Experiencing China

'Experiencing China' is about ordinary life in China and the wealing and dealing of a Dutchman in the Middle Kingdom. Marc works for DuoArts Consultancy and the Empowerment Foundation, travelling between the Netherlands and China.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Chinese car found to be not safe

A month or two ago a lot of attention was paid with the introduction of the first Chinese car on the European market. Peter Bijvelds, sole importer of the Jianling Landwind SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) and our Dutch version of Donald Trump, Joep van den Nieuwenhuyzen, proudly announced that the financially affordable car would conquer the European market soon. As with every new car that enters the European market it is being assessed by laboratoria on aspects of safety and performance. The test results were simple devastating, at 64 km/h (for the US readers: not fast at all) the driver could be killed in case of a crash. Peter Bijvelds strongly opposes these results, of course, claiming that previous tests were satisfactory and that the car officially has been declared safe by the Chinese government.


source: www.anwb.nl

Mister Bijvelds points, however, are seriously flawed and the laboratories, as we say in the Netherlands, compared apples with pears (meaning the difference is too big to be compared). First about Peter's statements. He doesn't state where the Landwind car is tested. It probably was in China, where they do not have the high standards as in Europe. Furthermore, when he states that the Chinese government approved the car, one should immediately get suspicious. China wants to catch up with the world as soon as possible. Producing its own cars and exporting them to Europe is a great source of pride for the government. And they should be proud.

In order to understand my last statement, one has to understand traffic in China. Anybody who ever has visited China knows how appearingly unsafe the Chinese car owner drives. Being in the country more often or for an extended period, one notices, however, that somehow, though different, this way of driving works. It's like a group of birds flying in the sky, although they seem to follow random patterns of flying, they never bump into each other.

And here we have a nice example of how much Europe and China still have to learn from each other. Don't expect a Chinese car to be exactly like a European (or American) car. It doesn't need to. The Chinese drive much slower and consciously then their European counterparts. In our national newspaper, the Volkskrant, a reporter wrote that without inbuilt safety in a Chinese car, one gets to drive much more careful. In Europe, on the other hand, people take much more risks, unconsciously know that they are protected anyway. He has a point...

For me, exporting Chinese cars, whether safe or not, can be regarded as a significant step towards the development of China as a modern country. The Chinese car producers will learn from this incident and in the future export cars that can succesfully pass our tests. That's called 'learning by doing'.

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