The China Times

“Made in China”: Charming the World


In an era of globalization, China’s prospering manufacturing delivers blessing

For the past decade, “Made in China” has been one of the most recognizable brands in the world and has enjoyed a far-reaching popularity around the globe.

In every corner of the earth, when talking about China and the world, “Made in China” is a term that would always pop up from your lip.

The world has felt an increasing impact of China over the past decade, especially after it joined the World Trade Organization (WTO). “Made in China” played a key role in this process.

“Made in China” has been one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

Can’t Live without It

On this planet, someone like it, someone reject it, but almost everyone cannot live without it. It is all around you. Wait a minute. It is right on your body!

What is it? “Made in China”!

“Made in China” has made its mark in every corner of the globe, from the poorest village in Africa to the richest city in America.

In Africa, the slippers on the villagers’ feet are all made in China. In America, finding out a “Sheriff Woody” or “Buzz Lightyear” that is not made in China is also a difficult task.

“China is the park where everything comes from,” Evander Holyfield, who grew up poor but went on to become a global celebrity, said to this journalist.

“Even when I was a kid, China, China, China, everything that I got came from China.”

The newly-concluded London Games provided a vivid account of how the world is attached to “Made in China”.

The fireworks, artificial grass, computers, souvenirs, mascots, even the uniforms for members of the US Olympic team are made in China.

“If there were no made-in-China products, there would be no London Olympics,” John Duggan, a veteran China watcher and established American attorney said to this journalist.

As the London Olympics showed, “Made in China” makes life easy and comfortable for the world, and the world, in turn, provides a vast market for the former.

“It’s hard to imagine how life would be without Chinese products,” said Duggan.

Concerning this, no one knows better than the American journalist Sara Bongiorni, who wrote the famous book A Year Without “Made in China”.

Bongiorni and her family attempted to outrun China’s reach by “boycotting” any products made in China for a whole year. However, her “adventure” only ended up in a series of troubles.

Cellphones, computers, televisions, clothes, toys, tools, lamps, sneakers, sunglasses…It is hard to find a living good without a “Made in China” label.

Bongiorni realized that to live without “Made in China”, one has to take a large amount of time and energy to find substitutes for Chinese products, and the person’s living cost will increase dramatically.

“It is wiser to coexist with Chinese imports than to boycott them.”

This is Bongiorni’s final conclusion, and perhaps a consensus of the majority.

A Boon for the Masses

Elites run the world, but they are those ordinary people that constitute 99 percent of the world’s population. “Made in China” is a boon for the masses.

This has become more evident over the past decade, especially since 2008.

After the global financial crisis, the number of “one dollar shops” in the United States has increased greatly, and some even appeared in high-end communities. The American middle classes began to join the group of the regular visitors to these stores. Among those in the “one dollar shops”, Chinese products took up a large percent.

“All of a sudden, you realized that, oh, shoot, everything with good quality comes from China,” Holyfield said to this journalist in 2008. “People love to get thing from China, because it’s cheaper and with quality.”

“Made in China”, with its fine quality and low price, satisfied the international market needs for diversity, and has played a positive role in curbing global inflation and improving the purchasing power of consumers in various countries.

Based on Morgan Stanley’s research report, in 2009 alone, approximately $100 billion in US consumer spending was saved by “Chinese imports”.

“Made in China”, to some extent, has evolved to “Made with China”, making multinational corporations share the “Chinese bonuses”.

A Blessing for Foreign Businesses

“Made in China” is not only a boon for the masses, but also a blessing for foreign businesses. For the last decade, alien companies have reaped huge benefits from “Made in China”.

With the rising trend of global economic integration, “Made in China”, to some extent, has evolved to “Made with China”, or even “Made for China”, making multinational corporations share the “Chinese bonuses”.

The international sporting goods brand Nike has been involved in China for over 30 years, with about one third of its products made in, or to say, with China and more than 7,000 retail stores established in that country.

With over 1.3 billion people and the rising income growth, China has become the most lucrative potential market for almost every ambitious foreign business.

“I think China is probably more important than anywhere else in the world,” said Charlie Denson, president of Nike Brand, an affiliate of Nike Inc.

Nike’s sales surpassed $2 billion in 2011 in the world’s most populous country, making China the biggest market outside the United States for the Beaverton, Ore.-based company.

The huge capacity of the Chinese market and low labor cost attracted more and more multinational corporations to “Made with China” or even “Made for China”.

As of today, over 480 companies of the Fortune Global 500 have their investment in China. Foreign investment grew more than 9 percent annually during the past 10 years.

With China’s cooperation and participation, multinational corporations have found a new, sustained growth engine and witnessed increased share of wealth.

“‘Made in China’ not only won’t hurt our businesses, but bring them opportunities instead,” said Duggan.

The Bitter Blessing

For the past decade, “Made in China” has driven China’s economic engine forward, and made a big share of interests for the world in the meantime. Yet, what frequently appeared in the mainstream Western media were mainly the exaggerated quality issues of Chinese-made products, and the image of “Made in China” was often perceived as cheap and low-end. The bitter side of the “Chinese blessing” has remained unmentioned.

On a gloomy day in August 2007, in Foshan, Guangdong province, China, a middle-aged Chinese man was found dead after hanging himself on the third floor of a warehouse. Next to his body were a pile of cute Sesame Street dolls.

The man was Cheung Shu-hung, a Hong Kong resident and co-owner of Foshan-based Lee Der Industrial Co. Nine days before Cheung committed suicide, Mattel Inc., one of the largest U.S. toy companies, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of 967,000 plastic toys made by Lee Der because they were allegedly decorated with paint found to have excessive amounts of lead which would have harsh impact on children’s brain development. Prior to the recall, Lee Der was the second largest toy maker in the city. The company was forced to temporarily shut down, leaving 2,500 workers out of work. Under such heavy pressure, Cheung had no choice, but to hang himself.

After Cheung’s suicide, investigations were immediately carried out by China’s Ministry of Commerce. Ironically, the investigation revealed that the vast majority of the toys recalled were the result of a sudden change in the U.S. safety standard and the dealer’s risk transfer, not through a manufacturing flaw in the Chinese manufacturer. Under heavy public opinion pressure, Mattel Inc. apologized to China for the recall over a month later.

After the bitter story comes the bitter memory.

Li Shengjiao, was a senior Chinese diplomat who spent most of his 40-year career overseas and commuted between China and Western countries. He knew made-in-China stuff just as he knew his stuff.

“In those days, the products China exported to the Western countries were mostly the country’s best available, but those remained for domestic use were comparatively inferior ones,” Mr. Li recalled.

“Chinese people saved the best for the West.”

The “bitter blessing” is not over yet. After the bitter memory comes the bitter number.

A made-in-China official mascot for the 2012 Olympics was priced at £20 in London. However, on the other side of the world in China, the Chinese workers hunched in rows over sewing machines can only get as little as £0.18 from one cuddly toy.

The world famous Barbie dolls sold in more than 100 countries were mainly manufactured in China. For each Barbie sold in America for $9.9, there is merely $0.35 left to her Chinese “mother” for labor, plant & equipment and electricity.

These are merely two of the many cases, in which China was pushed to the limit.

Looking ahead, will the bitter number change for the better? Will “Made in China” make it?

Author: Li Zhenyu
Source: People’s Daily Online

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