Thursday, June 14, 2012

Made in China

It's difficult to buy gifts for our friends in China. That's because so many goods on sale here are made there. When I was looking in the infant department of a major department store (Macy's) to get ideas, I found something I really liked. The label said "Made in China." I asked the clerk what they had that wasn't made in China, and she replied, "nothing." I liked it, so I bought the item, though I felt a little bit like I was carrying coals to Newcastle when I mailed it.

It used to bother me a lot more. I can remember clipping off the Made in China labels on gifts for our Chinese friends, though I don't do this any more.

When they visited us in the United States last year, our Shanghai friends did what all tourists do on holiday: They shopped. Some of the things they bought - you guessed it! - were made in China.

They explained their decisions by saying the items were cheaper in the United States than what they'd pay at home and the quality was a lot better.

Chinese don't like to buy things that are made in China if they can help it. They much prefer to buy imported items, particularly if they come from the United States. When I lived there, I bought Chinese-made items, such as an iron and hair dryer. My friends got after me for this, saying the quality wasn't very good, but I never had any problems. In fact, I still have the hair dryer and take it with me when we go to China.

I will admit buying them was an experience. Clerks would open the boxes and test each item to see if it worked. They'd even do this with light bulbs, and it was amazing to see the difference in brightness for the same watt bulbs.

I used to laugh when I saw "Adiads" rather than "Adidas" on t-shirts. I laughed the hardest when I found a pair of athletic shoes in a street market that had Nike tops and Reebok bottoms. If they'd been my size, I probably would have bought them, and sometimes wish I'd bought them anyway because people don't believe me.

We recently watched a documentary, China Inside Out, which aired during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. A good portion of it was devoted to the balance of trade between China and the United States. In 2007 alone, the United States imported $13 billion worth of athletic shoes made in China, according to broadcast journalist Bob Woodruff.  It was quite an interesting program, and I recommend watching it if you missed it when it originally aired.

Are you going to China?

If a trip to China is in your plans, check out Cheryl's China, my website about traveling in China. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about travel in China.