Made in China

Once the darling of bargain-crazed Americans, China has of late hit the public-image skids. Remember the melamine-tainted pet food? And the drywall that mysteriously tarnished and corroded nearby metal objects? How about lead-contaminated children’s toys? All made in China.

Acutely aware of its own tarnished image, China is embarking on a U.S.-style ad campaign to bolster its image. If it works, it’ll be the marketing coup of the century.

After all, China has spent the past decade branding itself as a purveyor of cheap goods—and it has invested billions in a manufacturing infrastructure to make sure it can live up to its reputation.

In some cases, the Chinese government has subsidized raw materials or a portion of the production costs to keep wholesale costs artificially low. In others, companies have used questionable labor practices to keep costs down.

Meanwhile, Americans have become dissatisfied with the quality of Chinese goods. We complain that our jobs are going overseas. But what do we expect, when we make our purchasing decisions based only on price?

The headlines of the new “Made in China” ads stress the global interrelationship of Chinese goods: “Made in China with American sports technology.” “Made in China with European styling.”

I hope that, someday, that global interrelationship also extends to the economics of pricing.

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