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Feature: Werner Gerich, China's ‘first foreign director'

(People's Daily Online)    17:11, January 11, 2019

Bernd Gerich shows his father's certificate of China Reform Friendship Medal (Photo by Feng Xuejun from People’s Daily)

Last December, German expert Werner Gerich, who is best known as the first foreign director of a state-owned factory in China after the country's reform and opening up, was awarded the China Reform Friendship Medal along with nine other foreigners, in appreciation of their support for China’s reform and opening up.

Gerich was appointed the director of the Wuhan Diesel Engine Plant in 1984. After years of effort, he reinvigorated the run-down factory by introducing the advanced German management style, significantly improving work efficiency and product quality, thus gaining him the nickname “Mr. Quality.”

"It was very emotional because it's been 15 years since he passed away, but he is still remembered by the Chinese," said his son, Bernd Gerich, who was invited to Beijing to receive the medal on his behalf.

His house looks like a small-scale memorial hall, with friendship medals and honor certificates presented by the Chinese government everywhere, Gerich junior explained. Wuhan government also gave a bronze bust of Werner Gerich in 2005.

A bronze bust of Werner Gerich (Photo by Feng Xuejun from People’s Daily)

Werner Gerich was a workaholic, his son explained. Despite being over 60 years old, he came to China after he retired, and worked at the factory around the clock. Although he was amicable to his colleagues, he was very strict with details, and always carried a vernier caliper, a magnet and a pair of white gloves to check the precision of parts and cleanness of machines. He also called for every technician to take good care of their tools and machines.

According to his son, Gerich senior also introduced reforms to the factory, including a structural wage system to pay workers according to their performance.

All these measures paid off, as the percentage of defective main bearing caps plummeted from 50 percent to under 3 percent. Additionally, diesel engines were exported to seven Southeast Asian countries, earning over one million dollars in foreign exchange annually.

In 2000, 81-year-old Gerich revisited China to take part in technological exchanges between the two countries. This was to be his last visit, and sadly three years later, he passed away in Germany.

There is no country but China that has made such remarkable achievements over the space of four decades, said Bernd Gerich. All the positive outcomes are closely tied to China's reform and opening-up, he added.

Gerich junior was deeply impressed by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge to build an open world economy while celebrating the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up. He believed that his father would be pleased to know that China is continuing to advance reform and opening up.


(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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