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SOSC005 Hong Kong Creative Industries & Cross-Border Production. CHEN, Y.C. Assistant Professor Division of Social Science Overview. I. Spatial Division of Labor in Pearl River Delta II. Creative Industry: Craft-based manufacturing IIa. Watch Industry

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Sosc005 hong kong creative industries cross border production l.jpg

SOSC005 Hong Kong Creative Industries& Cross-Border Production

CHEN, Y.C. Assistant Professor

Division of Social Science

Overview l.jpg

  • I. Spatial Division of Labor in Pearl River Delta

  • II. Creative Industry: Craft-based manufacturing

    • IIa. Watch Industry

  • III. Cross-Border Production: Jewelry Industry

    • IIIa. The Dark Side

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Spatial Division of Labor (空間分工)

  • Hong Kong: center of management, information, coordination, finance and professional services

  • China: center of manufacturing site

  • “Triangle manufacturing”

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Triangle Manufacturing

  • U.S. Buyers place their orders with Hong Kong trading firms or OEM firms, who in turn shift some or all of the requested production to offshore processing factories in low-wage countries such as China.

  • These offshore factories in China are wholly owned subsidiaries of Hong Kong manufacturers, joint-venture partners or independent overseas contractors.

  • The finished goods are shipped directly to buyers in the U.S..

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Triangle Manufacturing

China (processing factory)

Hong Kong (OEM firms or Traders)

U.S. Buyers

OEM firms

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Guangdong’s Locational Advantages (1)

  • Cost

    • Comparison of labor compensation in 2003 (US$/hour):

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Guangdong’s Locational Advantages (2)

  • Industry Cluster (產業集群)

    • Concentration of complete up-stream and down-stream industry chain

    • Example: Dongguan

      • PC computer industry

      • All necessary materials and accessories can be delivered within half an hour

      • Production time shortened, overall competitiveness increased

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Guangdong’s Locational Advantages (3)

  • Quality of semi-skilled workers on the rise

    • Experience accumulated since the opening up of the Mainland market more than 20 years ago

    • 20 million well-trained workers in the Province

    • Strengthen training in hi-tech areas to meet the needs of industry upgrade

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Guangdong’s Locational Advantages (4)

  • Close to Hong Kong

    • Rapid industrialization through capital and technology transfer from Hong Kong.

    • Around 70% of Guangdong’s products are exported to other places through Hong Kong

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Hong Kong Locational Advantages (1)

  • Credibility

    • Rule of law, respect for contract

  • Institutionalization

    • Well-established legal and professional systems, procedures and rules

  • Market-oriented

    • Market economy

    • Government does not participate in or interfere with market operations

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Hong Kong Locational Advantages (2)

  • International Financial Centre

    • Comprehensive financial system

    • Freedom in foreign exchange

  • International Logistics Centre

    • Advanced logistics facilities

    • Robust growth in air and sea transport

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Hong Kong Locational Advantages (3)

  • Information Centre

    • Free flow of information

    • Internet hub

  • Trade Networks

    • More than half a decade’s experience in trade

    • Free trade

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Hong Kong Locational Advantages (4)

  • “Democracy”

    • HK government faces serious political crisis after July 1 mass demonstration (71 遊行) (500 thousands) against “basic law article 23” in 2003.

    • Beijing government supported Mr. Tung administration by passing the CEPA, hoping that the economic benefits will rescue the political crisis.

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What is Creative Industry?

  • “Industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation or intellectual property”. --

  • “Advertising, architecture, the art and antiques market, crafts, design, designer fashion, film and video, interactive leisure software, music, the performing arts, publishing, software and computer services, television and radio”. –

  • Creative Industries make / produce content.

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The Value Chain

  • Even though the definition of creative industry focuses on “service industry” but it applies well in “craft-based manufacturing”, such as watch and jewelry industry.

