Made in China

October 17th, 2008

And by that, I don’t mean that Apple’s products aren’t made in China—they just don’t feel like they’re made in China.

Michael Mistretta

I couldn’t help but respond to this. Michael’s comment, I think unintentionally, assumes that “made in China” is a bad thing — that Chinese manufacturing is inferior, that it is “cheap.” That is a common stereotype throughout the U.S., and the phrase “made in China” is itself used to mean poorly constructed.

Let’s remember back to the 1960′s and 1970′s. Japan had begun exporting goods to the world, and in the beginning, they were of lesser quality. Japanese goods were considered poor quality, cheaply-manufactured goods. Yet it didn’t take very long for Japan to become one of the highest-quality manufactures in the world. By the 1980s, and certainly the 1990s, Japanese manufacturing was synonymous with quality. There aren’t many people today who would say that, on the whole, the Japanese produce low quality goods — Japanese cars are some of the finest designed cars in the world.

Design. China, which became recognized as an unskilled-labor nation in the 1980s and 1990s, now produces a large part of the world’s electronics. Perhaps some are not high-quality. My contention here, though, is that the distinguishing factor between a high-quality Chinese good (an Apple product) and a low-quality one (a low-priced PC, perhaps) is not the manufacturer themselves, but the company that designed it. The difference is design. Apple’s emphasis is on great design, so their products tend to be high-quality in their design and manufacturing, both because the initial product design is excellent and because they have high standards for their manufacturers to follow.

Let’s dispel the stereotype that “made in China” means a low-quality product, and replace it with something a little more accurate: “poorly designed” means a low-quality product, wherever it’s manufactured.