“Made in China” is transforming the world as we know it. When I walk into a hardware store, computer shop or shoeshack anywhere in Europe, more than half of the items are made in China. This was not the case when I was a kid! The export from China to the west is 100 times larger today than when I was a child (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33536.pdf). Most my toys and clothes were made in Europe. I believe that this shift of production power and knowledge is one of the major events in modern history.
Paul Midler is one of the numerous players who have been enabling China to export their goods in the last decade, and he wrote an entertaining account of his experiences. Speaking Chinese and with an American business degree, he worked on the ground to help American importers to find manufacturers for their various goods. Midler shares hilarious anecdotes and sobering reality checks from encounters with the human traits of greed, naivety, disrespect and short-term thinking, both with the Chinese as well as the foreign partners. The book is written in an unusually open style, exposing the author’s personal impressions, which makes the story stronger and it is a joy to read.
From my own experience, I know that not everything in China is poorly made, so I have my reservations for the title of the book. However, there are structural problems related to short-term thinking due to e.g. unpredictability in the legal system and lack of transparency, which make the temptation to take shortcuts almost irresistible. There is still a lot to do before “Made in China” gets similar connotations as “Made in Japan” has today.