Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Made in China

What is wrong with China?

I'm not sure about what others think, but there is a considerable section of Singaporeans who feel "made in China" products are inferior.

Perhaps such a sentiment, even among heartlanders, might give everyone a chance to be elitist in some way. We hail technology on the one hand, and on the other, we scoff at the inferiority of mass production.

(Relatively) Cheap labour, mass production and a tablespoon of poor QC (quality control, along with safety) have facilitated the "made in China"'s world domination. It is definitely a good prospect for the less fortunate, many of whom are unable to afford the products and materials that the relatively privileged enjoy.

Of course, in global materialism and aspiration towards (upward) social mobility, we are engaging in the material world what the linguistic world (societies in England) have done in the Great Vowel Shift. There is the aspiration of social mobility, so we want to possess traits and items that are indicative of a desired way of life and being, from food to furniture to cars.

When ownership of these mass commodities reach a critical level, only will we then bother about the conditions under which they have been made (unless we are told we have melamine in our milk). In doing people a service, "made in China" has done people a disservice. However, we are more ready to grumble and diss than to celebrate the achievements of "made in China".

The colonial mentality in us reinforces the dominance of European and "white" brands, even though they may be qualitatively superior (oops, pardon my anglophilic judgement). Asia, to us, is inferior and we are happy to joke about it.

Another reason for the low cost of production is that "made in China" does not employ a well-oiled public relations machinery to sweeten their product (as in figuratively sweeten; note that lead, benzene, mercury are not sweeteners... sorry, just had to take a few more jibes!). If the same fiasco were to occur in a "made by white people" country/company, the spin machine will go into damage control and isolate the problem. So do note whenever we pay for a product, the money goes into the different domains of its production and post-production.

"Made in China" is a reality and we cannot escape it. It has made everyday life possible. But in times like that, we may turn away from it; but for every turn we make, it stares us back right in the face.

I believe that "made in China" needs more QC (not Queen's Counsel). In that way, we won't have to worry about our melamine milk and the death contraption Cherry QQs (has that car passed any safety test?).

I wonder, if something so pervasive as "made in China" is still deemed inferior, it says a lot of society itself. It's like having to make do with an ugly lover, that some jocks will rationalise "cover the face, bang the base".

Even I am one who thinks that "made in China" is inferior and will opt for "made by white people" brands. Either way, I'm colonised by both.

We're a selectively xenophobic bunch. Our phobia manifests in different ways, how we react towards "made in China" in terms of consumer habits, attitudes and so on (yet we celebrate video aggregation websites from China that play the latest Western dramas). It is kind of odd that this xenophobia informs of a certain kind of taste that is imbued into us, one that derives from specific geographical regions. Think about that.

All the discussion has rekindled my love for 'White Rabbit Brand Sweets'!


Agagooga said...

This reminds me of the claim that Westerners who dislike Chinese WOW farmers are racist, when in reality they dislike them because they are WOW farmers.

Sam Ho said...

is that world of warcraft?

i've not played that game though. afriad i might be addicted to it. (technophobe! oh no!).

isn't farming ok?

Agagooga said...

WOW farming is where people (only PRC Chinese, as far as I know, since their labour is cheap) create accounts and engage in repetitive activities for a long time in order to earn gold.

This gold is then collected and auctioned off to richer players who are too lazy, busy or interested in the repetitive and boring act of earning money.

Besides being against the letter of the rules, it is also against their spirit. WOW farmers are thus despised, and some players even go out of their way to kill them.

There was some academic who called this racism, but really it's just disliking people who ruin the game for everyone else.


Made in China is disliked but put up with because it is cheap.

Elitism, if present, likely isn't much of a factor.

In fact, I would ask why we must "celebrate the achievements of "made in China""? If you think celebrating White products just because they are white, how is celebrating Chinese products just because they are Chinese (or Asian) any better?

If White products really are qualitatively superior, why is it colonial to support them? Shouldn't we be race/colonial blind? The only relevant criteria should have to do with the intrinsic qualities of the products, like price and quality, not who makes them.

What you call selective xenophobia is really people recognising products for their intrinsic quality: milk which gives you kidney stones is bad, video sharing sites which work rock.

Spotting xenophobia where it is non-existent does nobody any favours, least of all the allegedly disadvantaged people on whose behalf you are raising awareness.

Sam Ho said...

by selective xenophobia, i refer to the instance in which when some product/experience is positive, we link it to the country of origin.

tainted milk is tainted milk. but when the idea of the nation comes into discussion and the nation is criticised (in areas other than in QC), it would be, to be simplistic, an aspect of xenophobia.

i'm fully aware, of course, about labelling a non-existent phenomena on an observation, just for the heck of it.

it is not the decisions, but also in the rationalisation of consumers that inform of certain phenomena.

Agagooga said...

Well, it is the Chinese culture of corruption and greed that leads to all these scandals.

It's like how if you talk about Singaporeans' kiasuism you have to talk about their materialism.