The Chinese economy appears to be in a state of continuous boom, and there is so much new building going on to cater for this. The conference I am speaking at is organised by Fuji Xerox and is its Premier Partners Congress, where its key customers from the Asia Pacific region come together. The attendees come from countries all over this area including Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. It is an ideal experience to get a good feel for what is happening in the digital printing market in this part of the world. I do not however plan to cover much about this in this article, but instead want to look at the Chinese print market, and assess what challenges and opportunities it may generate for printing in the rest of the world.
In a presentation given by Haixiang Shen, president of China Printing (Group) Corporation, I gathered a number of major facts about the Chinese printing market. It is a market with over 94,000 printing establishments, and it is claimed to be the third largest base for printing in the world after USA and Japan (I am not sure how it compares with the German print market). Unlike other world print markets it is growing substantially, and has seen up to 15 per cent growth rate for a number of years. Ongoing growth rates are expected to continue at around 15 per cent for commercial printing and packaging, with a 30 per cent growth rate being expected in the adoption of computer to plate and digital printing. By 2020 the industry is predicted to have a size around US$120bn.
Chinese printers are not rapid adopters of new technology. CTP has been slow to take off and is only now starting to accelerate with predicted growth rates of 30 per cent per annum. One reason for this delay has been the availability of CTP plates, but Agfa, Fujifilm and Kodak all have Chinese manufacturing plants and a good supply of plates is now available. There are also local Chinese suppliers of CTP plates. Digital colour printing has also been slow to establish itself. In 2002, 53 units were sold. The annual sales appear to be doubling each year, and so far in 2005 463 units have been sold. There are a total of 871 units throughout China. Significant growth however is expected in future when there are more good digital printing applications and good business models have evolved. One problem is the market for personalisation, as a large part of the population does not have a defined mailing address. The market however is now becoming well established, and the first OnDemand event will be held in Beijing in a year’s time.
At another recent conference I spoke at, this time for paper merchants, there was a lot of discussion about the planned growth of paper manufacturing in China, and the impact that would have on the world’s paper sales and distribution markets. A number of new paper machines are being installed in China at present and more are planned for the future. A concern expressed by certain paper merchants was that China would start exporting this paper and this would depress paper prices. This appears not to be the case and instead China will continue to be an importer of paper. The new paper manufacturing capacity is planned to try to keep up with demand for paper, but it is felt that Chinese demand will exceed supply. A more worrying factor however may be for the printing industry as major Chinese printers expand their export business and will probably become the world’s leading “offshore” print supplier targeting key markets in North America and Europe.
At the Shanghai conference I also spoke with Charles Lo, the CEO of C&C Security Printing, one of the largest and fastest growing printers in China. C&C is widely recognised as a world-class printer having won print awards around the world. I asked him about the market for equipment suppliers in China, and if the local Chinese manufacturers would challenge the major European and Japanese suppliers. His answer was good news for such suppliers as he said that Chinese equipment manufacturers had a long way to go to become competitive. Therefore With the continuing growth in the Chinese printing market this looks to be one of the key areas for equipment suppliers to concentrate their activities for the future.