Why printedinchina
 
China seems to be the hottest place on the global map to do offshore printing. It is now expected by the industry people that China will be the global leader in printing industry in the near future. Presently, China has some 1,80,000 printing plants employing 3.400 million workers. Apart from these local companies, government awards licenses to the overseas printing companies that seek to establish branches in the country. Right from the catalog printing or book printing China to customized printing, China is fast becoming the preferred destination among the companies globally.
At the Second China International Cultural Industry Fair at Shenzhen, a southern city in China, Mr. Long Xinmin, director of the General Administration of Press and Publications, announced that total output value of China's printing industry in 2005 was RMB 330 billion or $ 41 Billion. This amount accounts to 2% of the GDP of China. Mr. Lang, output value of the printing China sector is expected to grow by 8% annually during the next five years. It is being estimated that the printing industry in China is all set to make up 2.5% of the GDP in 2010. Much like the printing industry, packaging China is also making news in the global scene. At
 

the opening ceremony of the World Packaging Conference 2006, which was organized in China, Mr. Shi Wanpeng, president of the China Packaging Federation announced that output of the Chinese packaging industry reached over US$ 50 billion in 2005. This amount is 2.2% of China's total output value. According to Mr. Wanpeng, packaging China industry was listed 14th among the 42 major industries in 2005. In spite of these facts, the packaging industry in China still requires truly international standard packaging facilities.
Truly world class printing and packaging are available in China at much lower rates.

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Foreign newspapers to be printed in China?
NewspaperDirect, Inc. the world leader in digital print-on-demand newspaper distribution, announced this week that it has signed an agreement with Beijing Founder Easiprint Co. Ltd. (Founder), a part of the $3-billion revenue (USD) Founder Group, which will enable, for the first time, foreign newspapers to be printed in the People's Republic of China. The agreement provides Founder with distribution and printing rights throughout China for all NewspaperDirect's hundreds of print-on-demand newspaper titles.
Both companies see the agreement as an important step in opening the country to foreign media, especially in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Starting in August 2006, NewspaperDirect and Founder will be providing overseas business people visiting or living in the world's fastest-growing economy with same-day access to their favourite newspapers.

Through this agreement, Founder Easiprint's rapidly growing chain of over 200 franchised print shops in China will be authorized to print any of the titles published by NewspaperDirect's publishing partners. These titles include The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune (USA), The Times, The Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph (UK), Le Monde, Le Figaro (France), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany), Neue Zurcher Zeitung (Switzerland), Mainichi Shimbun (Japan), The Globe and Mail and National Post (Canada)...

..."For publishers this provides an exciting opportunity to be in at the ground floor of foreign newspaper distribution in China. The country is visited by many more foreigners each year, and they will now be able to receive same-day, digitally printed copies of their favorite daily newspapers.

"We are excited by the opportunity to partner with NewspaperDirect to print and distribute the world's press in China," said Mr. Qi Degui, General Manager of Founder Easiprint Co., Ltd. "We are honored to be the first company allowed to print foreign newspapers in China."

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First Book in English Printed in China.

Worldcat shows three English titles printed by P.P. Thoms in 1815 in Macao and Canton and nothing earlier:

A dictionary of the Chinese language. Macao : Printed at the Honorable
East India Co.'s Press, by P.P. Thoms, 1815-1823.

Translations from the original Chinese. Canton : Printed by P.P. Thoms,
1815.

Sanyoulow, or, the three dedicated rooms : a tale translated from the
Chinese. Canton, China : Printed by order of the select committee, at
the honorable East India Co.'s Press, by P.P. Thoms, 1815.

The Current Status of the Chinese Printing Industry Read the original news

After entering the new century, especially after its entry into WTO, China has maintained a high speed in economy and social development. In 2003, China's GDP exceeded 11.6 trillion RMB (approximately 1.4 trillion US$), an increase of 8.5% over the previous 2002. The volume of import and export exceeded 851 billion US$ and foreign direct investment reached 53.5 billion US$, up 37% and 1.4%, respectively. China's national foreign-exchange reserves reached 403 billion US$, an increase of 40% over the past year.