Content Creator

Creates Idea

Holds IPRs

Technology Driven Ideas

Content Producers

Develops Copyrights

Packages IPRs

Programming Content

Content Distributors

Distributes Copyrights

Markets/Brands IPRs

Distribution Platform


Tickets, magazines, books, CD, Video, DVD, Radio, TV

Net, WAP/3G

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Organization Characteristics of Hong Kong craft-based manufacturing firms

  • Mostly small-and-medium enterprise (SMEs) with less than 50 employees.

  • Family owned

  • Finance through personal networks instead of banks.

  • Labor intensive assembly

  • Extensive subcontract system

  • Highly flexible (flexible production)

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Flexible Production manufacturing firms

  • Labor-intensive production system is flexible because producers can quickly organize a labor force in short notice.

  • Elaborate subcontracting system facilitates the rapid production of a wide variety of products with minimal personal capital investment

  • Subcontracting system act as a buffers when market shift unexpectedly. (share risk)

  • Take small orders (batch production instead of mass production), short delivery time,

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Technological Upgrading manufacturing firms

  • The competition from other developing countries (China, India, Thailand) have forced HK firms to upgrade their product to compete on high-ends market.

  • In reaction to shorter product cycles, CAD, CAM and RP* technology are commonly used.

  • 3D design and related IT technologies

  • ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) is used to manage supply chain more efficiently. (供應鏈管理)

    • *RP: Rapid Prototyping

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Front Shop, Back Factory ( manufacturing firms前店後廠)

  • “Front Shop, Back Factory” has been used to describe the integration between Hong Kong and Pearl River Delta.

  • With the relocation of Hong Kong’s manufacturing sector (low end) to PRD, firms in Hong Kong could focus on high valued added activities such as marketing, financing, and R&D.

  • It could facilitate the transformation from OEM to ODM and OBM more rapidly.

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From OEM to ODM and OBM manufacturing firms

  • OEM : Original Equipment Manufacturing refers to the subcontracting system in which foreign firms provide specification of a product. Local (OEM) firms produce it and foreign buyers sell them using their own brand.

  • Buyers and OEM firms usually cooperate where buyers provide:

    • Selection of capital equipment

    • Training of managers, engineers and technicians

    • Advice on production, financing and management

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ODM, OBM manufacturing firms

  • ODM: ‘Original Design Manufacturing’ refers to local firm carries out some or all the product design (as well as production) tasks according to the general design supplied by the MNCs.

  • OBM: ‘Original Brand Manufacturing’ refers to design and produce using own brand.

  • The risk of shifting to OBM is losing the HK firms might lose their existing OEM contract because foreign buyers do not trust a firm that do both OEM and OBM. (create competition)

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IIa. Watch Industry manufacturing firms

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Watch Industry Profile manufacturing firms

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HK Watch Industry Import & Export manufacturing firms(2004)

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HK watch industry took off in the 50s manufacturing firms

  • 1950s: Hong Kong watch makers made watch accessories such as cases, bands, and dials.

  • 1960s: Watch makers rapidly progressed to assembling mechanical watches (with imported movements (表芯) from Japan and Switzerland).

  • Clocks were produced with locally produced movements and parts.

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The increasing competition in the 1970s. manufacturing firms

  • 1970s – with diode technology, HK watch assemblers moved into light-emitting digital (LED) display watches.

    • LED was replaced by liquid crystal display (LCD) watched in late 1970s.

  • Many HK assemblers entered production, competition rose.

  • Japanese watch production increase at the same time, further fueled the competition and drove down the prices.

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Quartz Analog shift in the 1980s manufacturing firms

  • In early 1980s, digital watch accounted for 60% of the value of the total output; Quartz analog watch made up only 8%. The rest is mechanical watch.

  • By 1984, quartz analog and digital watches each accounted for 43%. By 1989, quartz analog doubled, while digitals fell to 6.6%.

  • Due to the flexibility in Hong Kong watch industry, the rapid transformation was possible.

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Innovation in the 1990s manufacturing firms

  • 1990s: Hong Kong watchmakers continue to be innovative in design of parts, cases, bands, and accessories. They were sold to major watch producing countries such as Japan, Switzerland, and the U.S..

