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Examining the Rise of Chinese Manufacturing

Chinese manufacturing is one of the largest sectors on Earth. With a GDP of 193885 CNY HML, as of June 2021, Chinese manufacturing makes up an enormous part of the Chinese economy.

In fact, China assembly service and OEM manufacturers are the largest producers and assemblers on the planet. It makes up nearly twice the GDP of Japan, who are themselves world leaders in manufacturing and assembling technological goods.

The question is – why are product assembly services in China and OEM manufacturers in China so prevalent? Why is it such a stronghold of OEM manufacturing and product assembly? 

We’re going to take a look at OEM manufacturing in China to find out! By examining the history of OEM manufacturing and product assembly in China, we’ll help you have a better understanding of where the industry is headed!

The History of Chinese Manufacturing

A quick glance at the history of Chinese manufacturing reveals that China hasn’t always been the global superpower they are today. Before 1980, China was a relatively small player in the global manufacturing industry. In the 1970s, China was roughly tied with Italy in terms of manufacturing output.

That all changed in 1980. China slowly started to overtake the industrial powers, one by one. By 2010, they had even overtaken the United States. Prior to 2010, this was unthinkable, as the U.S. was the world’s largest manufacturing superpower. 

What happened? How did China go from being a largely agrarian society to the manufacturing superpower of product assembly services in China and OEM manufacturers in China we know today?

Chinese Manufacturing in the 1980s

Like every industry in China, the industrial manufacturing plants are owned by the government. 1980 saw the beginning of widespread reforms and innovations that would eventually culminate in the manufacturing superpower we know today. China’s transition was not without its growing pains, though.

The 1980s saw the rise of large, centrally-owned manufacturing plants. These manufacturing plants were made possible by small-scale towns and large townships supplying the necessary workforce. Thanks to these innovations, China quickly became one of the world’s leading exporters of coal, construction materials, and leather.

China also increased their output of more traditional exports. These included bicycles and textiles.

Chinese manufacturing had also made serious headway in a variety of more modern industries. They were beginning to catch up on consumer goods. Updated equipment also allowed Chinese manufacturers to substantially cut costs. These innovations also allowed Chinese managers more autonomy, further cementing their place as global business leaders.

These updates were not without their hardships, though. The increased focus on manufacturing pushed China’s energy infrastructure to the limits. These limitations meant that Chinese plants and minds could only operate at 70 – 80% of their capacity.

Local politics also prevented China from fully inheriting their potential during the 1980s. Local management prevented manufacturers from achieving maximum productivity. So did Communist labor policies like the “iron rice bowl” and guaranteed lifetime tenure for employees.

Chinese Technology in the 1980s

There are many different reasons China lagged behind in manufacturing during the 1980s. A general lack of technology is one of the most prevalent, though.

Until the late ’80s, China was quite behind in terms of technological development. They’d recently made great strides in overall technology, helping them to catch up with the rest of the world. The ’80s saw the introduction of nuclear power, satellites, and widespread computing for example.

In terms of manufacturing, though, they had a lot of catching up to do. Much of their industrial technology was still from the 1950s, for instance.

Part of the reason for this discrepancy was a disconnect between research and development and the factories themselves. This was an era when China was finding itself as an innovator. Between the years of 1979 and 1984, the number of major Chinese scientific discoveries increased from 2,790 to 10,000.

Likewise, the number of inventions approved by the government went from 42 to 264. 

There are a few different reasons for these discrepancies. One was the lack of intellectual institutions. The other was that factory managers were too busy meeting quotas to focus on R&D.

At that time, knowledge was pursued for knowledge’s sake. Chinese researchers hadn’t started thinking about industrial applications yet. This also meant that research wasn’t taken that seriously.

This all changed in 1985. That’s when CPC published the “Resolution on the Reform of the Science and Technology Management System.” This resolution specified the importance of science and technology for economic progress.

These changes saw increased collaboration between the factories, research centers, and universities.

Technological Innovations in the 1980s

The results were still mixed. These innovations saw some improvements in the metallurgy industry. That’s because metallurgy was already fairly well-established in the country.

The electronics industry was slower to evolve, though. It was still fairly compartmentalized by the end of that decade.

China’s technological isolationism started to break in the ’80s, though. Manufacturers started importing some West German cold-rolling technology. This was imported into the Anshan iron and steel complex in Liaoning Province. 

The electronics industry took longer to develop, though. The innovations helped, but it wasn’t yet enough. Chinese electronics manufacturers were still limited by a lack of raw materials and skilled labor.

Since it’s such an important part of how China got to be such a global manufacturing superpower, let’s turn our attention to OEM. We’ll start with some history. Then we’ll turn our gaze towards the future. 

But first.. what is OEM, anyway?

What Is OEM?

OEM stands for “original equipment manufacturing.” It’s originally from the Dutch phrase “onder eigen merk.” This roughly translates as “under one’s brand.”