Overall national strength has increased remarkably. With the development of economy, culture, press & publication and foreign trade and with the improvement of living standard of the people, huge and diversified market needs have been created for all sectors of printing industry, including publication printing, package printing, commercial printing and other types of printing. In 2003, about 190,000 kinds of books, 9,165 kinds of magazines and 2,000 kinds of newspaper were published. About 4.5 trillion valued products for domestic market and 430 billion US$ valued products for overseas market have to be packaged and printed. This, together with other printing demands, provides a huge market for the printing and packaging industries. By 2005 the growth will be compounded year-on-year by a minimum of 40% per year up to at least 2010.

By the end of November 2003, the total number of graphic arts and printing enterprises reached 163.600, including 92,400 printing houses and 71,200 reprographic shops. And the total employment reached 3 million. Among the 92,400 printing houses, about 9,950 were engaged in publication printing, 31,300 in package printing and the rest 51,150 in other printing sectors. Among those 92,400 printing enterprises, state-owned enterprises are 7,000,collective enterprises are 24,000, foreign invested and joint venture enterprises are 2,200,limited and joint-stock enterprises are 17,000,private enterprises are 36,000 and others are 6,200. In 2003, the total production value of printing industry was about 220 billion RMB(and that for export was 30 billion RMB), equivalent to about 27.5 billion US$,accounting for 2% of China's total GDP. The average printing production per capita was approximately 21 US$. The momentum will be to grow at a minimum of 40% compounded year-on-year.

1. Characteristics of Chinese Printing Industry Over the Past Few Years

(1) While the government is pushing hard in building laws and regulations and in strengthening supervision, the industrial policy gradually opens up. As a result, the market environment has been further improved.

In July 2001, promulgated by the State Council was the new 'Regulations on Printing Industry Administration', which stipulates that the Press and Publication of Administration of China (PPA) is the only government body for administering and supervising graphic arts and printing industries in China. Since then, PPA and other related departments have drawn a number of follow up policies and regulations, such as 'Temporary Regulations on Ownership of Printing Business'. 'Temporary Regulations on Setting Up Foreign Invested Printing Enterprise'(which allows foreign investment in packaging printing sector), 'Regulations on Accepting and Producing Printed Products', 'Guidelines on Annual Inspection and Ratification of Printing Enterprises' and etc. These policies and regulations have constituted a new framework of law system for the printing industry. The concerned department and local government followed up and published policies favourable for development and investment.

In 2002 and 2003, the long lasting administrative examination and approval systems of 'Special Enterprise Permission for Establishing Printing Business', 'Special Enterprise Permission for Individual Engagement in Printing Business' and 'National- and Provincial-specified Enterprises for Book and Magazine Printing' were terminated one after another. Central and local government departments conducted nationwide powerful campaign of rectifying the printing market and cracking down illegal activities in printing, such as illegal publications, fake and inferior label, mark, package, paper of certificate and etc. The Government increasingly places emphasis on the role of industrial associations and organizations, while intensifies self-discipline and faithful service in the industry. The market becomes more regularized and ordered, and lawful operations are ensured and protected. All these efforts have worked to drive the industry in the health and ordered direction.

(2)The industry maintains a dynamic momentum in development with the very fast growing economy and culture.

Some provinces in relatively developed areas have already grown up as large provinces of printing, while pushing hard on their way to the goal of strong province of printing. Some of them place the printing industry in the position of urban industry in their long term development planning and adopt favourable policies for developing the industry. In recent years, the printing industry has become the `second` largest industry in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, with more than 4,800 printing houses, 40,000 employees and an annual industry turnover of 30 billions HK$.

