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In about a month from now, FESPA again opens its doors, this time in Munich. The traveling, member-owned roadshow opens the doors in different parts of the world, and it seems that the saying 'If the Mountain won't go to Mohammed, then Mohammed must come to the Mountain' applies fine to FESPA. Let me speculate!

By Editor Morten B. Reitoft

A few months ago, LabelExpo ran their LabelExpo South East Asia in Bangkok, and my colleague Henrik Klem Lassen visited the show. Daily he reported to me what he saw, who he spoke to, and his experience in Thailand. To my surprise, many of the exhibitors were Western, and the people he met were the same he could have met at any other tradeshow in Europe, the US, or Japan. And no, I am not talking about the Chinese suppliers that, in all industry segments, try to get to the lucrative Western markets - with limited success, I would say.

The Chinese government develops the so-called 5-year plans for various industry segments and subsidizes these in many different ways. It's said these plans are the Chinese Communist Party's way of controlling the development of the Chinese economy. Regardless of what you think of planned economy, the plans cover several topics- sustainability, for example.

Printing and print technology was part of one of the 5-years plans.

Still, the result is that at almost every international show, you see pavilions of Chinese exhibitors with products most PSPs and Converters don't care much about. You see appointed Chinese people sitting at the empty booths, more interested in their phones and eating Chinese food. Some are even sleeping rather than promoting their products; you have all seen it - I am convinced!

I once visited a tradeshow in Dubai, where I spoke to a very nice and well-spoken young Chinese woman. When I asked her about her role in the company she represented, she said she was an interpreter living in Dubai, commissioned to represent the Chinese company. She had no relation to the company or its products whatsoever.

Of course, you find Chinese vendors that have broken through the almost impossible wall to the West, but I rarely meet their products when visiting printing companies and converters - with a few exceptions. The last time was in South Africa, and the CEO told me that the machine was cheap, couldn't get service, and was inefficient like nothing else, and that he would never purchase a Chinese product again!

More and more Chinese products find their way to the West. Last week I had the little pleasure of driving a Chinese-produced Hybrid Lynx & Co. car. I can't recommend that; however, most people still consider a Volvo Swedish, though it's Chinese-owned, and many of the consumer goods we buy are made in China. Quality is one thing; the political footprint is more important. Several Western companies operate in China and seem not to care so much that China is a defacto dictatorship with no freedom of speech, violates human rights, suppresses the population with mass surveillance, etc.

At FESPA in Munich, a vast number of exhibitors are from China, and, of course, I may be wrong, but I can't imagine exhibitors from China representing any significant brands. I can't imagine booths with well-designed and well-planned marketing and communication. I can, however, imagine products with lower price points than similar products produced in the West - or even produced in China, but developed and sold by internationally oriented companies.

Chinese exhibitors can use huge global brands like HP, Durst, and Canon to attract visitors. The curse of being an internationally recognized brand with a vast market is that these brands are essential to attracting an audience. Still, the real money is maybe made from the smaller exhibitors - the none-brands, the Chinese, and to some extent even Indian brands.
Some expo organizers may even benefit from offering considerable discounts to established brands to attract visitors, but the profits may come from, in this case, the Chinese exhibitors. And, of course, this is legit, but as a member-driven organization, why? With Chinese technology flooding the market in Europe, I am questioning whether this really is an advantage for the FESPA members and printers in general?

I will let you judge that!

As a visitor, I can't imagine visiting FESPA if it wasn't because of the known and recognized brands. The Chinese? Well - I don't need vendors that don't contribute to the industry much, and we don't need to feed Chinese companies' presence in Europe - in my opinion - unless China becomes a democracy and operates on market terms. For PSPs and converters considering buying Chinese equipment, you are feeding an enemy with an endless appetite and little morals when it comes to copyrights, human rights, industrial espionage, environmental issues, and freedom of speech - of course, your call, as long as it's not illegal to buy Chinese products!

As I have written, there are movements toward banning trade with China. The former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh, who also was the President of NATO for years, is the founder of the Copenhagen Democracy Summit, which argues that democracies shouldn't trade with non-democracies. The people supporting the movement range from Chancler Merkel to Barack Obama to industry leaders worldwide.

In our small world, you can decide for yourself whether you want to visit the many (about 40% as far as I counted) Chinese exhibitors if you're going to buy anything from them or you will stick to the more established brands - which probably, by the way, source components in China as well. Hmm, not easy to do the right things, right?

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Ingi Karlsson

CEO/Founder

That was unusually political and unusually aggressive. Sounds like Denmark and Inkish along with it is going to war with China. I am fed up with wars and hostility. Diplomacy is the way to go.

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