Junko, I agree with your thesis. The comments are always interesting to read. I believe there is much misunderstanding on both sides. China is a hot button issue for engineers in the West, and you can understand why. But I worry that people have jumped to conclusions. The example of the Apple products is a great one, and one that belongs in any discussion of the quality of products made in China.
@ Gearhead, I think his point is you are paying 3rd rate contractor price and expecting 1st rate service, that won't happen.
my own experience, if you want to buy anything important, complex you better go for a brand name one, ie TV, cars.
I risked cheap drills from online vendors, 1 dead after couple of years and I got another cheap one... since i only drill a handful of holes.
@JeffLiCES - I think you just proved my point about cultural differences and communication.
I did not use the term "stupid idiots" nor did I claim that China products are of "bad quality." However, I suggest you continue reading, and judge for yourself.
Hong Kong and mainland China have a justly deserved reputation for copying, manufacturing, and selling "clone" product (DVDs, copies of Microsoft Office software, and all sorts of electronic devices come to mind).
Melamine in baby formula, dog food that results in huge numbers of animals dead or injured - the world views all of these events and makes generalizations about China (the people, as well as the government).
Until China recognizes theft as theft, and deals with criminals accordingly, the rest of the world will continue to view China with a jaundiced eye.
@JeffLiCES - Jeff, I think you just proved my point about cultural differences (as well as communication barriers).
It is clear that you "assumed" many things here - I did not use the term "stupid idiots" nor did I claim that the iPhone and iPad are of poor quality, or stolen.
English is a very imprecise language to begin with, and it appears that english is not your native tongue - that is not meant to be derogatory, just trying to establish a foundation for communication.
I have been fortunate to have traveled to many parts of the world, and have seen the best and worst of human behavior.
Hong Kong (and mainland China) have had a justly deserved reputation for illegally copying, manufacturing, and selling(DVDs, for example - or knock-off electronic products like fake tektronix oscilloscopes and iPods).
Until China as a nation recognizes and addresses this as a real problem and takes pains to correct this, the rest of the world will continue to look down upon the Chinese.
It isn't an issue of poor quality or intellectual inferiority - but rather an issue of acknowledging rightful ownership of property (intellectual, or otherwise).
There are many factors contributing to the good/ poor quality of a product. Management is crucial. Educational background of the workers is another. There is no doubt China still has a long way to go. Nonetheless, with proper management and talent, China is able to deliver high quality product. Take an iPhone, iPad as example. Huawei is doing really well too. I'd worked with 2 engineers from Huawei. Their knowledge and skills are really measured up. I am so grateful to their working attribute and their willingness to make multiple extra steps for the team.
As for the speed, there are still little product innovation from China. R&D in China may be closer to integration than to technologies experimentation and product creation. Yet, I am already seeing a couple new and better ideas from China. Check out youku.com and compare it to youtube.com. China is moving in a really fast pace. When will they finish the catch-up game? Only time can tell. Maybe, the China Olympics swim team will give us some insight. ;)
@Gearhead:China does produce low quality products only because there're demonds for them. Same theory, if high quality products are asked, Chinese are able to produce it flawlessly, of course at higher price. This is why a pair of socks, and a screw, are made in China and smart phones, PCs and ATVs are made in China too. This is so simple to understand.
If you really had a head, you must know the so called 'almost perfect' iPad & iPhone are made in China too. How are they made in China if China is of bad quality?
You can believe the iPhones&iPads are made by thefts and thugs, it is your head on your own neck. But, truly, they are not made by stupid idiots.
I have been reading your column for some time now. As one who has had to deal with Chinese manufacturing sources, and dealt with the communication headaches associated with quality control (the Chinese could not understand why having water in a sealed retail package was a problem - when shown the resulting rusted connector in photographs, they replied "but it doesn't affect the use of the product...")
Language barriers are the least of the issues - the cultural differences which lead to (usually wrong) assumptions are a huge hurdle for most companies to overcome.
The first tektronix oscilloscope to be produced in China was on the market less than six months before an identical Chinese "clone" was brought to market - care to guess where the schematics and plastic molds came from?
Theft is theft, and until China respects intellectual property law, they will be viewed as little more than thugs by the rest of the world.
"It’s just that they don’t want to take the time to make a perfect phone". Yes I agree. The marketshare is the king not the quality. Because everything changes so fast and people don't need a long last high quality phone and more prefer a fashionable one.