Hong Kong's printing industry is now in a strategic move to north (the direction toward the mainland) and about 70 % of Hong Kong's printing enterprises have already moved their productions to or invested joint ventures in the mainland of China. Taiwan's printing industry is also on its way of drift to west (the direction toward the mainland) and about 400 Taiwanese printing enterprises have already been relocated in the mainland. Besides these two steams, printing enterprises in other nations are also looking for their fortunes in Chinese printing market. The export growth for the China Printing Industry is a major strategy for many of the established Print organisations.

Thanks to the developed economy in some coastal areas, the strong momentum brought about by the reform & opening-up policy and China's acquisition of WTO membership, regional printing industrial zones are taking shape rapidly. Two regional printing industrial zones have been formed and growing rapidly in Zhujiang River Delta and Yangtse Rive Delta areas, respectively. Zhujiang River Delta, being centered in Guangdong province, is in neighbour with Hong Kong and Macao and is recognized as the World Sixth City Circle, while Yangtse River Delta is centered in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. In these two areas, printing enterprises are relatively large in scale, armed with advanced technologies and equipment, and the total sales income accounts for 3/4 of the national ones. In Bo Hai Economic Area as represented by Beijing and Tianjin cities, printing industry is also on the track of fast growing. With the progress of the Great West Development as well as reconstruction of the old industrial bases in northern China, printing industry in western provinces, especially in Sichuan and Shanxi provinces and also in northern area of China will gain new momentum in development.

(3) Introduction of overseas capitals into the Chinese printing industry has been very greatly accelerated. After China's successful acquisition of WTO membership, the government newly approved 170 printing enterprises with foreign investments flowing in from 2002, and the total investment exceeded 1 billion US$. Currently, the country already has 2,200 foreign invested printing enterprises, most of them are clustered in the coastal line areas, about 1,600 in Guangdong Province (in which 90% are of investments from Hong Kong) and 200 in Shanghai.

Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province, as an example. It is a city in neighbour with Hong Kong and Macao, and well known as the Town of Oversea Chinese (because of the fact that most of the households have relatives either living in foreign countries or being returnees from overseas). There are more than 1,300 printing enterprises, among which, 70 enterprises are of foreign investments. China Packaging & Printing Production Base was nominated and set-up in that city. The base occupies a land of 5,000 mu (equivalent to 333 hectare) and has 35 packaging printing enterprises.

In 2003, the total industrial production in the base exceeded 6 billions RMB. Another example is Heshan Astros Printing Ltd., which is invested independently by Hong Kong company (with a registered capital of 1 billion Hong Kong dollar), occupies about 65 hectares' land, has 180,000 square meter constructions, 40 sets of large format sheet-fed colour off-set presses and 10,000 staffs. And, the annual production value reaches 2 billion RMB and all the products are exported to overseas market. Printing enterprises cited above are characterized by large scale, high-tech, advanced equipment, diversified products and good performances. And high profit is another typical feature of these companies, which is believed to be brought about by cooperation among the clustered enterprises in the base. Excellent people training programmes and the use of business models are a major importance to the Chinese business culture.

American R R Donnelley invested and built printing operations in Shenzhen and Shanghai, which have already been running commercially. Toppan Printing Co., Ltd., Japan, is planning to invest 90 millions US$ to set up a large-scale packaging printing and ink manufacturing enterprises in Shanghai with its Chinese partners, after successfully landed a large printing company in Shenzhen 10 years ago. NIPPO Printing CO., Ltd. and Nishiguchi Printing CO., Ltd., Japan, successfully landed in Beijing and Shanghai few years ago. Asian Packaging Centre named by the World Packaging Organisation and approved by the former State Economy & Trade Committee has settled in Hangzhou City, Jiangsu Province.

