If the Beijing Olympics was China's coming out party to the world, May's ANEX '09/SINCE '09 show was its coming out party to the nonwovens industry. Covering two venues and featuring more than 300 exhibitors, the event proved without a doubt that the Chinese nonwovens industry is becoming a powerful force in its own right.
There were scores of Chinese nonwovens producers representing all types of nonwovens technology on exhibit as well as machinery and equipment makers, converters, raw material suppliers and even a number of consultants looking to help these companies establish themselves in the business. What remains to be seen, however, is what impact these companies will have on the nonwovens climate. Are they interested in only doing business in China, content to purchase and sell goods only domestically, or are they interested in playing in the global marketplace and competing against multinationals?
Already, Fiberweb chose a Chinese supplier over more established European equipment makers for its second airlaid line. Of course, this line is located in China so that surely contributed to the decision, but eight years ago when Fiberweb started line number one in China, using a local supplier probably wasn't even considered.
The other question is what will be the western world's response to Chinese suppliers, competitors or customers? While many of the industry's larger players already have manufacturing assets in China or throughout Asia, many are still examining their strategies. As one key executive said to me recently, "In order to play in China, you have to have a line there and I'm not sure we are ready for that kind of commitment, just yet."
I guess I'll have to check back later to see if the time has come.