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Stanley Chu,Chairman of the Adsale Group, tells us about the key to surviving theever-changing market scenario based on his decades of experiences ininternational integrated marketing and corporate management.

Stanley Chu, Chairman of the Adsale Group.
Stanley Chu, Chairman of the Adsale Group.
Photo: 12

Economic turmoil has just erupted in international trade at the time of our interview with Stanley Chu, Chairman of the Adsale Group, a veteran China trade promoter. The US has waged a trade war against China involving tens of billions of US dollars, causing it to retaliate with the tension looking set to escalate.

The 25 per cent tariffs on US$34 billion worth of Chinese goods took effect on July 6.

In return, the Chinese government announced a 25% tariff on US$34 billion of US goods. It also planned to impose tariffs further on US$60 billion worth of goods, focusing on chemical products such as polyacrylamide, polymeric MDI, polyamide 6 chips, etc.

These tit-for-tat tariffs followed a period of continuous growth in the Chinese economy, which is striving to move up the technology ladder and find new pastures for developments. The latest national initiatives, “Made in China 2025” and the “Belt and Road” plans, reflect these expectations.

The trade war was also seen by critics as an example of the resistance some developed economies are having to China’s rise as a global economic power. The “Made in China 2025” initiative, which aims to propel China onto the level of top-notch technology innovator in areas such as artificial intelligence and IoT, was deemed to be especially worrying to some countries.

Naturally, one would expect the Adsale Group, which has been linking China with international traders in manufacturing technology through exhibitions, media and industry events since the country first opened up its market to the outside world in 1978, to be concerned about the latest upheavals in trade.

However, when the question was put to Mr Chu, he responded calmly and said that “changes” and “disruptions” are just normal happenings in everyday life. While the trade war brings suffering to some, it also means opportunities to others.

To him, survival of the fittest is real. Whether you survive and benefit from current disorders depends largely on how you think and where you position yourself.

He quoted the Chinese billionaire Lei Jun, founder and CEO of electronics company Xiaomi Inc. that was recently listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, as saying that “even a pig can fly if it stands at the centre of a whirlwind”.

Mr Chu believes China’s technology upgrade is a natural path and inevitable as the marketplace is being disrupted by new innovations, such as AI, VR, 3D printing, Industry 4.0, IoT and so on.

“We always say that we should keep abreast of the times. Keeping abreast of the times means to cope with changes. Whoever can cope with changes will be able to survive,” he explained.

He continued to comment on the present trade war between the US and China. “The world is flat. Every country has its comparative advantage and things that they can do best. Dozens of countries produce the components of Boeing airplanes. The assembly is also being done in different countries for cost effectiveness. The US can’t produce all the components by itself. On the other hand, China also needs advanced components from other countries. The world is about cooperation. There are in fact surveys showing that protectionism does not bring back jobs, as 87% of the jobs lost were the results of automation.”

Mr Chu said moving towards high-end technology is unavoidable if China is to pursue growth. “China can’t survive on low-end manufacture anymore. It needs to go up the technology ladder. China has placed more emphasis on education and already has engineer scientists. Should it contribute to the world by doing more on R&D?”, he asked.

40 years of China trade promotion

A group photo of the Adsale 40th Anniversary It is with this analytical mind and the ability to see through the undercurrents of events that Mr Chu has led the Adsale Group through many challenging times in the past four decades, riding on the highs and lows of China’s economic expansion.

The group’s strongest project, the annual plastics and rubber technology show, CHINAPLAS, which alternates its location between Guangzhou and Shanghai, grew from an area of just a few thousand square metres in its first edition in 1983 to 340,000sqm today. It is now an international platform that facilitates exchanges between suppliers and buyers from all over the world as well as the release of high-end technologies.

“We used to introduce the world to Chinese industries and now the introduction is bi-directional. We are also introducing China to the world,” Mr Chu said in his speech during the Adsale Group’s 40th anniversary ceremony held recently.

He said the group has weathered the struggles of early industries and benefited from the current economic take-off. “The liner named China is changing course. The new course is called ‘quality’. I hope Adsale and our partners will continue to ride the waves of change, overcome all obstacles, break through our limitations, and unfalteringly strive to accomplish our mission with our best efforts.”

CHINAPLAS being a technology platform

CHINAPLAS 2018 in Shanghai received a record of 180,701 visitors.In view of the industry demand for a technology upgrade, CHINAPLAS is shifting its focus from being a buy-and-sell platform to a technology oriented platform.

"The metrics to measure success 30 years ago was just the number of orders transacted at the show. Now we also have to count the number of technologies first-launched in China, Asia or the world, as well as what technology can be seen at the show,” Mr Chu said. “It’s because people nowadays are more concerned about what is coming up in a few years. A lot of companies with outdated technology may not exist in five years’ time.”

