Why are foreigners so curious about China?

"Developed additive manufacturing together with the Chinese"

For Europeans and Americans, China and its industry are quite a long way away - both geographically and culturally. Do you think that people in the western world know what is happening in the Chinese AM market and what impact this can have on the entire industry in the future?

FRANCOIS Last year I had the honor of speaking at the Women in AM Industry Summit in Berlin. I was surprised that so many activities that are going on in China are not noticed in western countries and that many people are still not aware of what has happened in China in recent years. I look forward to being able to do something about that. And China as a partner country of Formnext 2020 will also contribute.


What do you think is the most important reason why we should pay more attention to China?

FRANCOIS I often have the feeling that people are afraid of the unknown and that China is one of the unknowns for Europeans. Often, China is still portrayed negatively in the western media, and it is very unfortunate that the positive things that have happened here over the past few years (and decades) are often not mentioned or received insufficient coverage. As a foreigner who has worked in China for more than ten years - first for a Belgian and now for a Chinese company - I believe that by working together, China and Europe can strengthen each other. Of course you have to find the right path and respect the different cultures. A Belgian company that uses the same business model in China as it does in Belgium will fail, and vice versa will not work. Examples like "Best Buy" (Editor's note: US operator of large chain of consumer electronics stores) show us how we shouldn't operate in China. Examples like Siemens show how German and Chinese culture can successfully go hand in hand.

And how could both sides benefit from closer cooperation?

FRANCOIS You can find a kind of Silicon Valley mentality in China. People are constantly pushing their limits and are in “trial and error mode”. Europe can benefit from this mentality. In my experience, people in Europe try to first forge plans with various options and work with them for a long time before putting them into practice after careful consideration. The Chinese tend to work ad hoc: they try different options and act quickly. When one option doesn't work, they move on to the next, learning from what went well and what didn't. I can't say that one way or the other is better - but the Chinese way more encourages an entrepreneurial style of work.

Ms. Francois, thank you very much for the interesting interview.