In Beijing, in Shanghai, in Shenzhen, and elsewhere, I've recently visited companies that are trying to use the disruption of this moment to enter wholly new markets and do what so few Chinese firms have yet done: make high-tech, high-value products that bring high rewards. In a country as big and chaotic as China, you can find illustrations of any "trend" you want. But in only a few weeks of asking, I found indications of companies that were growing rather than shrinking, and of corporate leaders who were pouring in money based on their belief that now, when competitors are at their weakest and talent and assets could be snapped up cheap, is the time to prepare for their next big advance.
In Shenzhen, north of Hong Kong, I went to see Liam Casey, the Irish entrepreneur I described two years ago as "Mr. China" for his success in matching big, famous foreign companies with small, obscure Chinese factories that can produce brand-name products quickly and well. Casey said that of the top 100 Chinese companies he works with regularly, not one had gone out of business. While many were struggling, some viewed the recession as a chance to move into higher-value work and introduce their own advanced products rather than serving strictly as subcontractors. (Several such items, like new tablet computers and handheld GPS devices, were displayed at the latest Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.)