Made in China = Piece of Junk

Last Updated Oct 7, 2010 10:55 PM EDT

My house is full of crap that was made in China. (Hint: I'm not using the term "crap" as a synonym for "stuff".) My house is pretty typical in that way. The entire United States is flooded with low-quality, poorly-manufactured crap made in China. And it often has a U.S. brand name slapped on it.

Not everything that's made in China is crap. Their top-of-the-line semiconductor fabrication plants are the best in the world, for instance. But that's because every computer chip must be tested thoroughly or it won't work at all. For most stuff -- toys, medicine, consumer electronics, kitchen gear, tools, etc., etc., etc. -- what comes out of China is cheap, in both senses of the word.

Over the past two years, I've gone through 3 cameras, all made in China. Each one broke after about three or four months of light use. I've also had three computers with Chinese-made fans in them, all of which have turned into loud whining electronic whistles. I have an entire collection of Chinese-built vacuum-insulated containers where the vacuum broke within a week of purchase. I could go on, but you get the point.

My kids have been bought innumerable Chinese-made toys, all of which have broken in about a day, except for the ones I had to send back because they had poison paint on them. I recently bought a Chinese-built Etch-a-Sketch. Although new, it barely worked, drawing an almost imperceptible line. So I dug around in the attic for the hand-me-down Etch-a-Sketch I had as a child. It still worked perfectly. It was made in Ohio.

Chinese-made goods mostly suck because many Chinese business people have lousy business values. When a Chinese manufacturer takes a contract, they often feel little or no actual obligation to manufacture according to spec, if cutting corners will make more money for them or their guanxi network of family and friends.

The front page of today's New York Times provides a glimpse into how corruption and lying have become endemic among the Chinese professional class. It documents "dishonest practices that permeate society, including students who cheat on college entrance exams, scholars who promote fake or unoriginal research, and dairy companies that sell poisoned milk to infants." It's become part of the culture and it's reflected in the product quality of goods manufactured there.

Don't get me wrong. I don't blame the Chinese. They're the ones that will suffer in the long term for letting corruption fester. When it comes to the stuff that's sold in the U.S., I blame the U.S. executives who were so stupid that they thought they'd be getting a bargain by outsourcing. By sticking U.S. brand names on Chinese-made products, these executives have played bait-and-switch on the American public.

And now there's nothing that you or I and anybody else can do about it, because now the only stuff that you can buy in this country is cheap disposable Chinese-made crap. And U.S. businesses, with the connivance of the U.S. government, have destroyed the manufacturing base in this country, driving wages down the toilet, so that all most people can afford is this junk.

I keep wondering when U.S. companies are going to wise up and start in reinvesting the United States, which used to be the envy of the world when it came to high-quality manufacturing. I'm not holding my breath though, because while U.S. executives are busy examining their own polyps, Chinese executives are laughing all the way to the bank, which BTW they now own.
I'm curious, though. Am I the only person who's noticed this? Am I the only person this bothers? Am I the only person who would be perfectly happy to buy a camera for $400 rather than $200, if it would last ten years instead of ten weeks? Leave a comment and let me know whether it's just me, because frankly I feel like a voice in the wind when it comes to this stuff.
  • Geoffrey James

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