My friend and I were hungry the other day while hanging out and decided to buy some bread to quell our hunger. We walked down to the basement and saw a Paris Baguette beside a BreadTalk. Being Singaporean, I naturally went for the BreadTalk.
It is only natural for people to support local brands from their place of origin: just as the Koreans carry their Samsung phones, use Kia Cars and buy bread from Paris Baguette, the Chinese should also carry their own local HTC phones and use their brand of ChangHong television. Why do they not?
While it is true that China has a bad reputation for their products, it is also undeniable that the quality of their products has been improving. Since 2004, ChangHong has allegedly made 90% of televisions imported to the United States, as ordered by a foreign branded company. When a ChangHong branded television is placed alongside that of a foreign brand, the Chinese brand is significantly cheaper. The same manufacturer makes these televisions with the same specifications, but their prices vary. The only difference between the products is that the label shows a different name.
The Chinese consumer will buy the foreign brand, as they believe this gives them “quality assurance” and is a good way to show off to guests. However, Chinese companies essentially make everything in China. This trend for foreign brands is also why the industry of imitation goods in China flourishes. With the price of a fake leather LV bag in China, one can buy a genuine leather handbag that is sturdier. However, the latter does not have the element of foreign-made glamour.
There was a milk powder scandal in China in 2008, when milk formulas were found to contain the harmful substance melamine. Since then, laws have been created and the Chinese milk industry is following rules as strict as those of their foreign counterparts. However, in January 2013, the Chinese tourists bought so much milk powder from Australia that supermarket shelves were completely empty. The brands that they bought could have been found in China, with the same production formula, but Chinese consumers instead chose to buy foreign products.
Interestingly, there is a Japanese brand of CD players that manufactures and assembles their products in China before shipping them back to Japan to have warning labels put on before selling them to the Chinese market. This allows the product to fit the legal definition of “imported product,” giving the company reason to sell it at a high price and have a better name to increase demand – “Made in Japan” as opposed to “Made in China.”
Japanese stationery also faces similar favoritism. People would rather use a “Japanese pen” made in China, costing RMB 10, than a Chinese pen of similar quality for less. While the adults show off their television to their guests, the younger generations show off their stationary.
Locally-made products are equally as safe as their foreign counterparts and their quality can be similar. There is no reason to favor the foreign brand name just for its alleged better quality – they are all made in China by the same group of manufacturers, and at a much cheaper price. Don’t be fooled by brands!
This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of UNIT-E. It was written by Russel Ng, a student at Yew Chung International School of Beijing.
UNIT-E was founded in the spring of 2010 with the aim of establishing a non-profit, student-run magazine for international students in Beijing. Staffed by current students from a range of international schools, the magazine provides an amalgam of cultural tidbits, fragments of Beijing student life, and a broad spectrum of unique perspectives from a diverse group of young adults.
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