Chinese products, a risk for the consumers and businesses

A senior US senator has called for all toys being imported into the country from China to be inspected after a massive recall by toymaker Mattel.

China has become an economic giant producing items cheap both in price and quality in most cases. I am one of the consumers of these products. Each year I have to change my China-made keyboard – which I buy for MDH 40 or £2. Some of the letters on the keys are erased or sometimes keys become dysfunctional. So typing becomes frustrating. Two years ago, ten people in different parts of Morocco died out of suffocation in their bathrooms because of gas leak from China-made water gas heaters – that had been bought at half the price of German ones.

Chinese products managed to conquer the world because they are cheap. Rich countries accept them because if they have to make them, that would be more costly, sometimes necessitating workers from abroad. It is a way of reducing dependence on foreign workers. Poor countries have no means to produce Chinese products like dolls as economically this will need building factories whose cost will be above the benefits of sale. It is a kind of shortcut to have products easily without bothering to produce them. Some countries, if trying to produce small products like pens or notebooks will produce something even worse. So Chinese products remain preferable at least to reduce loss.

But sometimes publicity against Chinese products can have other objectives behind it. Its aim is to limit Chinese competition, now threatening the economy of the West. Western products are of high quality but of a high price. Poor people or those with a middle income prefer Chinese products although their lifespan can be short. As China has trade agreements with the EU and the USA, these can’t prevent it from exporting to them. But for Western companies, the best way to limit this competition is to publicise the shortcomings of Chinese products, especially when it comes to health scare. If they succeed inn dissuading people from buying small products like toothpaste and dolls, no one in his right mind will venture to buy ,say, a Chinese car which can prove environmentally dangerous and accidentally uncontrollable during driving.

Perhaps, the Chinese need to be more rigorous in producing and inspecting what they produce before they put it on international market. It’s better to accept loss at home by destroying defective products (or cynically selling them to poor countries who have no means to mount an international campaign) than putting them in countries like the USA which have the power of the media to expose their defects. Economic ambitions shouldn’t blind Chinese businesses to international standard. They should know that to kill a business is to expose it as a health risk. Chinese businesses should regain their health by prescribing for themselves the standards and the ethics of carrying out business.

On a final note, some would argue that the current losses are just the curse of sweatshops where the workers are treated as slaves, working more and getting less. The Chinese workers and their conditions compared to the recommendations of International labour Organisation is another topic. China needs not only to improve the quality of its products but also the conditions of its labour force.

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