by Joe Yao '13
The plan of today was to depart from Suzhou to visit Oerlikon at Suzhou Industrial Park and head to Jiangyin and visit Changjiang Shiprecyclying Yard. Before boarding the bus, Prof. Brown gave a brief
introduction to Classic Suzhou gardens using the hotel garden as example. A typical Suzhou garden would certainly have water, which is presented by a small pond and mountains, which are interestingly shaped stones. A crooked bridge crossing the water provides an ideal spot for self-reflection (and prevents evil spirits from crossing) and paths covered with pebbles in geometric shapes improve upon the natural beauty.
Marco Polo, who visited Suzhou in the Yuan dynasty, praised the city that, “Up in the sky there is heaven, and on earth there is Suzhou and Hangzhou.” As we made our way to the Oerlikon factory and passed through much of the city, we could see that the Suzhou government has put great effort in making the city live up to the Italian adventurer’s praise through sophisticated urban planning that incorporated a great deal of greenery.
The Suzhou Industrial Park is another example of excellent urban planning. For example, 30% of each company’s land area must be set aside for greenery preservation. First developed as a joint project between the Suzhou and Singaporean governments, the industrial park is a prestigious industrial zone in which a lot of foreign investment is located. Oerlikon, our first stop today, is a Swiss company that manufactures high-tech textile machines that process yarn, polyester and nylon for weaving in downstream industries. Upon arriving, Mr. Diezl, vice president of Oerlikon China, gave us a well-organized and informative presentation of the company’s operations and management structure. Afterwards, we toured the factory and learned much about the technological details of Oerlikon’s machines. We then came back with questions to Mr. Diezl, including Oerlikon’s solution to the increasing problem of labor shortage in China and Mr. Diezl’s personal experience doing business in China since he first arrived in 1980. Mr. Diezl provocatively wrapped up our conversation by suggesting that the golden age of foreign investment in China has ended. We ended out tour at Oerlikon by experiencing the ordinary meal of an employee at the company’s canteen.
In the past two days, we viewed how ships were built at Jiangnan Changxin Shipyard and their stage of action at Yangshan Deepwater Port. Today, we arrived at the final destination of a vessel, the ship-demolishing yard. Established in 1998, the Jiangyin Ship Recycling Yard is now the most environmentally friendly ship-breaking yard in the world. Due to plummeting shipping rates associated with the global financial crisis, Jiangyin Ship Recycling Yard demolished 109 vessels in 2008 alone. The shipyard developed an elaborated process of pre-cleaning that removes all hazardous materials and contaminants including waste oil, asbestos and Freon before cutting the ship apart.
The shipyard itself can only be described as fascinating. Giant mountains of scrap steel, steel plates, wires and other ship components piled under the setting sun and glittered a metallic glare. The steel is transported to a nearby steel mill to be re-cast and reused as foundation for roads and buildings while wires and other materials are sold to specialized factories for recycling. We had the opportunity to get close to one of the ships being processed in the docks. Workers were beginning to dismember the front portion of the vessel with plasma cutters while cranes moved the dissected blocks to land for further processing. At the end of our visit, we were treated to a 2.5 hour banquet at a restaurant owned by the same company.