not only includes investment in local manufacturing and technology, but also setting up local technical centers near our customers and developing local leaders.

While growing our business, we also take action to give back to our communities. Since our brand commitment is "3M science applied to life", we have rolled out an array of corporate social responsibility activities, to help improve lives by contributing our funds, time and efforts.

All of these efforts have been made possible by the reform and opening-up policies over these past 40 years.

What's the biggest challenge China faces today and how can the country overcome it?

One of the biggest challenges that China faces today, just as other countries do, is how to continue to develop its economy in a sustainable way.

With the launch of the Healthy China 2030 plan - a blueprint for healthier and greener lives - China appears to be on a path toward progress in this area.

We also see from our customers that new markets are opening up to 3M in the sustainability space. Our customers are looking into new technologies and new materials that could help them tackle these sustainability challenges.

Could China's experiences and practices be used to solve global problems?

In recent decades, China has made great achievements in social and economic development. There are many great practices in China that other developing or even developed countries can learn from, such as maintaining a continued economic growth momentum, managing urbanization and upgrading the manufacturing industry.

China is also starting to demonstrate a stronger commitment to global social issues, such as climate change and the UN Sustainability Development Goals.

How do you view China's role in the world today?

China is surely playing an increasingly important and active role in the global economy. In keeping with its social and economic development, China is shouldering more global responsibilities.

China's development brings great opportunities to the world. In economic areas, the globalization of Chinese companies brings many opportunities to other countries, and to global companies like 3M.

We wish to work more closely with our Chinese customers and partners in enhancing both their technical competitiveness and global market access.

Apart from economic development, what progress in other areas have you witnessed in China in the past 40 years?

Although policies contribute hugely to economic growth both locally and globally, I think the ultimate beneficiaries are the people here.

The policy opened a door for Chinese people to work with people from different nations. In a diversified and inclusive working environment, people have equipped themselves to be competitive in the global talent market.

At 3M, we cultivate employees' leadership skills and offer employees opportunities to grow and to explore. It is worth mentioning that over 90 percent of our leadership team are globally connected but locally developed.

People's living standards have also dramatically improved over the past 40 years. Chinese consumers are now enjoying a higher quality of life and higher quality products. To meet and exceed Chinese consumers' changing needs, we have enhanced our local R&D capabilities since entering the market, and now have the full capability to work with domestic customers to innovate and tailor new products for them.

As Chinese consumers' demands continue to increase, we must rise to this challenge by bringing better and more innovative products to the market, as well as by helping our customers to meet those higher expectations through their own products by leveraging 3M innovation.

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