Cheap Products Made in China Are Not Just Cheap Chinese Products

Thursday, August 21, 2008 4:37
Posted in category From the Factory Floor

While China has become a country that has begun to manufacture nearly everything, or components of nearly everything, it is still being dogged as a country who only produces low quality crap on a regular basis.

It is something that for me defies logic as I know that Dell, Philips, and Samsung, Panasonic, Nokia and others have huge  operations for manufacturing consumer electronics. at the same time that Medtronic, Bayer, Haemonetics, and GE manufacture healthcare equipment at the same time BMW, Toyota, GM, Briggs & Straton, and Cummins manufacture automobiles at the same time Boeing, Airbus, and Rolls Royce manufacture airplane parts… in CHINA

Sure, there is a fair amount of cheap crap being produced plushy toys, lighters, pens, etc, but at what point will China get away from being known as a country that produces 2nd and 3rd generation goods at low cost to a country that is known for producing high value goods

Why I bring this up, is that I just read the Consumerist article Restoration Hardware Shifting Nearly All Of Its Furniture Production To China?, where the article and more than a few comments land blast China’s product quality

Quoted: Author

Or wait, maybe the company is lying now. Actually, you can’t get the identical quality furniture made more cheaply in China. It will be a product of lesser quality but the company is hoping really hard that charging a couple of hundred dollars less will mean that people will be blinded by the good deal.


Made in China is like a warning sticker that says do not but this potentially dangerous poorly made product.

For sure, the Chinese furniture industry is a huge one and there are a wide range of qualities that can be found here, and the author and readers of the article need to understand a simple rule of China.

If company X comes to China to produce a crappy product at a lower cost, that doesn’t mean that China produces crappy product.  It means that company was only willing to pay for a crappy product.

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19 Responses to “Cheap Products Made in China Are Not Just Cheap Chinese Products”

  1. Craig says:

    August 21st, 2008 at 8:32 am

    If company X comes to China, their suppliers WILL substitute low-quality products and hope that they get away with it. It’s not about purchasing low-quality products, it’s about purchasing a high-quality product and finding out later that someone swapped out the gluten that you paid for and substituted toxic melamine instead. It’s finding out that the fireproof ABS plastic that you paid for has been mixed with a lower grade that doesn’t pass UL standards. It’s finding that a factory has made 100,000 products for children, and didn’t use the glue you specified because it was too expensive and too troublesome to import, they used some superglue that they bought from the store across the road instead. Superglue with a skull and crossbones on the label. Been there, done that…

  2. Rich says:

    August 21st, 2008 at 8:46 am


    Sure this happens, but it is not 100% of the time, and it is really something that is dependent on the buyer as well… and the structure.

    For us using contract manufacturers, we QC at different points and work with the supplier at several spots in the order.. so not much a supplier can do that we don’t know about.

    for GE or a major MNC, this is all mute point, and this gets back to my post. Are GE products (made in China) crap? As foreign controlled manufacturing makes up a significant (up to 50%) of the good manufactured, and high tech products are making up a significant part of the entire pie, is it still fair to say that Chinese products are cheap crap?

    Or should we start looking a little deeper?

  3. Bill says:

    August 21st, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Which product should I buy, one that is made in China, where making a quality product is more difficult due to difficulties in finding quality supply of material, and quality workmanship, or a product that is made elsewhere where such problems are not as severe ? Which one should I spend more time inspecting to see that it is actually a good product ?

    Any marginal increase in doubt about the product quality means more time and money spent. And does a “made in China” label increase my doubt about a product over that from, say Germany, knowing you can get bad products from both countries ?

  4. javier says:

    August 21st, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Agree with your idea, if a company goes to China to make a crapy product is not a fault of China, but for the most of people is not that in China they make crapy, is that in China everything is bad quality.

    Honestly I hope it folow like that because the occidentals know where to go to make a factory of cheap products but they didnt thought who is going to buy, also cheap products, after some years and when all occidental factories close and live the buyers without job and incomes.

    I saw in a good shop a laptop of a well known brand of computers at 700 euros, with 17″ and all the components as a very complete product, the problem is that the machine is finished with a very low quality brilliant plastic that reflex as bad as the quality is. Perception is bad, price is incredible. An spanish couple were commenting ¨for sure is made in china¨ (the brand is american), ¨live it, is going to have problems if it is too cheap¨ says the woman.

    Other examples are with fabrics and furnitures, I worked in decoration business, and the people is saying everytime more ¨I tried with chinese things (maybe were not but they thought ¨chinese¨ only because were cheap products) but I prefer to pay more and not to change the curtains every year¨.

    All the people are waiting here the chinese cars, ¨a brand with a model like BMW at 10.000 euros!!¨, and the european brands are helping their own future quote losses lowing the quality of the materials they use in their models to make the cars everytime cheaper, forgetting that they can not to compete in cheap cars.

