Keeping An Eye On Chinese Toymakers

A Chinese worker makes Santa Claus toys at a toy factory in Guangzhou, in southern China's Guangdong province in this Dec. 12, 2006 file photo.
Imaginechina via AP Images

The Big Brother cameras monitor factory floors and via the Internet American buyers can also watch in their offices back in the United States, CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen reports.

CBS News was shown all this because China desperately wants to convince America it is cleaning up its toymaking act.

"There is an old Chinese saying," says one officer. "If you can see it, you'll believe it."

Seeing to believe it is why we were invited to this factory in southern China, with its own quality control manager.

Only good quality, says quality control manager Eric Chin of Guandong, will give customers confidence.

This eagerness for openness comes because China's multi-billion dollar toy industry is under threat.

So, no surprise we were assured that supplies like paint are now triple-checked.

But the reality is that other factories are not so careful. Since the toy recalls started in the United States, Chinese authorities have shut down some 800 manufacturers.

And authorities are lighting a fire under state testing labs.

U.S. companies share the blame, pushing so hard to cut costs that some Chinese makers use cheaper lead paint.

Officials say the lab Petersen visited is working flat out - people are on overtime, more staff are being hired, and no wonder. They say they're doing five times as many tests as they did just a year ago. And China's government has sent some 200,000 inspectors across the country, checking all kinds of plants and manufacturers, from pharmaceuticals to farming.

But the main focus is toys - where China admits it is hurting.

All toy manufacturers, said a government-run newspaper, will feel the chill this winter.

Experts say China is getting better.

"But it still has half a century to go to catch up to where the United States is," said Daniel Rosen of the China Strategic Advisory.

China's ambition is selling America high-end products like TVs and cars.

But if they can't get simple wooden toys right, the world may turn its back on anything with a tainted label: "Made in China."