Op-Ed Contributors

'Made in China' products come of age

By Zhang Zhengfu (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-07 07:42

A 30-second TV commercial, "Made in China", is still a hot topic of discussion even almost two weeks after four Chinese industry associations launched an advertisement campaign on CNN.

The ad, currently being aired on the International, US and Headline News sections of CNN, highlights the global involvement in the production of high-quality Chinese goods. Among other things, it features an MP3 "Made in China with software from the Silicon Valley" and clothes "Made in China with French designers".

The TV ad has been designed to tell overseas consumers that Chinese firms work with overseas firms to produce quality products, said the China Chamber of Commerce for Imports and Exports of Light Industrial Products and Arts-Crafts, one of the ad makers.

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"The global setting and international elements in the ad provide a new angle for the world to reflect on their stereotyped assumptions about Chinese products," said Zhao Yumin, a researcher with the MOC.

Such an ad campaign in the international media is rare for China, says Zhang Yansheng, a researcher with the National Development and Reform Commission,

Despite benefiting from China's quality and affordable products, some foreign people and media often point fingers at "made in China" goods, especially when their countries face problems of unemployment and shrinking market share. The global financial crisis has intensified this problem.

Zhao Jinping, a researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council, the country's cabinet, said most of China's exports were the fruits of cooperation between Chinese and foreign firms. More than half of the country's exports from the manufacturing sector are made by foreign-funded enterprises. The proportion of such goods from hi-tech and electronic sectors is 83 and 75 percent.

Ninety percent of the hi-tech products exported to America are made by foreign enterprises, "so China's trade surplus with the US can be interpreted as the world's surplus", says Zhang Yansheng.

Processing trade accounts for more than half of China's manufacturing exports, which means the country has to import raw materials, accessories and machines to make them.

After watching the ad, Nickolas Topjian, an American doing business in Beijing, said: "I think it will be great for the West to learn more about what goes into China products."

"The ad campaign is an effective and sophisticated attempt to reposition China as a trusted manufacturer to the world," said Martin Mulligan, an observer from London. "As part of a process to shake off an outdated image of China as a giant manufacturer with safety and quality deficits, the ad is quite valuable. "

But opposing opinions, too, have been voiced, with some saying the ad may be counter-productive and reinforce China's image as "the world's factory".

"We do need this kind of campaigns, but what matters more is to improve the quality of our products and create China's own world-famous brands," a netizen said on China's popular online forum, www.tianya.cn. Another remarked: "We would like to see more 'Designed in China' rather than 'Made in China' products."

But it's a hard fact that China is indeed the "world's factory" because its manufacturing output is 15 percent of the world's total, compared with its 6 percent share of the world GDP, Zhang Yansheng said. China's future ad campaigns should focus on "upgraded 'Made in China'", telling the world that China is on the way to becoming an innovator and designer on a global scale.

The author is a writer with Xinhua News Agency

(China Daily 12/07/2009 page4)