The apology finally came from Mattel for the damage its repeated recalls of Chinese-made toys has done to the reputation of the Made-in-China label.
Thomas Debrowski, Mattel's executive vice-president for worldwide operations, admitted on Friday that the vast majority of the 21 million Chinese-made toys recalled were pulled off shelves because of a flaw in Mattel's design, not as a result of the work of Chinese manufacturers.
The apology, though delayed, should help dispel the suspicion American customers harbor against Chinese-made products and clean up the stain the recalls left on the innocent Chinese workers who make a living doing honest labor.
Telling the truth about flawed products and keeping customers well informed should transcend any other concern whenever a quality problem occurs. This is a basic professional ethic that any business must abide by.
As a matter of fact, no party benefits from withholding the truth.
Everybody knows that the American people have benefited a great deal from Chinese-made products. Telling them only part of the truth about the recalls has infringed upon their right to know the whole story. Because they were unable to make informed judgments, they might have been deprived of otherwise good options when deciding what to buy.
The impact on the innocent Chinese workers who have been made to pay for other's mistakes has been even more deleterious.
Nor has any of this been good for Mattel, either. Its reputation will be impaired when the whole truth about the recalls is finally made public.
However, it is not too late to mend the fence even though the sheep has escaped. It was wise for Mattel to make the apology. Frankness from all sides will pave the way for further cooperation.
Lessons learned in the past can guide us in the future. Transparency about product quality is important to customers, not only for Chinese-made products, but also for those made elsewhere.
The effort Chinese quality control authorities have made to deal with even the small portion of problematic products that were exported reflects the importance the Chinese government attaches to product quality, both for domestic and overseas consumers.
Protectionism and concerns about the trade imbalance should never prevent us from presenting the whole picture of product quality to customers.
(China Daily 09/24/2007 page4)