To design a new product was in practice the reproduction of an overseas buyer s

To design a new product was in practice the

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To design a new product was, in practice, the reproduction of an overseas buyer s prototype or the mass production of a buyer s sample, hence the end result was the imitation of an existing design. Attitudes to Design in the Era of the Planned Economy If we want to understand current developments and the progress of design in China and the Chinese economy fully, we need to reflect briefly on the condition of design in China prior to 1978. Before 1978, Chinese society functioned strictly according to the model of planned economy. Private businesses were scarce as most companies were state owned. Hence a free market and competition hardly existed. The country was ruled according to the principle of equality. Under this code, consumers had no privileges. Heavy industry was the main basis of the economy. In such situations, the government viewed arts and crafts as a means to sustain the export of traditional handicraft products in exchange for foreign currencies. Design was more for government architecture, political propaganda and showing off the country s achievements. As a tool for ornamenting products, design seems to be part of traditional arts and crafts. There were no freelance designers, no design companies and definitely no 422 Into a Changing World design businesses. The design disciplines in colleges were limited to ceramic arts, textile and drying, architectural decorations, book binding and the like. Many design activities were performed around the topics of government buildings, huge political gatherings and propagandist exhibitions. The government slogan addressing design restricted its role and practice to the decoration of light products (Deng Ying 2007): Turning arts and crafts into daily use items and daily utility items into arts and crafts as the government slogan connoted, design was merely for the � � decoration of light products. 1978 85: Industrial Design Enlightenment in China Since the late 1970s, manufacturing industry in China began to import foreign advanced technology. This technology introduced concepts and thinking related to modern industrial design. In the period between the late 1970s and early 1980s, China changed from government planned economic monopoly to an economy characterized by the coexistence of and competition between, private businesses and state- owned companies. The implementation of the economic reform policy triggered the large-scale importation of foreign capital and technology. In 1979, China started to build Export Processing Zones and Bonded Areas along its coasts to attract foreign companies, which would bring materials, parts and designs and assemble their products in China before re-exporting them to other countries. At this point, China attracted foreign investment in the construction of Chinese factories. This opened the era in which China s business model rested on its ability to offer a vast and cheap supply of labour that
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could handle mass manufacturing of products for foreign companies.
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