Also, the construction is already started under a planed investment of 10 billion US$. China South International Industrial Materials City, occupying 1.5 square km lands and with 2.2 million square meters' constructions, is jointly invested by 5 Hong Kong based companies, i.e., Carrianna Group, Man Sang Group, Kin Hip Metal & Plastic Factory Ltd and Luk Ka International Ltd. The total investment was 2.6 billion RMB. These movements provide a good platform for the Chinese packaging printing industry to enter and play in `international markets` under the trend of economy globalisation, while the huge and fast growing printing market in western China renders a new territory to foresighted investors abroad and inside the country. The global trading environment is a major strategic tool for the China Printing Industry.

(4) Transformation of traditional printing industries by using high-tech has made breakthrough. In 1980s, the industry widely adopted the more advanced technology based on computerised laser typesetting and offset press, after eliminated the elder 'Hot Process' based on metallic type and casting, which had been in use for more than one and half century. This was marked as a historical jump for the industry. As a result, technological level of the industry was greatly improved. Some printing enterprises even started to build information management network and carried out enterprises resource planning and business reorganisation. This greatly improved business operation and increased the whole management and core competitiveness.

In recent two years, initiated has been a new round of revolution, as exemplified by the widespread use of CTP, digital colour proofing, commercial web-fed press and sheet-fed 8 colour perfect off-set press. Now, CTP installations have already exceeded 250 sets nationwide. Import of commercial web-fed press maintains a dynamic momentum and about 100 sets have been installed and started commercial operation. Recently, Komori, Mitsubishi, Akiyama International and Heidelberg have released sheet-fed 8 colour perfect off-set presses, targeting mid- and short-run high-end market. This type of press has already gained wide recognition and about 10 sets have already been ordered or installed. China's printing equipment has been, therefore, greatly improved and raised to a higher level.

In the publication printing sector, off-set printing accounts for 90% of the total market and in package printing sector, off-set, gravure, flexography and silk printing account for over 40%, 25%, 8% and 55, respectively.

(5) Structural reform of the industry has also made great progress. Within the current 92,400 printing houses, state-owned and collective enterprises take up 35%; limited and joint-stock companies, foreign invested enterprises and joint ventures take up 21%; private enterprises take up 40%. Coexistence of different types of enterprises is now a new structural pattern of the industry. Reform of stated-owned printing enterprise also shows new progresses. Some non-state-owned printing enterprises have also successfully conducted internal reform.

(6)With the constant growing of the industry, printing education shows new flourish. Right now, there have been about 12 universities and institutes (including departments) that offer graphic arts related programs, with over 16,000 full time students registered in the undergraduate and associate programs and more than 3800 full time students registered in the postgraduate programs. This is the most booming period of time for higher graphic arts education in China.

Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication, the School of Publishing & Printing of Shanghai University of Science and Technology, the School of Printing & Packaging Engineering of Xian University of Science and Technology, the School of Journalism & Communication of Wuhan University are well known, because of their long history of involvement in graphic education and quality curricula. These schools, along with some new comers over the past two years, have already prepared and delivered tens of thousands graduates of various types to the industry, having greatly improved the knowledge structure and the quality of human resources of the industry. In addition, vocational education and training of various types have also been progressing.

Japan Association of Graphic Arts Technology (JAGAT) and European Funding for Asia Investment have down a lot of work in supporting continued education for Chinese printing industry and already achieved very good results. In comparison to the European model of very little training and investment plus very few people entering the Printing Industry the Chinese Printing Industry will have no issue with the rest of the world in taking on new business as there will be very little competition in the future.

When judged from a different angle, the great achievements, which have been made by the industry, are diluted to a very low level by the huge population of 1.3 billions of this country. For example, the annual average paper consumption per capita is 33 kg and the annual printing production per capita is about 21 US$, only about 1/10 of that in developed country.

