An American Quest for China's Electric Bikes

Chuck McCormick and Aaron Kowalski are two of the countless Americans looking for business deals in China today. McCormick came to China a year ago when an expat friend invited him to visit. Since he's semi-retired, he was able to extend his 10-day visit to two months. “China can be very distracting," he says. "It’s like quicksand—the more you get involved, the more it pulls you.”

Although it is Kowalski’s first visit, he is well versed in Chinese business issues and opportunities, and enjoys sharing his thoughts. He strongly believes that the real business deals are not in exporting to America, but selling to the Chinese.

McCormick and Kowalski represent Arkansas-based Pioneer Bikes. They have toured several factories outside Shanghai, looking for prototypes of electrical bicycles. These bicycles, not yet marketed or sold in the United States, enjoy great popularity in Europe and China.

Photo by Rebecca Davis

Although McCormick and Kowalski couldn’t find the exact prototype they were looking for, they both were pleased with the one they found. Kowalski said he never considered looking for manufacturers in any place other than China because of its cheap labor force and excellent quality. He thinks the negative publicity over lead found in toys does not reflect the quality, efficiency and capabilities of the factories he visited. “Sometimes you have poor quality because of poor management and unclear communications, but China offers good quality products,” he adds.

Regarding labor conditions, Kowalski recognized that the factory workers did not seem motivated, but he says successful factory owners know to treat their employees well. “Most Chinese businessmen are trained abroad and they know that without their workers they cannot do well in business,” he says.

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