If you were going to take a trip to the Far East...

So I’m contemplating taking a trip to SE Asia in the late fall for 2-3 weeks. I have friends working in Beijing and possibly Seoul that can provide room and board (and who I will be hanging out with during parts of the trip), but I am by no means limited to being in those locales for the entire trip. I am interested in seeing the industrial capacity of the East with my own eyes and meeting with manufacturers to improve my understanding of the US-Asia connection. If you were taking this trip, which factories and people would you try to connect with and where would you go - not limited to Seoul and Beijing? My primary interests (so far) have been medical, CE, contract furniture, and hardware.


Shanghai and the surrounding 2nd tier cities are full of modern and primitive factories. Kunshan 20 minutes by bullet hosts a number of US, Korean and Japanese JV firms making furniture, notebook pc and auto parts. There is an enterprise zone in Kunshan were many foreign firms take advantage of the tax free export offered by the Chinese govt. This may or may not be still in place.

When I was working there in 2008, Hangzhou and Suzhou further to the west had loads of small family factory firms. I used to visit many of these factories in search of sub contracts and found on many occasion appalling factory conditions.

In and around Shanghai were many rapid proto shops worth visiting. These shops had a short shelf life and many may not be around now in 2011.

Singapore has fallen out of favor as of late. BMW is reported to be closing their office there and moving to Shanghai this summer. Evidently all of the government tax subsidies that made Singapore attractive in the past are now all dried up as a result of the recent GFC.

I would look at a trade show calendar and look for something in the arena you are interested in. You could make appointments with a few prototype shops or factories of course, but being just in the proximity of industrial production is not going to be very beneficial. A trade show puts hundreds of manufacturers all in one location. I find those visits to be invaluable.

To that point, are there any shows to avoid? Also to the original post, are there specific factories or CM groups that I should contact?

If you’re looking to get a break from all the factories: Nepal, hands down. Amazing scenery/culture/history.

Taipei would also be great: factories + great food.