The Truth About "Made in China"

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, for some consumers, it’s difficult to move past the negatives and accept the fact that quality goods can be produced in Asian countries. The key is to be knowledgeable about whether or not the actual company has an intent to create high-quality goods. If not, you are perpetuating a superiority complex by suggesting customers can place the blame on China, instead of the actual American brand.


Additionally, the term, “Made in China”, is often confused with “assembled in China”. As defined by itimanufacturing, “Made” indicates all or most of the parts and components used to make the product originated from that country and were also manufactured in that same country. “Assembled,” on the other hand, indicates that parts came from other countries and were combined by the sourcing manufacturer who put the parts together to assemble the product in its final form. Accordingly, consumers who receive low-quality products assembled in China should not direct their anger towards the country’s manufacturing process, but instead examine where the product materials are sourced.


In contrast, there are many high quality products manufactured by China! I would like to highlight some high quality products that China is responsible for manufacturing. Sourcify provided a list of the top 10 products made in China in 2018. Topping the list is personal high-speed computers, also known as PC’s. So, next time you finish a great round of Call of Duty, check if your computer is actually made in China. The next item on the list has almost become a human necessity: mobile phones. Ah yes, your iPhone X’s and iPhone XR’s are, most likely, assembled in China. In addition to these two technological products, many luxury clothing and shoe brands manufacture their products in China. According to The Fashion Law, Prada, Burberry, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, and Miu Miu are just a few of many high-end brands that work with China to produce luxury clothing pieces. In 2019, an estimated 20% of Prada bags, clothes and shoes were manufactured in China. We all know that luxury brands have their title due to their high prices and therefore better qualities. These brands help prove that products made in China can be of extremely high standards.


China has great importance in the global economy, especially in manufacturing. It is safe to say that we wouldn’t be able to have many of the products we do now if it wasn’t for China’s ability to mass manufacture. Consequently, “Made in China” shouldn’t deter you from buying a product, it is the company that designs and funds it that requires your attention! Personally, I am so tired of hearing people complain about how their bad quality products are produced in China, and shaming the country for being responsible for the whole thing. Those of you who’ve stumble upon this article should now understand that “Made in China” is not the reason for bad quality, but an irresponsible lack of funding certainly leads to sub-par product.


- Eva