‘The China Syndrome.’

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I suppose it was inevitable that as a result of the various quality scandals—toothpaste, seafood, Thomas the Tank Engine et al– there’d be commentary that says, see, China really isn’t a manufacturing super power. The money quote in this piece, published on the OP ED page of today’s Wall Street Journal, is this:

Polls show a majority of Americans believe China has mastered basic manufacturing — and it’s now barreling into our high-tech backyard. That’s false. As the product recalls demonstrate, China can barely make low-value goods reliably, much less higher-value ones. The problems are structural, not the result of a few bad apples.

That’s “false”?? My neighbors out here in suburban Shanghai, industrial designers who are working on the brand spanking new Intel factory going up in Dalian (the chip maker already has a plant on the Pudong side here) would be surprised to hear that China can “barely make low value goods reliably.” The fact is, both propositions are true: China has mastered basic manufacturing and IS moving into our high tech backyard, but there are also a huge number of small and medium sized companies who compete solely on cost, and which therefore cut corners like crazy.
Here’s the link to the entire essay by Jeremy Haft in today’s Journal: