Defending Chinese-made products

September 29, 2011
By: Vicki Bell

Ricky Nelson had it right. You certainly can't please everyone, and it's foolish to try. If we editors had to please everyone every time we write something, nothing would ever be published. Someone somewhere will find fault, perhaps deeming it factually or politically incorrect or personally offensive.

I was reminded of this when last week's "Tube Talk" e-newsletter elicited responses to an item about a recent report on NBC's Nightly News about rising labor costs in China that could bring jobs back to the U.S.

The report described shop owner Bill Green's routine visit to his factory in Dongguan, China. For years Green had generally been happy with the products made at the factory, but no longer. He found major problems that could cause the products  to rust. After the issue was brought to the attention of the factory boss and chief engineer, the engineer said, "We can’t fix every problem. It takes too much manpower."

"'None of these problems are hard to fix,' Green shot back. 'We work to these standards all the time in the United States.'" 

Green plans to move some of the work back to the U.S.

 At the conclusion of the piece in "Tube Talk," which also mentioned increased opportunities for exporting to China, we asked readers to share their thoughts.

An engineer from Utah clearly did not care for the remarks in the newsletter. Here is his response verbatim: "Vicki: My expertise is in the market of welded steel pipe manufacturing. I have made four trips to China during the past six years. Two trips in 2010. The trips were to troubleshoot pipe mill operations and to commission two new mills.

"I represent two Chinese pipe manufacturers as I attend the semiannual meetings of the American Petroleum Institute (API).

"Usually I deal with Chinese individuals as they are involved in pipe mill with well over $100 million investment. I see the low individual and the mighty, all busting their ass to do the best job they can to produce a quality product. If you have never been to China and you are writing for some one that has had a bad deal there, well shame on you!!" 

I respect this opinion and appreciate the reader taking the time to share his thoughts. No, I have never been to China—never visited a Chinese factory, but I have bought products made in China and, on occasion, have been very disappointed in them. In fact, I wrote about my experience with my Chinese-made eyeglass frames in a post last year. 

I also have several notes from readers throughout the past few years describing their own negative experiences with Chinese-made products. A "stainless steel" teapot that rusted comes to mind.

Google recalled Chinese-made products in 2011 and you’ll retrieve more than 20,000,000 results. Of course, that doesn’t mean that many products have been recalled, and I don’t mean to imply that it does. has a list of 100 Chinese-made products recalled from February through September of this year.

Yes, products made anywhere can be subject to recall. How many of us have had to take our vehicles—both those made in the U.S. and those made elsewhere—back to the dealership to correct a defect? (My hand is up.) And there no doubt are good-quality products made in China. The news report cited in "Tube Talk" simply alluded to quality and rising labor costs being among the issues driving production back to the U.S.—or elsewhere—from China. And Mr. Green's experience is no less valid than the Utah engineer's.

One "Tube Talk" reader shared an historical view of the outsourcing/reshoring trends: "Ours is a small job shop. Lately, we have been helping several customers 'reshore' some of their products.

"Most job shops have ridden the roller coaster of offshore production several times already. In fact, Japan was one of the first (offshoring sites), then Taiwan, Indonesia, and now China. Oh, well!"

 And that’s what I have to say about not pleasing everyone: "Oh, well!"

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Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8209