I was fortunate to spend some time with Sean Jiang, Managing Director of Harley-Davidson China (HDC). Sean explained that he and HDC are piloting the publication of a “White Paper” for submission to the government and general public. In China, White Papers are used as a means of presenting government policy prior to the introduction of legislation. Publication of a White Paper serves to test the climate of public opinion regarding policy issues and enables the government to gauge its probable impact. “Its purpose is to first outline and describe current conditions and practices. Secondly, offer suggestions for best practices and policies; and finally, offer proposals advising how to mitigate current restrictions and address large-displacement motorcycles in China,” Sean stated.
In reality, current motorcycle standards are not designed to consider large-displacement motorcycles and need to be revamped or amended. The cost of a Harley-Davidson can be upwards of two times that in the U.S. because of all the import duties and taxes. The 11-year scrap rule and expressway riding restrictions are other major issues. Beijing only has 30,000 large-displacement-motorcycle license plates available and the only way to acquire one is when a prior owner relinquishes it. At a cost of about $4,000 US, China has the most expensive motorcycle license plate in the world. “Everything considered, Chinese customers are actually the most passionate because they have to jump through hoops in order to own and ride a Harley in China,” Sean stated. The Chinese can purchase large cc Hondas, Yamahas, or BMWs, but they want Harley-Davidsons.
Sean recounted his first exposure to a large motorcycle ride. While in Washington D.C., he witnessed a 9/11 motorcycle event with thousands of riders. “The solidarity, sense of respect and honor for the lost, yet hope for the future was overwhelming. It impressed me very deeply,” Sean stated. “When the opportunity arose to become Managing Director of H-D China, I didn’t have a second thought.” Ironically, I had brought “Remember 9/11” memorial coins from this year’s Long Beach 9/11 motorcycle event as a gift. His charming smile turned serious as he carefully examined each coin. “The events of 9/11 changed everyone,” he murmured in a hushed tone. Sean Jiang has challenges ahead but knows change is imminent and less restriction on imports means more sales in China and more exports of Harley-Davidsons to the world’s largest population. If he can help ease restrictions, grow the dealer network, and rally support of the H.O.G chapters, Sean Jiang will embody the slogan, With Passion Comes Freedom, and be the man that brought Harley-Davidson to China.
Ultimately, the event was a huge success: meeting the other chapter members, perusing their motorcycles, and riding to the rally. It felt as though I was participating in something historic. When 50,000 riders converge for the 10th Annual HDC Qingdao Bike week, I will be there. B
Ride with me next issue for Zen Part 2
Riding on the Dragon’s Back:
Deeper into Rural China