Day 12. Nanjing. Wednesday 31st Oct.
< Back to China 2012 Index Page
Woke up at 7am and went for a walk around the immediate city before my final company meeting at 9am.
Nanjing itself is great. I had breakfast at a non-English speaking cafe but there is lots of English spoken in Nanjing city because of the Universities that appear to be everywhere. After a slight mix up with the company pick-up at 9am I met the Asia Pacific sales representative from the final company I was to meet. They already had a grid/battery system available in Europe and were looking to introduce the product to Australia. Perfect! Like all the other representatives she was very well educated and incredibly nice. She told me about the company in fluent English on our drive to the factory.
It turns out that the company is owned by a huge parent company who itself is a subsidiary of a gigantic State-owned enterprise that builds everything from automated mini lawn-mowers to container ships to women’s clothing to coal-fired power stations to… a full range of solar components. She didn't know how many employees the entire group had, but it was probably the largest I had visited.
After a short drive that included a 3km long bridge over the Yangtze River we arrived at the factory. A new and huge complex that had multiple production areas. We entered the lobby which had a big sign that read “Warmly Welcome Peter Reefman from Keppel Prince”. My rep’s manager was there to greet me also and we went through a seemingly deserted network of glass and marble rooms and corridors till we arrived at a conference room to have our initial meeting. Both of the people I was meeting with had met Mike in Melbourne at a recent solar conference and they were both aware of what I required. But I took them through from my perspective and within an hour we agreed on a very clear picture of what was needed and how to achieve it. I should say that I felt very relaxed and comfortable talking to both of them. We were certainly on the same wavelength.
Also, although the company made its own range of solar panels, it had also already partnered with Sunlink our panel manufacturer, and on discussion was happy to also collaborate with KLNE our inverter supplier where possible. This was the first company I’d met that openly discussed partnership solutions with our existing suppliers – which was of course very welcome.
After agreeing on a where-to-from-here, my direct representative took me for a quick tour of the factory. By now there was not a pressing need to see all aspects to their production so we centered on the R&D and test/quality areas. The primary goal and vision to this company was not to provide the cheapest systems on the market but the highest quality. The reason for this goal was simple. The company believed that as all solar panels become cheaper, actual costs will become less relevant and quality will be increasingly important. China and the World was already seeing solar companies fail, and this company felt that their combination of a focus on quality together with a large state-backed diversified parent company would ensure that they could endure any downturns in the industry and come out in a strong position.
My rep also said that while the company had business interests in fossil fuel, she felt that the company like China itself was internally moving towards lower carbon products and she was happy to have a role in making that change. This was reflected to some degree by the company’s brochure which put renewable products at the start of their “core products” section. I can personally relate to this as someone working for Keppel who also conducts most of its business in building oil and gas related infrastructure.
We went for lunch in the company’s own restaurant in the complex. The food was as typically delicious as I’d come to expect and the three of us spent most of the lunch discussing climate change policies and community engagement strategies.
By 1pm lunch was over and it was time to leave. They asked me what I was doing for the rest of the day and when I said I had nothing planned but a little sightseeing. They shifted into gear and before I knew it they had organized a car, driver and two hosts (including my direct rep) for me for the afternoon. We visited a couple of historical sights of which the highlight was the Ming Dynasty Summer House. Wow! Apart from my run through the Forbidden City, this was my first chance to see an actual historical site and it didn’t disappoint. We climbed to the top of a high royal pagoda on a hill in the otherwise quite flat countryside. It was apparently a great citadel during the middle ages, but sadly could not defend against the Japanese during World War II when the Nanjing Massacre occurred.
We then went for a slightly early dinner in downtown Nanjing in a Chinese theme restaurant with another vast array of exotic foods (I couldn’t recognize many of them). But we ate and hurriedly talked mostly about Australia’s carbon tax which my rep was very excited about – and also her background in the Community Party (which we more often call the Communist Party).
It was a perfect way to end the solar company component of the trip. To find people as passionate about climate action as I am, and to think that by partnering up we could actually make a difference. I will definitely be in contact with this company again.
After 12 hours with the company I was dropped off at my hotel at about 9pm, and decided not to even go up to my room. Instead I put some music on and just wandered the streets of Nanjing enjoying the city. I stopped in to a little bar and had a beer with some locals – before moving on to a larger ex-pat bar owned by an Australian which sold Coopers and Carlton beer. I pulled up a seat with four Americans and we spent the next few hours sharing travel and life stories.
Bed at 12.30am.
By the way - don’t go to China without visiting Nanjing.
Day 13. Nanjing-Shanghai-Melb. Thurs 1st Nov. >>