Thailand vs. China

“Every thing in Thailand is slow except for the internet.” “Everything in China is fast except for internet.” Ironic, no? This comes from a conversation that I had with a friend of mine who also does business in both countries.

I’m in Thailand for the week to help a client set up a small assembly facility. As I’m thinking about the differences in the production capabilities in different countries, specifically China and Vietnam, I realize that Thailand has lot to offer too.

1. Were here in Thailand for this client because of the tax and export duty savings over China in their specific product line. The cost differences are substantial and the legal requirements for export are not nearly as burdensome here.

2. Thailand’s infrastructure is at least as good as China’s East Coast’s—ports, airports, toll-ways. Nothing new, I know, but this is one of the major drawbacks of working far inland in China or even close to large cities in Vietnam or Cambodia. The big plus in Thailand is that there are no inter-provincial tariffs or restrictions on the flow of goods like there is in China.

3. Even with the recent wage increases labor is still more expensive in Thailand than in China. I’m seeing cost differences of about $50 to $75 a month between factory workers in China vs. Thailand.

4. The environment is much more “international” in Bangkok than it is in Shenzhen—more so than even Hong Kong, I’d say. Sure there isn’t as much English on signs but the exposure to “the west” is certainly as much or more—To me, Bangkok seems to be becoming more western and Hong Kong more Chinese. There are certainly more foreigners (yes, even in the non touristy sections of town).

5. The advertising is much more sophisticated in Thailand than China where it’s still a relatively immature industry. I was consciously amazed at the higher quality of both radio and out-door media advertising.

6. Nationalism is alive and well in both countries but Thailand’s flavor is much less strident. China seems to be a bit more angry, with something to prove, while Thailand is much more comfortable with it’s unique place in the world.

7. As I work with people in the jewelry industry here I’m constantly being told the same thing when I tell people I live in China, “You know, labor is more expensive here, but you get better quality work too.” Almost to a person, this was the response I heard—more than 10 times in just one day.

8. Thailand has a very well developed export base for automobiles, machinery and electronics, according to the Bangkok Post today. While China does have some of this too, pick-up trucks and hard-drives are especially well developed sub industries in Thailand.

9. Staffing in China is difficult in both retaining top-level local employees as well as low-end factory labor. Thailand has similar tight market in top-level employees. Service levels are much higher in Thailand as is education in general. Professional standards seem, to me, to be higher in Thailand as well.

10. The traffic in both Thailand and China is horrible—but each has it’s own perils. In China you are literally taking your life in your hands when you get into a car—the roads are some of the most deadly in the world. It’s scary, and for good reason. Thailand is completely different—you’re never going fast enough to be in a dangerous situation! The traffic, in Bangkok, is so bad at almost all times of each and every day that estimates are it lowers annual GDP by multiple points!

11. Banking (I can’t believe I’m going to say this); hands down China has better banks—in terms of service and accessibility. In China if you need a bank, you can get one open from 8AM to 5PM 7 days a week. Thailand is 9AM to 3:30PM five days a week and off every holiday known to man.

4 Responses to “Thailand vs. China”

  1. Whose problem are easier to fix, China’s or Thailand’s ? Which problem is a hardware problem or a software problem ?

  2. I don’t know which are easier to fix–the question really is where is it easy to work around the difficulties.

    I think that China is focused more attentively on making changes than Thailand is. Thailand’s struggles seem, to me, to be more squarely located in the “fixable but politically difficult” category. China, if the central government commits, has both the money and the ability/determination to fix issues that affect business quickly. Thailand has, for example, been grappling with the traffic problem for more than 25 years.

    So where is it easier to work around? I actually think that in China it is easier and easier to work around problems. Thailand is better than over all for customer service. But China is better over all for business infrastructure and opportunity.

  3. FYI, if you go to any shopping mall in Thailand, the banks are open until 8pm, and as far as I know, 7 days/week.

  4. What is made a lot in China, BUT is given mostly by Thailand?