CHINAPLAS is today the largest show of its kind in Asia and ranks second in the world, following the K show in Germany. Mr Chu recognizes that different countries develop at their own pace and that developing countries, with a vast combined population, need manufacturing solutions that CHINAPLAS can introduce to them.

In Asia and among countries on the “Belt and Road” route, China is now in the upper-middle rank on the pyramid, as other developing countries have been following its footsteps in the past 40 years.

“CHINAPLAS is serving a big population. It has a wide spectrum of technology to attract people from the developing countries – high-tech solutions from the US, Europe and Japan, while China is getting closer to the technology levels of Europe and the US. To developing countries, Chinese technology is already advanced and good. Mainstream suppliers in China are a good match to developing countries, supplying them with affordable technology”, he said.

In view of the digitalisation trend and in order to boost the ROI of customers, the chairman has removed budget limits in two key areas within the Adsale Group – I.T development and visitor promotion. The decision has brought positive results to in-house digitalisation as well as e-marketing of key projects. The last edition of CHINAPLAS in Shanghai was held in May this year and received a record 180,701 visitors, 25% of whom came from abroad to attend the show.

How to be sustainable?

The Adsale Group grew from a micro-enterprise in 1978, with just a few members of staff, into a company with more than 300 employees.

Being a Hong Kong company, Adsale enjoys the convenience of keeping in touch closely with the international market. Coupled with its profound knowledge of the China market and the upward development of China’s economy, one can expect the group to continue its growth.

But Mr Chu guards against complacency, as “no company is entitled to success forever”.

“What’s always on my mind is not how much money the company can make, but how it can survive for more decades to become a century-old company,” he said.

To survive, apart from embracing changes, a firm needs to have good judgement, vision and react to new situations by taking the right actions at the right time. All these will require a strategic mindset, according to Mr Chu.

“The company cannot rely on me only. My role is a cheerleader and to help everyone be competitive by enhancing their strategic mindset. That is to observe changes and the elements behind the changes,” he said.

“Everyone can see there are changes, but when it comes to action, one word is very important – timing. It’s not a matter of ‘whether’, but a matter of ‘when’. Do the right thing at the right time. You might be too early or too late. Just like 10 years ago, Airbnb and Uber might not have worked.”

Mr Chu also stressed that “diversity” is vital in corporation development, so each individual department and staff member should identify their uniqueness and unleash their potential.

“The different teams should cooperate more in terms of strategy and cross strength. At the same time, we must care about diversity. We have 300-plus staff members, we can’t turn them into 300-plus robots. Diversity should be valued and nurtured. That’s how new talent emerges.”

By now, we have seen that some factors are keys to maintaining a healthy company, including keeping pace with changes, maintaining a strategic mindset, the right action at the right time and diversity. What more do we need to know?

Mr Chu put forward a copy of the group’s Vision, Mission and Corporate Values he prepared for the interview, and said: “If these statements can be appropriately interpreted and applied. It would be very good.

What we need is to provide the quality services that are set out in the statement. We must continue to do these and do better. The key is to stick to our core values. These are very important ‘weapons’ for survival. If we steer away from our core values, it will be very dangerous.”

Mr Chu reaffirmed that Adsale is positioned as an international firm representing advanced productivity and advanced technology: “We aspire to be a leading trade promotion services company in China and Asia. We have 40 years’ experience and trust from customers, an established network and have accumulated experience in integrated marketing solutions through exhibitions, conferences, online and print publications. All integral elements are still very important.”

He is happy to keep the Adsale Group as a family business, as it allows the company more freedom to react to market. “Nobody will know what will happen in the future. My mission is to guide the company to the centre of the whirlwind and see it fly,” he said.

Indeed, we are no fortune-tellers, but one thing is for sure: in the years to come, the Adsale Group will continue to transform and reinvent itself when required in order to keep its head above water in the choppy sea of changes. 

Year-round support from Adsale Publishing

The Adsale Group comprises different business segments. Its publishing arm, Adsale Publishing Ltd., is one of them.

Adsale Publishing provides extensive, year-round, pre- and post-show support to CHINAPLAS’ exhibitors, buyers and end-users by disseminating the latest market news to professionals in the fields, facilitating interaction among them.

Its platforms include the Chinese and English publications and websites – China Plastics & Rubber Journal, CPRJ International, and five high-standard international conferences that focus on different applications, namely automotive, packaging, medical, 3C/electrical and new material innovation.

All these projects are dedicated to providing professional and value-added services for the customers.

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