China Cheap Products, You Get What You Pay For 

China started a major industrial expansion thrust about a little over a decade ago. Since then, almost every industry in every country has considered producing goods through Chinese manufacturers. Never mind that most Chinese workers are treated a little bit better than slaves. This Chinese style of management brings efficiency and reduces costs. Cars, computers, toys, chocolates, medicines, all types of machinery, garments, jewelry, condoms, pens, pencils, erasers are widely produced in China on behalf of global brand names. The important thing thing is that we are not talking about Ching Wong Tong Ting toys, we are talking about decade old brands like Mattle. Lower costs means higher profits and that is what businesses are run for, to make profits. But there is a downside to this, cheap price will finally result in a compromise in quality and we have facts and figures to prove this statement. A neat ramble that will shock many of you.


Let us begin this topic on defective China made products with toys. These ofcourse are mainly targetted at children and children need to be protected from dangers of all types.  Toy giant Mattle in August 2007, recalled over 9 million toys that were made in China. The toys contained high diosages of lead and small magnets that could be swallowed by children. Just two wees before that, the same Mattle recalled 1.5 million toys also made in China for the lead scare.

In May 2007 millions of Chinese made ghoulish fake eyeball toys were recalled in the U.S. The problem was that these fake eyeballs were filled with kerosene! It is disgusting to learn that the user importer never cared to find out ALL components of the Chinese toy before importing it into the U.S. A retailer storing such toys is basically risking his premises to fire too.

In Nov 2007, a Chinese produced toy called Aqua Dots distributed by Spin Master (Toronto Canada) had to be recalled in the U.S. This toy contained small colorful beads that children were actually supposed to be played with. The toy was rated for children 4+ years. Some children ate the small beads and become unconcious. On testing the beads it was found that the beads contained a drug which is commonly now as the Date Drug. Consuming this drug causes vomitting and drowsiness.

Now let's take a few cases of medicines that were produced in Chinese factories or that used, material components purchased from Chinese medical supply manufacturers. The drugh Heparin had to be recalled by China's Shenzen Hepalink Pharmaceutical Co Ltd. An Italian pharmaceutical company named Opocrin, said that it had detected contamination in the crude Heparin supplied by the Chinese plant. Presumably, the Italian company was just buying raw material from China because it was cheaper than making it in Italy, the item was then packed and branded with the Italian manufacturer's name! The material was inspected after severe allergic reactions were reported by hospitals and clinics. Don't know much about medicine but, wonder why it was decided to test this cheaper version of Heparin on humans. Ofcourse the Italian manufacturer might have never reduced the price after sourcing cheaper Heparin from China.

In Nov 2009 Nordstorm sold a child stroller (pram) in the Maclaren model series. There was a major problem with the hinge design resulting in amputations of children's fingers. In the U.S alone 15 child accidents were reported, out of that 13 children had to have finger tip amputation. It is very clear that Nordstorm did no testing of the equipment at the design and development stage. The company acted more like a cheap broker just re-selling merchandise purchased from China.

A very interesting thing about the effect of substandard products from China is that, it is not always easy to detect them. For example, a bakery in France could be importing milk from Denmark and this milk could be using milk powder produced in China! The milk provider in Denmark would not like to disclose source of the milk powder, under the name of business confidentiality.

A company in Thailand that produces yogurt under a license from it's U.S counterpart, could be using milk powder purchased from a local Thai supplier. This Thai milk powder supplier could be importing the powder from China. As the supplier and buyer chain grows longer, understanding the relevance of the Chinese quality issues becomes blurred.

We came across a case where an organization producing inflammable gases, had changed the supplier for empty cylinders. The new source was supposed to be cheaper, management was impressed with the lower price ranges. The gas company never thought it necessary to check the wall thickness of the cylinders purchased from the new source.  The Chinese manufacturer of the empty gas cylinders had saved on metal weight to help reduce costs. Fortunately, the flaw in design was noticed early and corrective action could be taken. A nasty and highly destructive accident could have taken place. The sad part was that, the gas manufacturer was only looking around for cheap prices and did not care about how this could affect the end user. 

