Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Raising the image of "Made in China"

Since the rash of unfavorable publicity on poorly made products from China, some even with deadly consequences, I have been thinking about this matter. China has become such a dominant manufactuer of goods that any negative publicity hurts the image of all the products made in China. The damage can be enormous affecting not just export sales but the lingering reputation that China makes only shoddy goods.

Yet, given China's enormous population and geographical breadth, assuring product reliability and conformity to accepted standards from every manufactuer is a daunting if not impossible task. The irony is that as China become more successful as the global supplier, the task of protecting the image of products from China become ever more challenging.

In order to rectify the image of goods made in China, I have been an advocate for the Beijing Central Government to establish a website where any person or company can register and complain about quality and other problems they encounter from suppliers in China. In such a website, the complaint should identify the party and the location of the party as well as describing the nature of the dispute.

This approach can have three major benefits:

(1) By erecting such a site, China is proclaiming to the world that the government is promoting transparency in business transaction and is encouraging buyers from all over the world to help China maintain the consistent quality of products made in China.

(2) The information on the website can help QSIQ (full name: General Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine) identify the trouble spots and focus their surveillance and enforcement efforts in problem regions of China.

(3) Local officials are no longer motivated to abet, shelter or protect offending suppliers of sub-quality goods, since such producers can run and hide but the local officials cannot.

The immediate impact of such a website is to raise the confidence of buyers and consumers of goods made in China.

In order for such a website to realize its potential, it must be easy to use and must be tamper proof. Anyone wishing to register a complaint may not do so anonymously but must provide verifiable information about him/herself and the organization he/she is representing. The identity of the complainer must be kept confidential and available only to the people managing the website.

To encourage participation, the government may even consider offering a reward or suitable recognition as a friend of China for each complaint that leads to arrest of the offending party.


bink said...

Hi George,

Everyday there are pages and pages of recalls from all over the world. The only ones highlighted in the press are the ones from China. In fact, India and Mexico have the most recalls by far and on a per-product bases, their bad products far excedes those of China's

China needs to high-light the fact that toxic and defective products are those of MULTI-NATIONALS "made in China." The WORKERS who produce products according to material and design specifications of FOREIGN multinationals are being blamed! Want an analogy - blame the hourly line-cook for the Diner's bad food!

Bad toys: there was no U.S. lead-paint standard for Mattel toys. There is now.

Recalled toys: 70% were due to Mattel design flaws alone.

Bad GERMAN drywall: It's a GERMAN company that went to China, built the plants, trained and hired workers.

from Knauf's website:

In 1995, Knauf introduced its advanced production technics and technology into China. In 1997,2000 and 2001 knauf has also invested in China and established three plasterboard plants which locate in Wuhu, Tianjin and Dongguan. Knauf Plasterboard Limited Company, the wholly owned subsidiary of Germany Knauf Corporation, is equipped with the German high-tech production lines controlled by computers. We will always offer service to our customers through the high quality and standard products and perfect and reliable service system. Knauf Plasterboard Limited Company has been approved by ISO9001 Quality Certification System and all products have been certified as the green building materials. http://www.knauf.com.cn/englishweb/company/company.asp

There appears to be a world-wide media campaign to destroy the "made in china" brand and I think it is all part of a new Cold War against China in the battle for resources and the world hegemony of the U.S. This was in the Atlantic by Robert Kagan (yup - part of the neocon cabal that got us into Iraq, now in Afghanistan, and wants strike Iran):


This is the kind of blue-print that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The West is at the stage of case-building and shaping world opinion about "evil" China.

George said...

Dear Bink,

Thank you for your input. However, there is more to the issue than just blaming the multinationals. China is fully capable of making crappy and even harmful products driven by greed without any outside help, e.g., melamine in milk.

I would like to see China rise above finger pointing and really earn a reputation for top quality products. Japan has done this. South Korea is on its way to doing this and I think so can China.

In order to get there, China has to accept the challenge seriously, and being openly willing to accept criticism is a good start.

bink said...

Hi George,

I agree that China needs to do their bit to ensure quality goods. The problem is that the Media sensationalizes and blames China for defective products and in the meantime reputations of multinationals are protected.

What I want to get across is that I don't think the Chinese government is aware that while they may want to put in good faith efforts and play by G8-rules, the West is playing dirty. Or are they aware?

bink said...

Oh, about the melamine tainted milk: CHINA did not produce it - a rogue operator did and suffered the consequences.

In contrast to blaming China for bad products originating from there, the U.S. did not get blamed for the salmonella tainted peanuts from Georgia that killed 9 people. The company and its owner were rightfully held responsible by the American people. It would be nice if they and the Media were as fair-minded when it comes to China.

bink said...

Hi George,

I like your idea that "the Beijing Central Government establish a website where any person or company can register and complain about quality and other problems they encounter from suppliers in China" but having just one for the entire country would probably be unwieldy.

Perhaps this quality assurance can be decentralized and made into friendly competition with cash awards given out at New Years to that province or district with the fewest recalls or best products per unit manufactured.

I would also give products a stamp that reads, "Made in Shenzen, China" or "Made in Hubei, China" or "Made in Shanghai, China" and so forth so as to establish a quality-cost-average whereby a tainted/recalled product does not damage the reputation of the entire country. The smaller the geographic AOC-type http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appellation_d'origine_contr%C3%B4l%C3%A9e
certification would obviously be best.

What do you think?

bink said...

One more thought about a Chinese AOC:

To protect the country's reputation from unscrupulous operators, be they domestic or foreign, I would test all products. This would help mitigate damage done by those who want to make a quick buck/euro/yen/yuan by selling shoddy products then leaving China holding the bag as they slither away to another country, renaming their company and presto-chango re-establish themselves with a clean slate.

Anonymous said...

I remember a US middle school science class activity that compared different brands of paper towels. Chinese universities could sponsor projects that test safety while simultaneously teaching food science, chemistry, biology, etc.

Government could also welcome a Consumer Reports-like branch that compares products.