OEM manufacturers produce goods for other businesses. Companies that buy from OEM manufacturers are called “value-added resellers” (VARs). Generally, VARs will add additional components. This increases the value, thus the name.

Already, you’re probably starting to imagine the role that OEM manufacturers play in industries like product assembly in China.

OEMs generally operate as B2B. Recently, there’s been a rise in OEMs selling directly to individuals with niche interests, though. This includes electronics hobbyists, who look to OEMs for components, for example.

How OEM Works

OEM manufacturers sell specific goods to VARs.

For an illustration, think of Intel. Many PC companies use Intel processors. The PC companies would be the VAR, in this case. Intel would be the OEM.

OEMs can assemble products as well, though. This is another area where OEMs intersect with product assembly services in China. iPhones are the best example of this trend. iPhones are assembled in  Longhua District of Shenzhen city, China.

Benefits Of Working With An OEM

There are a lot of different benefits of working with OEM manufacturers. Let’s take a look at some of the leading benefits of working with an OEM manufacturer, to give you some ideas.


OEM manufacturers don’t try and do it all. Instead, they focus on a small handful of products. Then they make them really, really well.

Focusing on specific products lets the OEM manufacturer produce those goods in large batches. This lets them sell their products at the lowest-possible prices. 

OEM manufacturers tend to work with many of the world’s biggest and most advanced companies. This means they have the latest, most state-of-the-art understanding of their industry. They can share their wisdom and experience with you and your brand, as well.


In today’s hyper-competitive business world, it’s essential to cut costs and find savings wherever we can. We agonize over our HR payroll for hours looking to shave off a dollar or two. Why wouldn’t we do the same for our components?

OEM’s specialization lets them keep their prices as low as humanly possible. They’re some of the most affordable electronics on Earth, which is part of how China became such a manufacturing powerhouse in the first place.

This also means you can pass these savings on to your customers. In times of global recession and financial hardship, which are becoming increasingly common, every dollar counts. Consumers are far more likely to purchase the less expensive option. 

Your business’s future could literally depend on saving even a few cents per component.


OEM manufacturers are set up and ready to go. They’re primed to produce large quantities of whatever you need in as little time as possible. If you need good, reliable, inexpensive components, OEM manufacturers are just what you’re looking for.


Letting OEM manufacturers worry about the manufacturing frees you up to focus on other things. Instead of having to run around and deal with all of the logistics of physically producing products, you’re free to expand your customer base or work on developing new projects.

This, in and of itself, can become a lucrative business model. You can design and develop a new product and then let Chinese OEM manufacturers produce them for you. Meanwhile, you can create your next project or design.

You’ll be ready to begin manufacturing your next product by the time the first one’s hitting the shelves!

The Future of Chinese OEM Manufacturing

Even with all of these benefits, the future of OEM manufacturing in China is far from set in stone. The complications to the global supply chain, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, has shaken the Chinese manufacturing industry, for one thing.

It’s also made some raw materials difficult to come by, reproducing some of the conditions of OEM manufacturing in the ’80s. These problems are relegated to China, though. They’re problems facing the entire global manufacturing industry.

This means there are also opportunities to be had from the restructuring. 

Chinese OEMs have emerged as global leaders in electrical car production, for example. Volvo, Polestar, and BMW all assemble their vehicles in China, for example.

Tesla produces almost half of their vehicles through Chinese OEM manufacturers, as well.

Chinese OEMs also have almost a monopoly on semiconductor assembly. Almost all microchip manufacturers are in Asia, after all. The same goes for batteries.

These challenges come in the wake of similar shifts during the 2010s. Chinese manufacturing underwent a paradigm shift during that decade, as well, as China began to lose many of their historical advantages.

Years of being the leader of the global manufacturing industry meant that China had become rather well-off by the 2010s. Chinese workers were beginning to collect wages comparative to what their U.S. counterparts used to make. Customers were beginning to have increasingly high demands, as well, after years of living in a globalized economy.

Chinese manufacturers managed to adapt, anyway. Given the past 40 years, there’s every indication that will always continue to do so.

Why You Need Chinese OEM Manufacturing

While Chinese OEM manufacturers are experiencing difficulties, like every other industry, they’re also primed to become the only game in town. With such an advanced infrastructure of government-controlled manufacturing, there’s every likelihood they will take the global lead in manufacturing even more than they already have in the next few years.

This means it’s in your best interest to line up your OEM suppliers now and begin cultivating your relationships. 

Are You Looking For Precision Manufacturing?

You’ll find it here! With over 16 years in the Chinese manufacturing industry, Shield Works Precision Manufacturing has the experience, as well as the local knowledge, to meet all of your Chinese OEM manufacturing needs.

Shield Works Precision Manufacturing offer everything you need to make the most of today’s globalized marketplace. From OEM manufacturing to assembly to warehousing, you can find it all here.

If you’re ready to find out how high-quality manufactured goods can elevate your business and help you to reach your goals and realize your potential, get in touch with us today to find out how a trusted manufacturing partner can boost your business needs!