The difference between China and Japan.
An advert, on the radio, made it clear to me, just now, quite what the difference is, internationally, between China and Japan.
The advert was for a new type of toothbrush that claimed to be able to leave your mouth cleaner than a traditional toothbrush. That, in itself, was not what interested me. It was the way they finished the ad that really caught my attention. It went a bit like this, “The Product X toothbrush…from Japan.”
They were using the word “Japan”, as a kind of brand to sell their own brand. All the many associations, in my head, and in the heads of us all, between “Japan” and “efficiency”, “attention to detail”, “well made”, and “hi tech”, sprang to mind. The implication was clear: this would be a quality product.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I have never heard an ad that said: “Made in China”, as the final, selling, punchline. Just consider the effect, on your perceptions, if they had. Would you buy it? Or would you think: “shoddy”, “cheaply made”, “dangerous”, “potentially poisonous”, “fragile”, “poor quality”; “fake” and so on?
Over the past few decades, Japan has built a reputation for quality and being at the leading edge of all that is to do with engineering, at least, in the ways that impact the consumer. China, on the other hand, has come to be seen, by most, as a bit of a scam artist of a nation. Few people trust their products to be reliable, of high quality or even safe (just recall all the scandals about lead paint in children’s toys, melamine in baby milk, fake rabies vaccines (that led to children dying from rabies) etc.).
China may be growing fast. It may even become an “economic superpower” in the next few decades – but it is a long, long way from achieving a good reputation, in the way Japan has. To my mind, this makes any Chinese success very susceptible to sudden collapse. What happens, for instance, when a critical mass of people in other countries decide that they have had enough of disappointments with products “Made in China” and turn away from their products, wholesale? It won’t be long before China’s economy deflates, when no-one is buying “Made in China” anymore.
An intelligent shopper is a cautious shopper. Many an intelligent shopper considers the trustworthiness, safety, durability and reliability of a product before buying it. This is particularly important if you are a parent and have children in the house to keep safe. Long experience has shown that “Made in China” is a ready indicator that these qualities are likely to be absent – and so it is that the intelligent shopper should thank China for making product selection that much easier.
China will only ever become a true economic superpower, secure in its position, if it manages to shed this well deserved reputation for shoddiness in its wares. The day that China is able to finish ads with “Made in China” and ensure a sale, is the day that China will really have made it. That day, however, is many decades away of hard, disciplined work, in changing its manufacturing habits, business practices and ethical outlook. In truth, in some way, the Chinese will have to become Japanese, to win the reputation in manufacturing and business, that the Japanese have. Until that day, I am quite prepared to buy “Made in Japan” but am most wary of buying “Made in China”. I doubt that I am alone in that assessment.
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