As stimulated by China's entry into the WTO, the global manufacturing industry is accelerating its strategic shift to China. Compared with this movement, the reform of the printing industry seems to be lack of power and depth, and has a long way to go. This frustrates the industry from gaining all-sided, coordinated and sustainable development, in the following ways: The implementation of market mechanism by printing industry is lag behind;

(1) Weak points still exist in the administration chain;

(2) Industrial structure is not rationalised, leaving behind problems, such as, the weight of state-owned economy is too large, while that of non-state-owned economy is not enough; the number of small enterprises largely exceeds that of large enterprises. According a survey conducted by 'Printing Manager', an industrial magazine, the total production value by the 100 top printing enterprises was 23.4 billion RMB, accounting for only 11% of that of the whole nation's printing enterprises.
Production capacity for high-end printed market is inadequate, while that for low-end printed market is in large surplus. Most domestic printing enterprises are lack of competitiveness. In R&D, no breakthrough has been made in printing related technologies with the exception of that in Chinese processing technology, when judged by the standard of technology originality which leads to possession of intellectual property. A large gap in development still exists between east and south;

(3) The reform of state-owned printing enterprise is facing many challenges and difficulties, and still has a long way to go.

But, the overall fact is the Chinese and other investors are investing `big time` in people, training, technology, machinery, business models and quality.In time, this will impact on the rest of the world!


2. Chinese Printing Machinery and Materials Industries

The sustained and rapid development of China printing industry has greatly stimulated the machinery, equipment and material industries.


In China, mid- and low-end printing equipment and materials are already self-supplied, and part of domestically made products are now even exported to overseas market, while the high-end printing equipment and materials still rely on import.

Printing Machinery:Right now, there are about 500 printing press manufacturers in China. In 2003, the total value of production and export reached approximately 7 billion RMB and 100 million US$, respectively, while annual import between 2001 and 2003 remained at the level of about 1.3 billion US$ (The data for 2003 was 1.345 billion US$). Apparently, the volume of import largely exceeded that of export. Between 2001 and 2003, about 2,363 sets of sheet-fed colour presses were imported and the total value reached 1.202 billion US$.

The data for sheet-fed in 2003 was 933 sets and 507 million US$. Between the same period of time, about 539 sets of web-fed presses with a total value of 456 million US$ were imported and the data for 2003 was 131 sets and 126 million US$. The total number of imported press was ranked world three. There will be massive growth in Digital presses in the future to be competitive with the world movement in demand printing.

Paper manufacturing:There are 3,500 paper manufacturers all over the country with 780,000 employees (in which, foreign invested enterprises are 280, taking up 8.1%, but occupy 30% of the total sales revenue, profit and tax). In 2002, production of paper and cardboard reached 37.8 million tons, an increased of 18% over the previous 2001 and the total production value reached 139.8 billion RMB,an increased of 16% over the previous year, while imported paper and cardboard reached about 6 million tons.

The industry consumed 43.32 million tons of paper and cardboard in 2002 and the consumption per capita was 33kg. In detail, for publication printing, about 12.85 million tons of paper was produced, an increase of 32% over the previous year, while 14.17 million tons of paper were consumed, an increase of 33% over the previous year and imported paper reached 1.36 million tons; for newspaper printing, about 1.85 million tons of paper were produced, while 2.04 million tons were consumed and 190,000 were imported; about 1.8 million tons of coated paper were produced, while 2.76 and 1 million tons were consumed and imported, respectively;about 9.2 million tons of uncoated paper were produced, while 9.37 million tons and 170,000 tons were consumed and imported, respectively.

Ink:Currently there are more than 400 ink manufacturers. In 2002, the total production volume of ink was more than 220,000 tons, with more than 50 kinds of product and more than 1,000 different colours, and the sales revenue was 4.6 billions RMB. China have gown up to be the forth largest ink manufacturer in the world (U.S.A: 1.12 million tons per year;Japan: 470,000 tons per year; Germany: 370,000 tons per year) .

