As the average Chinese citizen’s buying power grows so does his/her expectations regarding product quality. If you pick up any Chinese newspaper today chances are that you will see an article about a product with a quality issue. In March last year it was VW cars sold in China. VW recalled 384,000 cars in China that a Chinese regulator has identified as having a gear box issue. Before it was VW, it was Apple. And before it was Apple it was a car manufacturer in Anhui Province. Product recalls in China – something one just did not see 10 years ago – are becoming as commonplace as they are in the US. You can look at this and think that it just underlies the problems with quality in China. Or you can look at it and see it as a growing awareness that quality is important to Chinese consumers. I tend to look at these stories the second way.
Another example of how quality is now counting in China is the CFDA ( China Food and Drug Administration). This is a new regulatory body that was established in response to numerous food-related scandals of recent years, most recently the scandal involving KFC which was found to be using chickens that had been fed an illegal amount of antibiotics. The CFDA opened its office in Beijing in 2013. Of course in the US the FDA has been around for ages, but it is new in China and should be seen as a symbol of Beijing’s new commitment to protecting consumers.
Big Chinese companies with global aspirations are also aware that in order to go global they have got to overcome the stigma of “Made in China.” The Govt supports this idea and to this end they are enforcing stricter regulations on consumer goods industries e.g. toy industry.
Finally, the huge Chinese online market is also influencing how consumers and vendors alike regard quality. Chinese online merchants on popular EBAY and Amazon-like sites like Taobao are aware that shipping defective product to customers will result in lost sales because of unfavorable ratings and reviews. This forces online merchants to deliver good product to their customers. This then forces the vendors or distributors to deliver good products to the merchants.
In short, China has two generations of inattention to product quality to overcome so change will be slow and when you source in China you cannot relax your standards. However over the long run I expect that Chinese quality will be very good.