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The Truth About "Made in China"

Updated: 3 days ago

Dear Asian Youth,

Made in China.

I’m sure we are all very familiar with seeing these three words labelled on the packages of almost everything we purchase: your phones, your shoes, your watches, you name it! Statistically speaking, China is the world’s number one producer - accounting for about 20% of the world’s manufacturing output in 2015, that is about 2,010 billion U.S. dollars devoted into production alone!

However, these numbers are probably the last thing that come to mind when people think about the phrase, “Made in China.” Westerners often associate such products with defection and cheap quality. I remember seeing a girl on Instagram complain about how the leggings she purchased from an American company were not the same as they looked on the website. She proceeded to examine the tags hanging from the side of the leggings and exclaimed loudly, “Of course this is made in China!”. After scrolling through the comments, I saw many empathizing with her failed purchase and jumping on the bandwagon to hate on other various items produced in China.

The funny thing about this is, the hate towards products that are made in China”doesn’t make any logical sense. Consumers often blame China for low quality products without understanding what the phrase “Made in China” really entails. Allow me to explain the process and break it down for you; hopefully what I talk about today will lower the amount of unnecessary judgement caused by simple misconceptions.

When companies decide to produce a product to sell on the market, they all strive to produce the most amount of merchandise for the least amount of money. Therefore, they search for a region where production costs are extremely cheap. Since the beginning of industrialized globalization, Asian countries have been known to have the cheapest wages, the least restrictions, and the large supply of workers when it comes to mass manufacturing. Due to China’s overwhelming population, it has the world's largest manufacturing workforce with over 112 million workers. In fact, China has more employees in the manufacturing sector than the U.S., France, Germany, Italy and Japan combined.

It is also important to note that since there’s severe job competition, many workers are less likely to care about pay, work hours, and working conditions. Since these aforementioned factors are deemed as less important, companies do not invest as much money into worker safety and worker rights. In 2009, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the average Chinese manufacturing worker only makes 1.75 U.S dollars per hour. To put things into perspective, this amount is only about 2.7% of their American counterparts’ average wage. With the abundance of low-wage workers available in the country, international companies see an opportunity to mass produce their commodities. Other than the cheap prices companies have to pay for manual labor, the great number of workers also result in higher productivity and efficiency. This is yet another incentive for businesses to manufacture their products in China.

It is no secret that China is “the world’s factory,” but the world has yet to fully understand what the phrase “Made in China” actually means. For many Americans, the “Made in China” label has become synonymous with low-cost and low-quality. But little do they know, the quality of a product is not determined by the manufacturer, which in this case, is a Chinese factory. Referring to The Economist, factories are required to fulfill the demands of their clients under a binding contract. This means that Chinese factories are simply producing what foreign companies have asked for. The clients, which could be American companies, are the ones who created the designs, chose the materials, and indicated their preferred method of production. After receiving information about what is required by the clients, factories go to work and produce exactly what has been required. For example, if a company insists on using low-cost, sub-par materials to save money, the product will be low-cost and sub-par. It’s as simple as that. This goes both ways, as world class products always have and still are being produced in China. Major companies with proper resources are willing to spend money and produce quality products with Chinese manufacturers.

Misconceptions like these perpetuate negative biases. The problematic bias against “Made in China” is prolonging stereotypes about Asian modernization, fueling prejudice and superiority. Since colonial times, many westerners have seen their methods of production and manufacturing as more proficient and proper. Furthermore, they’ve deemed themselves as more advanced compared to other regions. Those ideas have infiltrated the minds of the public, so when we see the phrase “Made in China”, there is almost an immediate association with low-quality or being less-than. China and other non-European nations should not be used as a point of reference for bad quality, simply because there is an abundance of perfectly capable factories in China that will not only meet but exceed expectations of clients. Countries such as Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia and many others have faced similar backlash regarding the qualities of their manufactured products. Items manufactured in China and other Asian countries have gotten such a negative reputation over the years that,