    With these thoughts, not 100% right as all very general ideas, If China order a law to keep a minimum standard quality in every product the factories working there make, is going to be the deffinitive step to win the future market, the present is already of them of course.

    Good web, congratulations, very useful to know how the business things are in China, and to help foreign people to know that is not the country who made the crapy products but many of the occidental brands who make there what they dont do in their countries without lose the face -or brand-.

  5. Nru says:

    August 21st, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    This problems goes much deeper than one might think … if X goes to a factory to get something produced, it doesnt just depend on the money paid it also depends on the relationship that the client has with the factory, on whether on not they bargained hard ( bargained just to get cheapest price or bargained to a win-win situation ) , on whether they ( X ) are willing to trust the factory or want the factory to sign a contract ( a sign of low/no trust for them ).

    We have worked on million $ orders with the very local suppliers in Taizhou ( Zhejiang ) without ever having contracts and purely on trust & relationship , and anytime we have had problems is because either we did not specify which raw material to use or we bargained too hard and they substituted the raw materials ( A problem which is very easily solved if you just ask them when negotiating whether the final price will affect any smallest raw material cost and more often than not the factory will tell you if the cost is too low for them to use the best raw materials )

    You can never say that the factory ‘WILL’ screw you up, it just means that you have approached the factories making up your mind that they will screw you and you dont trust them from the time you walk into their company.

  6. Rich says:

    August 21st, 2008 at 7:58 pm


    You ask some interesting questions, and address a very interesting points on what is your time worth, how much time should you spend to qualify a product, and what your choices are.

    the question I have is whether or not it is so clear. When you are looking at a German toy that is hand crafted vs. a Barbie doll made by Mattel in China.. are you necessarily comparing apples to apples?

    one step further, should you have the choice between a Barbie made in Germany vs. a Barbie made in China which would you choose?


  7. Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    August 21st, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    One of our Italian clients manufactures furniture in Qingdao. That furniture – a top quality product – ends up being purchased by their buyers, and in one major case, is sold to the Kremlin for use in Russia’s State Ballrooms and Palaces, whom they have been supplying for the past ten years.

  8. Rich says:

    August 21st, 2008 at 10:20 pm


    would very much agree with that. I know people who bargain hard and it creates a relationship right away that is about savings for the buyer… how can a supplier not absorb some of that attitude?

    We had a situation where there was a problem, and it clearly was in our court where the fault lied. We had not discussed the various metal properties with the supplier well enough, and while they stayed at the same grade, there was an extra parameter we had not worked through. It was noticed in the next step, and we had to fork out the extra doe to make it right…. and when the supplier messed up later on, it only made it easier to work through.


  9. Rich says:

    August 21st, 2008 at 10:22 pm


    I have a friend, not supply to the Kremlin, who started his own line in China. Spent 9 months going through factory after factory and in the end put together a supply chain that produces some of the best quality stuff around. goes for 2000 USD a pop, and no one sitting on them would say they are cheap in quality.


  10. oohkuchi says:

    August 22nd, 2008 at 1:43 am

    Interesting comments. In visits to China it always amazes me how a country that can put a man in space and build bullet trains still has not mastered the art of screwing down a toilet seat. Or, you buy a glue stick, the top falls off on unwrapping, and that’s it, product dead. Or you buy a badminton racket and the strings are snapping in days. This kind of stuff was par for the course in the 1980s, but it is really disappointing to find in 2008 that a small but significant chunk of the economy is still producing completely worthless crap and getting away with it in the market–and at the same time giving ammunition to critics. I really hope this problem sorts itself out in the next few years.

  11. Nru says:

    August 22nd, 2008 at 4:48 am


    Next time you go to a supermarket in China to buy a badminton racket don’t buy the 5rmb racket go for the 50rmb one, they also make the good stuff but people buy/order the cheap crap and then blame China for it. I know a LOT of companies who dont want to sell to certain countries ( Indian subcontinent for instance ) because they say that the buyers from these countries need really cheap stuff or/and bargain a lot…. You cannot expect the whole country to change overnight, you compare it to itself a few years ago instead of comparing it with germany or other developed places where there are hardly enough people to fill a Chinese city.


  12. CiCi Lau says:

    December 3rd, 2008 at 3:02 am

    China products are good! I do construction products, marble ,granite with Chinese factory in Xiamen. Xiamen Ally Stone for many years. It is good service and good price. If you are interested in, you can visit the website for more information.

