"May you live in interesting times" – this expression is thought by many to have originated in China in the early 1600s. At first encounter, the farewell seems to have a positive connotation, but its actual meaning is less that of blessing, and more that of a curse. This is because peaceful times make it much easier for individuals to lead comfortable lives. "Interesting times" might leave you with better stories to tell, but generally have an element of unrest at their heart that makes one's existence far more challenging. It is this difference between the saying's apparent meaning and its real implication that made it famous.
The steel industry has also seen some interesting times as of late. Years of impressive growth in certain areas of the world have led to a state of oversaturation, if not partial paralysis. China is now actively working on reducing its total steel production capacity. Everywhere in the world, producers are looking into potential upgrading measures for their facilities. Under the current conditions, one of the few recipes left for success is to target high-end steel grades through modernization and to look for distinct market niches.
Transformation is omnipresent within the steel industry these days, and East Asia will remain one of the centers of change in the foreseeable future. It has been a major growth area, become one of striking overcapacity, and will increasingly turn into a region known for its cutting-edge products – if the indicators can be trusted. In this issue of Metals Magazine, we take a thorough look at an area that is once again changing rapidly.
Change, of course, is a theme present not only in the steel business. It has been prevalent on the political stage, with the U.S. presidential election and South Korea's conflict with its country leader serving as two prominent examples. The interesting times we live in almost seem to demand change, and it is certainly best to approach this development by looking for solutions wherever possible and making the most of the outcome. Most changes have positive as well as negative ramifications; they bring about joy and sadness. As you read this, you are actively witnessing one such change. This is my first editorial for Metals Magazine, and I am honored to have been given the opportunity. I write these lines by request of the magazine's Managing Editor, Dr. Lawrence Gould, who I will be succeeding later this year. I would like to thank Dr. Gould for the fantastic working relationship, and I am positive that he will remain on board with Metals Magazine in one way or another for a long time.
As with every issue of Metals Magazine, the one you are holding in your hands is meant to provide you, as its reader, with the most interesting information we could source. We have not only selected stories portraying the East Asian region, but also articles that cover the portfolio of Primetals Technologies in detail. The latter examine some of the solutions we offer – as tried and tested means to introduce change and to ensure success even in situations that are indeed of an "interesting" nature.
Tan Wenzhen, Vice President of Tangshan Steel, states in his interview that the steel industry is far from having become a "sunset industry." I am convinced that his assessment is correct. With the right amount of optimism, pragmatism and resourcefulness, we will work our way toward a more peaceful future, united with our customers, and one step at a time.
Dr. Thomas Widter
Deputy Managing Editor of Metals Magazine
Primetals Technologies, Limited