PS Plate:PS plate is one of the rapidest growing industries in China. Through severe competition,the degree of optimised and efficient production is rapidly increased. According to a survey conducted over 30 PS plate manufacturers,the production capability has already reached 100 million square meters per year. In 2002, about 80 million square meters were produced and sold,an increase of 30% over the previous year and in 2003, 90 million square meters were produced. In 2002, about 9.72 million square meters' PS plates were exported,an increase of 32% over the previous year, while 3.19 million square meters' PS plates with a total value of 13.44 million US$ were imported.

In recent years, one of the features in Chinese printing machinery and material industries' development is to combine scientific research, manufacturing and application into a integrated system and to build 'macro' industrial chains with Chinese characteristics. The printing machinery industry has made pronounced progresses in capital operation, developing new product and extending industrial chains.

In 2001, Shanghai Electronics Group Cooperation, in cooperation with an American company, successfully purchased the good asset of Akiyama, Japan and sent people to chair the newly formed company: Akiyama International. After the first year's successful test operation, its new product of sheet-fed folio perfecting multi-colour press won gold medal in 2002 Shanghai Industry Expo and gained wide recognition among experts and users in Dongguan Industrial Show (Guangdong Province) in March 2003. It is the first time that a Chinese company purchased a global company of a well known brand, accepted its personals and made successful re-entry into the global market. An article, which appeared in Washington Post, said that the newly built Akiyama International was a great expansion.

Adopting OEM mode, Beiren Group Cooperation, the largest printing press manufacturer in China reached agreement with Tokyo Shuppan Kikai (TSK) on putting Beiren's brand on TSK's postpress equipment for sale in Chinese market. Recently, Beiren established another joint venture with Gun Ze Business Corporation, Japan, to produce automatic paper stacker used in newspaper printing, and reached consensus on CTP cooperation with Creo, Canada. Shanghai Printing & Packaging Machinery Co. Ltd. cooperated with American Fang Brothers Graphic Co. to develop prepress equipment. All these projects work to extend the industrial chains and will bring new business opportunities to the printing machinery industry.

In the recent two years, there has been an apparent move for foreign printing material manufacturers to invest in building factories in the mainland of China. This is widely accepted as part of their strategy of localisation. For example, AGFA and KPG have successfully set up operations in Wuxi and Tianjin to produce high quality PS and CTP plates, respectively. In Wuxi, Agfa has built a PS production line with the capability of producing 25 million square meters per year.

Fuji Film has established a joint venture, Fuji Starlight Co., Ltd. in Beijing, with Chinese Academy of Printing Technology (CAPT) to produce high quality PS plate and CTP plate. Over the past few years, a number of overseas paper manufacturers, such as those from Indonesia, Finland and Taiwan area, have built up factories in Jiangsu Province, Zhejiang Province, Shanghai Municipal City and etc. For example, January 2004, Shanghai Light Industry Group Corporation signed agreement on a paper project for news paper printing with Sinar Mas Group(Indonesia), one of the global paper giants. The project, with a total investment of 20 billions RMB, occupying a land of 2500 mu (equivalent to 163 hectares) and with the ultimate production capability of 2 million tons of paper per year, is aiming at creating a paper producing base in Shanghai and will be completed in 4 steps.

Sinar Mas Group already takes 1/3 of the paper market in China and is heavily engaged in forest cultivation in Hainan, Guangxi and Yunnan provinces, in an attempt to create a circumstance of balanced paper production and forest protection. Several Japanese and Switzerland ink manufacturers have set up joint ventures successively in Tianjin Municipal City, Shenzhen(Guangzhou Province), Shanghai Municipal City, Hangzhou(Jiangsu Province), Guangzhou(Guangzhou Province)and Shanxi Province. Japan Meiji Gum Co. Ltd. has set up a blanket factory in Shanghai.

In short, the localisation of global material manufacturers has consolidated their production and business bases in China, gradually making the local market internationalised. The localisation of overseas material enterprises have apparently been progressing at a much faster pace than the machinery enterprises. This is an issue worth of study.

