Bad Products Not China’s Fault?
Prerna Mankad argues the spate of bad products coming in from China are causing an overreaction from the innumerate. He cites a WSJ piece claiming that many of the defects are actually “the fault of the engineers who designed them and would have been a hazard even if the toys had been manufactured in the U.S.”
While that obviously shouldn't detract from the very real safety issues concerning products ranging from toothpaste to pharmaceuticals, it is important for providing some perspective: It's not always China's fault. Millions of Chinese products are safe, and make our lives easier and cheaper to an incredible degree. Of course it's important to tackle the problems with product-safety regulation in China, but it's equally important that we don't throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.
A Wendy Kaufman story on NPR’s “Morning Edition” yesterday of the latest Mattel recall included an interview with an expert who noted that the reason so many of the bad products are coming from China is that the vast majority of products in certain industries are Chinese imports, making it stand to reason that most of the bad ones would come from China, too.
While I remain dubious of the concern for safety of a government that employs slave labor and otherwise treats its people as disposable commodities, these arguments have serious merit. It’s reasonable to have elevated caution about Chinese products at this point. Quite likely, though, we’re going to see Congress overreact by orders of magnitude, both to score political points and to use these recalls as an excuse for regulations that amount to protectionism for more expensive domestic substitutes that are, in reality, no safer.
UPDATE: Dave Schuler points out that cutting corners and shoddy trade practices may be part of the reason Chinese goods have reached their current state of dominance. A reasonable counterpoint.