The American Dream is alive and well -- in China -- embodied in the success of a fellow named , founder and chief executive of a Shanghai company called ReneSola that makes silicon wafers for solar panels. In 2005, Mr. Li's company had 20 employees. Now he has 3300.
They've helped him log profits of $53 million last year, almost double the profits of 2006, and have made it possible last January for ReneSola to raise $130 million in a stock offering on the New York Stock Exchange.
With 80,000 jobs lost in March to the US recession nobody wants to admit is really happening, and the Senate now considering for the third time in six months, Mr. Li's story ought to be headline news on the Hill where lawmakers are grappling with economic stimulus and job creation.
The report on ReneSola comes from Joe Nocera, the top story in the Business section of the NYT on Saturday called It not only describes a green jobs success story, a model of economic development suitable for America's industrial heartland. It also describes an economic transformation taking place in China that is making it an even more formidable international competitor than it already is.
At first, the company assembled solar panels; most of his customers were companies in Germany and Japan that made the wafers and then sold the panels once they were assembled. “By 2003,” he said, “revenue was about $10 million.”
But assembling the panels was the lowest-cost, lowest-value part of the solar industry. “It is a commodity business,” he said. “And it can attract a lot of competition.” So in 2005, he decided to take the big leap. He got out of the solar panel business and into the more profitable solar wafer business.
Government policy in China is now deliberately pushing manufacturing up the value chain. Already the world's workshop for cheap goods, China is now making a play to make higher value products that create more wealth and provide better jobs.
Five years ago, ReneSola was not even in the silicon wafer business. Today, the company has become one of the world's top five suppliers and has created 3280 new jobs.
And that $130 million it raised on the New York Stock Exchange? It's flowing right to Shanghai, fueling the further expansion of the American dream in China.
Talk about a surge that's working.