  • Firms began to use CAD/CAM for design and manufacturing of more complex watch cases and bands.

  • Firms began to do watch movement-assembly in order to break away from dependence on movement firms in Japan and Switzerland.

  • Low-end watches assembly moved to PRD.

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Quantity and Variety of products manufacturing firms

  • Quantity: Hong Kong surpass Japan to became the second largest watch producer (after Swiss) in the early 1990s.

  • Variety in finished products.

    • analogue to digital watches,

    • metal to plastic watches,

    • fashion to classic watches,

    • standard to jewelry watches,

    • novelty to sport watches.

  • Variety in parts and component: assembled movements, cases, watch straps, dials and parts for watch cases and bands.

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III. manufacturing firms

Cross-border Production:

the Jewelry Industry

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Hong Kong manufacturing firmsJewelry Industry

  • Hong Kong's jewelry industry is dominated by the precious jewelry sector.

  • Combined with re-exports, Hong Kong is the leading exporter of imitation jewelry and the second largest exporter of precious jewelry in the world.

  • Small stones fashion jewelry, pure gold items and jade are most popular.

  • Jewelry production focus on medium-to high-priced products.

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HK Jewelry Industry Profile manufacturing firms

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HK Jewelry Import & Export manufacturing firms(Jan 2005)

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PRD manufacturing firms– Jewelry Processing Base

  • PRD becomes HK’s largest jewelry processing base (加工基地). Hong Kong jewelry makers moved to the area to find low cost and skillful craftsmen.

    • More labor intensive cutting (切割) and polishing (打磨) are done in China (also in India).

    • The more skillful part such as forming, moulding, die-casting and assembling are often done in Hong Kong.

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Panyu : the jewelry center ( manufacturing firms珠寶谷)

  • Panyu District (番禺) of Guangzhou City has more than 200 Hong Kong jewelry processing factories

    • Employ more than 50,000 workers.

    • Process 100 tons of gold and platinum yearly; US$600 million in total production value;

    • Export volume is US$800 million

    • 95% of the jewelry on HK market is processed here

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CEPA manufacturing firms– duty free access for HK jewelry to China

  • Under CEPA that came into effect on 1 Jan 2004, a total of 16 tariff headings related to Jewelry made in Hong Kong are not duty-free.

  • However, it required a lot of process (forming and assembling) to be done in Hong Kong in order to qualify.

  • Ideally, foreign jewelry firms (like the Italian firm) might take this advantage to invest in Hong Kong in order to take advantage of CEPA … i.e. export to China.

  • All in all, CEPA is a positive measurement, but its effect might take some times to realize.

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IIIa. The Dark Side manufacturing firms

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Occupational Diseases manufacturing firms

  • To save cost, many jewelry processing factories do not have enough protection for the workers against occupational hazard .

  • For example, polishing process (打磨) creates a lot of hazardous dust.

    • Workers should be given warning and knowledge regarding the risk

    • Workers should be given enough protection to prevent occupational disease

惠州力奇 (Lucky Gem) 廠外觀(攝於2004年8月)


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Testimonial from a silicosis victim manufacturing firms(矽肺病患)

  • “He learned how to cut and sand semiprecious stones like opal, topaz and malachite into hearts, stars, pearls, and diamond shapes that are strung together to make rings, bracelets and necklaces.

  • Mr. Hu sat shoulder to shoulder with other cutters and polishers in confined workshops. Often working 12- and even 18-hours days, they generated clouds of dust that hung in the air even when windows were wide open and the fans were set to high.”

    Source: JOSEPH KAHN “Making Trinkets in China, and a Deadly Dust” New York Times, June 18, 2003

A silicosis victim holding

his own lung’s X’ray

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Victims protest manufacturing firms

  • Since the owners of various jewelry processing factories deny compensation to the victims, Hong Kong labor organizers helped the victims demand for compensation.

  • For more information about the protests:



Victim protested inside the Lucky Gem office in H.K.

在灣仔會展中心的”國際珠寶展”前示威 1 Mar 2005