WE'RE HEARING a lot about China these days but, unfortunately, most of the news is about severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.
The spread of SARS may affect the Chinese economy, but it won't do much more than slow it down for a bit.
Before all the talk about health and Hong Kong, there was plenty of conversation about China and the investments being made there by auto companies from around the world.
Perhaps the most interesting development is what Nissan has done as the new owner of an existing company, giving it the most flexibility of any of the new players in China.
The promise of China has been a long time coming. It's finally being fulfilled, even if it is slower than anticipated and smaller than desired.
China will become a significant consumer market in the next couple of decades, but it won't take that long for China to have a great impact on the rest of the automobile industry and Asia in particular.
It's just a matter of time until China becomes a substantial exporter of vehicles around the world, especially to Korea and Japan, since they are the largest Asian vehicle markets.
Everyone will act surprised and shocked when boatloads of vehicles begin leaving Chinese harbors bound for automotive markets around the world.
Manufacturers always chase the lowest labor cost in the world, and carmakers in Japan and Korea are not exceptions. If you want a low-cost car, you need a low-cost country that can build it.
While Europe searches for low-cost producers in Eastern Europe and Russia, China will become the low-cost producer for Asia.
In the next decade, some Asian manufacturers will have a problem when high-quality vehicles that cost substantially less than anyone else's vehicles arrive in Europe or North America wearing a "Made in China" stamp.
Only the Chinese government is more eager than the Chinese automakers to start exporting vehicles. There is nothing like car exports to give a country positive trade balances with a lot of Western nations.
Sooner or later, it will happen, and it will create more competition for global automobile manufacturers.