China leads the world in battery technology | New NY 23rd

Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says “it can’t be done. — Eleanor Roosevelt, 1960

Agnes Chang and Keith Bradsher, in a May 16, 2023 article in The New York Times, discuss battery technology. They write:

Despite billions in Western investment, China is so far ahead — mining rare minerals, training engineers and building huge factories — that the rest of the world may take decades to catch up.

Circa 1970, I started a job as an engineer working with Numerical Controls for machine tools. Numerical Control was invented by John Parsons in Michigan and Jay Forester at MIT in the 1940s. The Air Force invested heavily in development. By 1970, American Companies (Allen Bradley, Bendix, General Electric)1 dominated the world market. Ten years later they were well on their way out of business–Japan, particularly Fanuc, Ltd., had taken over the market.

I worked in a former automotive plant in Detroit. It was a small division of a large corporation. The corporate executives lacked vision. Plant managers rotated in and out. There was little investment, no long-term plan. We had to show a short-term profit. With a few capable engineers; we carried on as best we could.

Our Japanese competitors invested heavily in factories and equipment. Their chief had a doctorate in engineering. They laid long term plans to dominate the market. Their managers and engineers knew the business in detail. Their engineers were well educated, their practices first-rate. Success wasn’t guaranteed or taken for granted–they worked hard to achieve it.

The American Automotive companies, once called the big three, had a similar experience. These American companies were complacent, focused on short-term profits. Japanese, German, and other foreign makers ate their lunch.

From mines to refineries and factories, China began investing in battery technology decades ago. China acted with foresight, which led to their success. If we can’t compete with Chinese technology and give up trying, that will put America last.

After the shock of Sputnik, we didn’t give up. Determined not to be outdone, we invested in NASA, went to work and pulled ahead. With vision and determination we can do that again.

  1. Siemens, the German company, was an important player in the world market..
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