The Chinese Printing Industry, like all there industries will stick to `opening-up` policy all the time. Even if one day, the printing machinery and material industries have grown up, we still need to introduce and absorb advanced technology, equipment and material, and to improve technology structure of the industry and quality of all products.

I hope the rest of the world take on board the same policies as the Chinese, if not, the Chinese will win the world market place.The world `Industries` need to train people of `any` age and use their skills and experience as do the Chinese train `all` people who wish to work and have the `right` attitude.

Viewpoint: China becoming printer to the world Read the original news

VIEWPOINT

By Andy Mukherjee

Last year, Remi Marcoux, chairman of Transcontinental, the Canadian printer of Harry Potter books and Time magazine, went to China. What he saw of his rivals there impressed him.

"The biggest advantage Chinese printers have is their very low prices," Marcoux said at a business gathering in Montreal in October. "A press operator, for example, earns $1,000 a year, whereas here the salary would be $60,000.

"We came back to Canada with two conclusions: That we would encounter increasing competition from China in some segments of our industry; and that the most vulnerable activity for Transcontinental is book printing."

So will China become the world's printer? In some ways, it already is: from Daikin Industries's air-conditioners to Dell's personal computers, the user manual for every conceivable consumer product selling anywhere in the world is increasingly being printed in southern China, close to where most of these goods are assembled.

Yet when it comes to printing books, journals, company annual reports and other high-value documents, China is just beginning a journey that will see it emerge as a serious outsourcing destination. Printers with the savvy to invest now in China may reap rich rewards.

R.R. Donnelley & Sons, the largest North American printing company, opened a factory in China in 2002.

It now offers publishers the option to use its network in China for any job that involves extensive manual work. Some of its clients, such as World Book, the publisher of the World Book Encyclopedia, like to print in China in order to cut the cost of reaching final customers in the Asia-Pacific region.

For books targeted at the U.S. market and requiring quick schedules, Mexico still remains the top outsourcing location.

That may change with consolidation in China's fragmented industry, which has more than 94,000 printers. Most of these are state-owned, a legacy of communist control of the printed word.

Following China's 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization, foreign publishers are allowed to print in China for export. The Chinese government still maintains strict control on books distributed locally. Only Chinese publishers may cater to the domestic market. All foreign books sold in China go through them. This restriction, which does impede the growth of the Chinese printing industry, will not change in a hurry.

Ideology, however, will not be able to keep China's printing industry stunted forever. Market forces will not allow it.

The big push is coming from the world of money: Chinese companies are forecast to raise $55 billion in initial public offerings this year, according to JPMorgan Chase.

A large Chinese IPO requires a few million application forms to be printed, not to mention anything between 5,000 to half a million copies of a prospectus. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, which sold shares simultaneously in Hong Kong and China in October, issued a 656-page prospectus in English and a 369-page offer document in Chinese.

Executing such complex, time-critical projects requires scale. Financial printing also needs sophisticated customer service, which a small Chinese printer, used to churning out propaganda booklets for the local government, cannot provide.

That is where investors like K.K. Fong, the chief operating officer of Xpress Holdings, a small Singapore-based financial printing company, have big ambitions.

Through acquisitions and strategic tie-ups, Fong has over the past two years created a seamless nationwide production network where graphic artists in Singapore prepare the designs and the layouts. These can then be printed in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu or Hong Kong.

Using this model, Xpress has come to control 75 percent of the Chinese market for printing financial research. Clients include UBS and Citic Securities, China's biggest publicly traded brokerage.

Xpress last week announced a 51 percent jump in profit in the six months ended Jan. 31. That came on top of a 170 percent surge in net income in the previous year. To further raise its presence in China, the company is now opening FedEx Kinko- type stores to accept walk-in corporate orders.

Another impetus to the growth of the printing industry in China will come from corporate governance.

At present, some commercial lenders, which are required by the Chinese central bank to publish annual financial reports, get away by printing 10,000 copies even when they have more than 250,000 shareholders.