 One industry that has been hit hard by quality defects for Chinese made products is the automobile industry. In the first week of June 2010, Mazda and Ford recalled 230,000 cars made in China through a Joint venture. The cars experienced frequent engine failure, supposedly related to a software bug. Changan Automobile was the name of their Chinese counterpart.

3 June 2010 and Guangqi Honda starts recall of around 30,000 Odysseys cars. These made in China cars had some problem with the oil return tube. This could cause the oil to leak and pose a safety risk. No further elaboration was given but, it is well known that leaking oil can cause a nasty fire.

We hate the way in which automobile manufacturers proudly claim to have done a voluntary recall. It is like saying that ... we noticed the problem before you did. It more importantly implies that complete product testing was done only after the vehicle started selling! There is nothing to boast about here, the manufacturer rushes to China to get cheap prices. And when you get cheap prices, you cannot push for good quality. So you kept your fingers crossed and tried to peddle junk and unsafe equipment or products.

Computer giant HP in May 2010 initiated the recall of more than 50,000 laptop batteries made in China. These lithium-ion batteries suffer from a quality issue, they tend to get overheated and catch fire. Remember that we are talking about a laptop where users need to literally hug the computer. Thank heavens you don't see many people place their laptop on their laps when using it! Everyone including HP knows that Chinese batteries cost around 50% less than thos produced elsewhere. And yet, this computer giant shamelessly refused to check if this huge price reduction comes with it's own bag of compromises.

The laptop battery recall is not something new for the Chinese or for the U.S computer industry. The blind chase for low costs has blinded some of Americas most respected corporate offices. In Aug 2006, Dell Computers started the recall of more than 4.1 million laptop batteries. These were made in China or assembled in China. The batteries posed a safety hazard as they got overheated.

With most countries and most industries being seduced by the 'dream' prices that most Chinese products come with, the dangers of quality defects can be tremendous. The best example to illustrate this scenario can be seen in the melamine contamination scandal of 2008. Some of the biggest Chinese milk powder manufacturers had been contaminating the powder with melamine! This was not a mistake, it was not an oversight it was deliberately done to fool milk testers into believing that the milk contained a higher level of protein than it really did. It is now known that hundreds of thousands of Chinese children were affected with the melamine contamination. A condition that can easily lead to kidney malfunction and even kidney failure.

Sherwood brand 'gold coin' chocolates imported from China were taken off Canadian shelves. They were reportedly contaminated with melamine. The American chocolate producer Cadbury recalled tens of thousands of chocolates that it had produced in it's Chinese factory. The milk used had apparently been contanimated with melamine. In Australia, an imported candies from China by the name of White Rabit Brand, were recalled because of the same contanimation. India banned the import of milk and milk products from China including chocolates, the risk of melamine contanimation was high. In the U.K thousands of Kola brand biscuits (from China) were taken off the shelves after they tested positive for melamine contanimation. In Hongkong, thousands of Lipton's Tea packets sold as instant milk tea, were taken off the shelves after they were tested and found to be contanimated with melamine.

The list of products and countries affected by the Chinese melamine scandal is endless. Power charged reporters labelled Chinese manufacturers as greedy and selfish. But they conveniently forgot that world wide brand names fell in the same category. They rushed to Chinese manufacturers only because cheap prices were being offered. They did not care about quality or consumer safety, they wanted cheap prices. Just like the Chinese manufacturers who continue to compromise on quality with the objective of flooding world markets with cheap products.

A Chinese TV channel had disclosed something very interesting a few years ago. Needless to say that the reporters were sacked but, many claim that the contents of the report were true. It was related to a popular Chinese steamed dish with meat as an ingredient. The report claimed that soaked cardboard was added to the meat to increase it's volume. Video clips showing how it really happened were also aired in the report.

You can email your comments to this is a hot topic that will never go away. If you believe that Chinese products are cheap because Chinese labor is cheap, you need to know something more. The super low prices provided for many Chinese products can come only by compromising on quality of material. Such prices are not possible by only maintaining low worker wages.