Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Goons and Thugs and Airplanes

I am not particularly a booster of the government of the People's Republic of China. Neither, though, am I ready to follow the crowd with the calls for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics this summer.

The question that must be asked is whether the world would be better with or without a strong and controlling central government in Beijing. On this one, I am not entirely sure one way or the other. The collapse of the Soviet Union was not without some very troubling consequences because many elements formerly held in line by the strong central Soviet government are now in a position to cause mischief in the world. Can you say "Azerbaijan" or "Chechnya?"

When the Tibetans were in control, they were certainly not a benign governing power over the peoples they dominated. What would a Tibetan government free of Chinese domination do? The so-called Central Tibetan Administration, which is the Dalai Lama's political apparatus, has been quite cozy with the Muslim Uyghurs. Would such a regime be an effective obstacle to the international terror organizations?

I remember when all of the freedom-loving liberals were screaming for the overthrow of the Shah of Iran. Well, the rest is history. The Shah was deposed, and they got Khomeini, and with him, a regime far, far more oppressive and dangerous than anything under the Shah.

The Beijing government may well be, as CNN's Jack Cafferty observed, "basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years." Regardless of whether or not they are, maybe we shouldn't be so quick to promote a CTA-led state in East Central Asia.

The Olympics are not the only Chinese entrée in the news. From the Associated Press today: "China Establishes Company to Make its Own Jumbo Jets."

Given the well-known Chinese industrial cultural norms of slipshod quality control practices, denial that problems exist, and falsification of records regarding quality and origin of parts, they certainly have their work cut out for them.

Successful large-scale aircraft manufacture requires a different type of management than most other industries. Given the need to continually innovate in the manufacturing process and update the specifications, all of America's major aircraft manufacturing operations have long used the so-called "matrix management" style, which approaches the process from both a project management standpoint and a technical specialty standpoint. This effectively means that the group leaders, if not the individual employees, have dual formal reporting relationships, which might grow even more complex if more than one technical specialty is involved.

And once they build their first aircraft, they then will have the problem of having a viable supply of spare parts. What about the quality controls for those spare parts?

Which brings us back to the 2008 Olympics. As noted by Ross Terrill in his Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, 22 August 2007, page 19, "In Beijing, Orwell Goes to the Olympics":

"Banished from Beijing for the Olympics will be not only fractured English, but disabled people, Falun Gong practitioners, dark-skinned villagers newly arrived in the city, AIDS activists and other 'troublemakers' who smudge the canvas of socialist harmony."

In a culture where appearances are paramount, and where problems are buried under the carpet or otherwise denied, how will the problems and issues that inevitably arise in the course of aircraft manufacture and support be dealt with? And how will this affect the quality of the aircraft that they build?

I only hope that in America, the Federal Aviation Administration will be more forthright than the Chinese when it comes to confronting the aircraft quality issues.

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