The Shanghai Stock Exchange, on which 937 securities are listed, may soon make it mandatory for all publicly traded companies to distribute annual reports to all shareholders.

Putting ink on paper is the easiest part.

Where China needs to go up the value chain is in the stage before a document is printed. That is also where the real profits are, says Sam Chong Keen, the Singapore-based chief executive officer at Xpress.

Transcontinental's Marcoux says his company has a permanent competitive advantage in being close to customers. "The biggest enemy of Chinese printers is time," he says.

True, using a factory in China to reprint a few hundred copies of a best- selling book in the United States may not make commercial sense today. But if costs of both technology and transportation keep falling, China's labor- cost advantage may emerge as the dominant force in this industry, just as it has in many others.

China may yet become the world's printer.

China storms the printing market

FRANKFURT (AFP) ! China's economic expansion is fast making it a force to be reckoned with in the publishing world, exhibitors at the world's biggest book fair said Wednesday as it opened its doors.

China's strength is its printing works and it has increased its presence at the Frankfurt fair by 30 percent this year in search of more business from international publishers, organisers said.

Southern China has become a printing stronghold after companies there spotted a market opening and moved quickly to improve their quality, often dispatching people to learn about the industry in Europe.

"Printing is more and more a question of cost and China has just taken off," said Manuele Bosetti from Hong Kong-based Media Landmark Printing, which does all its printing in southern China.

"In the beginning, the quality really was not there but they are smart at their job. They came and learnt from the Italians and not in everything, but in some ways they are matching the quality."

China Printing Corp., China's oldest state-owned printers, said the general economic boom meant it was suddenly facing stiff competition from a host of private printing works.

"We are absolutely trying to expand our market and business is very good but as the market has grown so big, we are facing a lot of competition," said the printing house's Qing Wei.

She said China's success in the market was a simple question of economics.

"Printing books in Europe and in the United States is expensive. We are cheap and our quality is good," Qing said.

The decade-old private competitor Hengyuan Printing Co., which is based in Guangzhou with a workforce of 600, said it was very aware of the need to keep up quality standards for clients in France, Italy, Spain, Russia and South Africa.

A representative of the company, Stephanie Chen, proudly showed off a French-language edition of the cartoon cat Garfield, with a pink, printed ribbon running across the cover.

"They come to us because we can do this. We have to be very careful and if we cannot do something to the standard required or within the deadline, we would rather turn it down," Chen said.

Hengyuan can handle print runs of 5,000 books and deliver to Europe within three to five weeks, she added.

The printing house's stand here is full of glossy, high-resolution coffee table tomes on anything from vintage cars to chateaux in France, where it has scored contracts with Editions Moliere, Hugo and Editions de Lodi.

The state is quite happy to have a host of private printing rivals, Chen said. "It is a really free market, we are encouraged."

French publishing house Groupe Fleurus' Mango division, which specialises in children's books, said it was increasingly commissioning Chinese printers to handle editions with complicated illustrations or inserts.

"It is becoming common to send books that require a lot of detail and are therefore very costly to produce, to China. The prices are in another realm. And we have no problem with the quality," Mango's Marion Girona said.

The president of the Spain's publishers' association, Antonio Maria Avila, said half of the books that Spanish houses produce for the Spanish market in the United States, are now printed in China.

"Fifty percent of these books are printed in China. They are often shipped straight from there to San Francisco," he told AFP.

"The reason is very simple -- it is much cheaper."

The Frankfurt fair will host China as its special guest of honour in 2009.

Meanwhile, a massive row erupted over its decision to choose the culture of Catalonia as this year's guest.

Leading Spanish-language authors like Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Javier Cercas are boycotting the fair because they were initially not invited to represent the region, which is stirring with nationalist tensions.

The fair, which features more than 7,000 publishers from 110 countries, runs until Sunday.

 

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