Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Bull in the China Shop

There has been a lot going on recently with regards to China and some questionable products being sent around the globe from there. It’s been considerable – and in my opinion, quite worrying for China.

Yesterday, it was announced that a huge amount of Chinese-made toys are being recalled around the world – a lot of them here in US, as they use lead-containing paint. There were others that had magnets that could come detached, and cause all sorts of problems if swallowed.

This would indicate that these companies making these toys are cutting corners to lower cost. Oops! Now parents will be reading labels on toys to avoid Chinese-made products. (Does anyone else make toys these days in any significant numbers?)

On a side note – and one which will also raise more eyebrows – Chinese officials announced (according to an AP story) that the top man in one of the factories that made these sub-standard toys, killed himself.

Last week – AutoBeat Daily had an article talking about how a Russian auto magazine ran a crash test on a Chery (a Chinese Auto company) Amulet sedan – they included a link to a YouTube video. The crash appears to fail miserably – the dummy gets mashed and the entire front end, back into the passenger compartment, seems to disintegrate. Bottom line is – (assuming this is a real test, properly conducted) – this car in this condition appears to have no chance, (in it the tested configuration), of meeting federal regulations. Chery, naturally, are meanwhile questioning the validity of the test (the test was done at another car companies lab – conflicts of interest??). Whether this test is actual and valid or not, this news will likely have a significant effect on the public image of these cars when Chrysler buys them in next year and rebadges them as Dodges….

Then there was the whole seafood thing. China is one of, if not the top exporter of fish to the USA. As many of the natural waterways or water bodies in China are heavily polluted (from industry to serve the West), fish don't do so well in them. The other option to the fish farmers is farming - but to do so and keep the fish from getting diseased is no small tast. It's come to light that these Chinese fish farmers are feeding the fish antibiotics. So the choice is: sick fish from bad water, or drugged fish from farms. Neither sound too appealing. The US FDA is now insisting that a bunch of species are tested for safety. However, people will be cautious about where their fish comes from. Granted, there is no law in place to show all Countries Of Origin on foods... just yet.

From what I can remember, the contaminated pet food earlier this year had bad vegetable protein filler that was made in China. That episode killed a handful of pets - pets are held in very high esteem here in the US.

There have been others as well (toothpaste, kids jewelry)– but it seems these issues all came in close in time to each other. China is treading on thin ice now, with regards to its export to the USA. Consumers tend to be wary about the cars they drive, the toys they give their kids, the contaminants in the food they eat, or feed their pets. It's only a matter of time until a "Made In China" marking on a product reads the same as "Danger. Do not Buy".

But where does the problem originate? When an American supermarket chain pushes its Chinese suppliers to reduce costs to the point of going out of business, corners will be cut. And when one supplier is seen to do that, why should the next not do so to make an extra couple of yuan? Bottom line is, it's greed on all parts, and it all ends in some level of discomfort for pretty much all involved.

So, I just picked up my water cannister to take a drink. On the underside, the words "MADE IN CHINA" are embossed.

The water tastes just fine.

No comments: