Caricature of the Made in China campaign, published on the website zhekou888.

Tainted milk, killer toys, allergenic couches or pesticide-filled ravioli… Major manufacturing scandals have tarnished the reputation of Chinese products. In an attempt to shore up the image of the “Made in China” label, the government has launched an advertising campaign targeting the West.

Dubbed "Made in China, Made with the World", the campaign is the Chinese government’s first attempt to market its national production. The message is clear: Chinese products can’t be bad, nor do they steal market shares from the West: although the products are made in China, the design and technology are not.

The thirty-year 'Open Door' policy launched in 1979 by Deng Xiaoping certainly paid off: China is now the workshop of the world, with a potential workforce of 800 million and vast quantities of cheap raw materials. Its production ranks among the world’s most competitive: clothes, electronic appliances, telecommunications equipment… There’s no escaping the “Made in China” label. The country produces 40% of the world’s cell phones and more than half of all computers on the planet. In 2008, Chinese exports reached 1.43 trillion dollars (1 trillion euros).

From furniture to clothes, "Made in China" is everywhere

Photo posted on Flickr by kenafe.

Photo posted on Flikr by Binoche Made in China.

"Foreigners have a choice: buy Chinese or pay more"

Li Yong exports Chinese IT equipment. He lives in Beijing.

The good thing about this commercial is that it shows foreigners that they have the choice: they can buy cheap in China or more expensive elsewhere. The problem is that customers are always looking for cheap bargains in China, but they also criticise the quality. If they’re not happy, stop buying Louis Vuitton bags or Ralph Lauren shirts: they’re all made in China. No one complains about their quality, though, because they’re fancy brands. It’s just hypocritical.

Personally I don’t think that Chinese products are bad quality. Foreign companies get what they have ordered and paid for. Occasionally there are problems, but no more than elsewhere. People have to stop with the obsession about 'Made in China' labels because they’re everywhere on the market. There’s nothing wrong with our merchandise, as illustrated by the fact that foreigners continue to buy ‘made in China’ goods en masse." 

"We need a 'Made BY China' label to really change our image"

Wang Li owns a clothes store in Beijing.

I think this advertising campaign is mainly trying to tell Westerners: 'we’re not taking your jobs, we’re not competitors. We complement each other.' But I don’t think it will fundamentally change the way Westerners see Chinese products, or change their reputation for being cheap and badly made. The media focus on the slightest manufacturing error in China and make a huge deal out of it, even if faulty merchandise only makes up a tiny percentage of Chinese production.

I’m not sure one advertising campaign will change how the West sees Chinese products. OK, the technology is foreign, but the manpower and production are Chinese, and we have made mistakes in those domains. Even if we improve the quality of our manufacturing it will still take a while for us to restore our reputation. There has to be a 'Made BY China' label for us to really succeed in changing the image the world has of us."