  13. Lori Decker says:

    April 23rd, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    All I know is that anything mechanical or electronic that I (or someone I know )purchased under a known brand name that was made in China has failed to operate after less than one year of minimal to moderate use. All directions for proper use, storage, and battery charging were followed explicity. These items were not inaexpensive: a $150.00 ‘Braun’ (that’s right, a German brand known for high quality) coffee pot, a $250.00 Roomba vacuum cleaner, a $150.00 LG cell phone all have failed. I could not get even minimal satisfaction after contacting customer service. I have a modest income. Two of these items were gifts, which I could not afford to buy or replace myself. What is even more frustrating is it is next to impossible to find any reasonably priced products made anywhere BUT CHINA 11

  14. Geez says:

    May 11th, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    The Chinese are notorious for substituting quality materials for inferior ones after the production run has started. This applies to aircraft parts, medical devices, etc. I had the misfortune of having dealt with Chinese parts and assemblies for both medical and aerospace. (I am NOT referring to the cheap trinkets such as toys and christmas lighting). Sub-assemblies starting arriving at our US final assembly plant with major deficiencies. The specs were very clearly written. All of my vendors now have to sign an affidavit affirming NO Chinese content.

  15. EvilTim says:

    June 6th, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    My boss recently discovered how cheap he could have electronics made in China and immediately ceased production here. We pleaded for him not to do it but he did not listen. Now I have a growing pile of useless crap growing under my bench (20% failure rate) and angry customers calling up every week complaining about the quality. They are constantly trying to substitute parts and the quality of the PCB substrate is atrocious. It is ruining our name. But still the boss won’t listen. All he cares about is profit. Some of these products are dangerous. I am quitting this company soon. I want nothing to do with it.

  16. Kirsten says:

    September 5th, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Isn’t that the point, cheap price = cheap goods, and companies that out-source to China for a cheaper price are just trading quality for profits. I’m hoping it will eventually catch up with them. I have a 10 yr. old frig that is acting up, but I’m afraid to replace it with the new ones which I hear are lasting only 3 yrs. Slap a stainless steel facade on cheap compressor and condenser and charge the customer even more for less. Maybe if we made companies pay for the life-cycle cost, including waste disposal this would stop! I guess unless we refuse to buy any of it, it will just go on. I’m thinking a couple bags of ice each week might be my only influence on the market. I’ll bet (for now) my supermarket is still running freezers not made in China.

  17. frank says:

    November 15th, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Isn’t it interesting how it is the liberals who are always complaining about all these human rights issues, ie china, while yet they are the very perpetrators of higher regulations and higher taxes, whether it be the corporate tax, income tax, the death tax, gas taxes, energy taxes, property taxes, carbon taxes, capital gains taxes, retirement taxes, wealth taxes, windfall profit taxes, consumption taxes and so on and so on, ultimately pushing the cost of ALL products sky high here in the US, resulting in companies going overseas to have products produced. Imagine if the left decided to get off their Keynesian idea of economics and instead of raising taxes and forcing US companies overseas, lower taxes and regulations in order to keep companies and manufacturing here? The achievements would be two fold. First they’d put an end or at least slow down the evil slave labor camps they are always talking about in other countries. Second, they’d bring jobs back to US manufacturing companies and help the US economy domestically. But the left is too stupid to grasp such fundamental ideas. Stupid and evil.

  18. terry says:

    April 7th, 2012 at 4:24 am

    Having working with these cheaters for the past 12 years i can say that i saw nearly everything. Chinese mentality to skip some steps, cut some costs, do some tricks thinking that they are way smarter than us and at the end the same shitty excuse, “meibamfa, everyone is doing the same” made us to eventually take the decision and relocate production in a more honest place, Vietnam. It is in chinese peoples blood the cheating culture, the way to make fast cash ignoring every possible risk and showing their asses when $hit happens, giving you a large smile with their smoked black teeths. At the end of the day, we are happy when we realize that 99.99% of the funds which they make by $crewing us are lost while gambling or making so called “long time investments” imagine how smart one need to be buying a flat or usually several flats in some ghost town blocks and waiting the price to rise to the sky, leaving it unoccupied for a decade since nobody is that dumb or can aford to pay xxxx RMB monthly rent in the middle of nowhere, then jump from the window when the price had fallen to a quarter or less.

  19. kmen says:

    July 18th, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I understand the sentiments pass around regarding China. From my understanding the Chinese in China are ‘greedy and cheaters etc etc’, due to their living in oppression for so many years. To them, now that they have the opportunity to make some money they are going to do all they can to get that money due to their fear of poverty. I also understand that teachers are not held in very high regard in China especially during the Cultural Revolution where they used to publicly humiliate and abuse teachers and educated persons. Thus it is a vicious cycle. The people now in China are not educated in the morality and ethical practices. They are taught to fend for themselves without regard for others. Their ’emperor’ children (single-child policy) are spoilt from the time of birth and a whole lot of other reasons lead to the Chinese born in modern China lacking empathy and moral. Religion is not big in their country either. I’m not saying religion is good or bad but religion enforces faith and sometimes faith is what we need in our everyday life. The modern Chinese all lack that and it is a little late to right the wrongs now. Maybe if they reformed the whole education system, there might still be chance to save the country.