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Adam Minter

Say Goodbye to 'Made in China'

What's a Chinese steel mill to do amid a slowing domestic economy? One popular option is to to bid China goodbye.
Go west, young Han.

Go west, young Han.


These are not the best of times to be one of China's massive, state-owned steel mills. The domestic economy is slowing, competition is increasing, and there's widespread disgust and impatience with the smog pouring out of their stacks. In short, their lucrative business model for the past three decades is slowly dying. So what’s a manager of a Chinese steel mill to do?

One surprisingly popular option is to bid China goodbye. In November, Hebei Iron & Steel Co Ltd, a provincial-owned company and China’s largest steelmaker by production, announced that it was moving 5 million tons of its annual production -- roughly 11 percent of the 45 million tons of steel it makes every year -- to South Africa. According to press reports, it won’t be going abroad alone. By 2023, Hebei Province -- China’s most polluted province -- plans to export 20 million tons of steel, 30 million tons of cement and 10 million weight boxes of glass capacity (a weight box equals roughly 50 kilograms) to points still not named.