Chinese stone industry challenging Europe

I recently retired as UK senior partner of BDO after 23 years as a partner with the firm. Last year, I took up a position as visiting professor at Xiamen University, China. My wife is Chinese and I decided to spend three months exploring business opportunities in the region and trying to learn some Mandarin.

I’m blogging about my experiences in China for Real Business – catch up on my journey so far (see “related articles” on the right-hand side). 

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Have you been to Leicester Square recently? The public space is being redeveloped and the centrepiece will be an elaborate four-sided granite ribbon bench. Designed in the UK, it is being made in a small, specialist natural stone works near Xiamen. 

I saw it today and it is taking shape in an extraordinary way; it requires significant skill, since every single block of granite is uniquely shaped – initially cut by machine and then hand-finished. Every piece is labelled and it will be assembled on-site in London (I only hope that as much care is taken there as I saw exhibited in China).

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Fujian province has a great history of stonemasonry. Shijin city, near Xiamen, essentially comprises dozens of factories, where skilled work is performed on stone from all around the world. Other traditional centres, like Italy, now carry out only the most intricate and high quality work. 

Wages in China are rising fast, but the entire supply chain supporting the stone industry is heavily established here and it is likely to be some time before lower-cost production centres provide a full challenge. At the very least, Fujian should continue to dominate the mid-market, due to the quality and depth of its infrastructure in the industry.

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