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back to article Knocking China with shocking phones and mocking tones

This week began with a story that has become a stalwart of lightweight modern journalism: someone was killed by a computer. It’s a provocative and, let’s face it, often entertaining concept that has inspired many sci-fi writers and filmmakers from the 1950s through to the late 1970s. Of course, in fiction, the solution is for a …

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Silver badge

Mostly true

"...practically all the sexiest, highest quality and most expensive computing devices we use here are manufactured there. And they do it because we can’t."

My iPhone is manufactured in China because labor and components are cheap over there. If labor were that cheap here, it would be built here. We're perfectly capable of building that stuff over here, we just can't afford the labor.

In addition to my iPhone, other, not-so-well-built stuff comes from China (different factories, same country). The power adaptor that fell apart, the kitchen timer that doesn't and the rest of the junk. That's not racist, it's a fact. You get what you pay for. Chinese factories will build it...well or poorly, depending on your cost target.

It's not racist, more like slavery. Chinese workers are, even at the factories that make the high end stuff, paid far far less than a western living wage. And environmental, health and safety regulation is, shall we say, unevenly enforced? Everything comes at a price.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mostly true

Before you bandy around words like slavery...

"Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation."

Considering people travel long distances to apply for jobs at the Foxconn factories not sure you can genuinely refer to it as slavery. Yes they do work for less - but that happens in our own countries as well and is related to many other things.

On a final note - ask yourself would these people be better or worse off without these jobs?

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Re: Mostly true

Have to agree; there are far too many people that think we in Britain "don't do manufacturing".

We do; and on the whole, we do it bloody well. Seriously high quality, a lot of real innovation, some exciting, creative products as well as the more mundane items. Yes, wages are higher, but often the production costs are lower in comparison, because of more efficient processes and fewer issues with the Quality Control.

Just a shame that the politicians and media spend so much effort "talking it down"

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Re: Mostly true

Of course one of the reasons why labour in the UK is expensive is the cost of living, of which a significant proportion is related to the cost of housing (buy or rent). Which is why governments spend so much of our money ensuring that this cost remains as high as possible.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mostly true

Indeed, I've mentioned it a few times, the reason Britain doesn't really make anything below high performance industrial stuff/ high tech science kit is that there's no money in it anymore, if someone was mad, they could build a factory to fab chips and press laptops it's just that there's no point. Giant engines for Jet planes, cars, weapons, industrial robotics, refinery components, satellites etc etc etc and the profit (for the manufacturer) from many of those things in single units is probably comparable to hundreds of thousands of units of things China makes.

Also people often just talk about salaries but forget the other big ticket items, such as power, pollution, transportation, insurance, regulation, pension, land and, tax.

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Re: Mostly true

It's irrelevant whether they're paid less (or more) than a Western living wage. What matters is whether their standard of living, however much they are paid, matches ours (which is pretty good, all told). Chinese folks' desire for consumer goods and their ability to satisfy that desire implies many are not badly off at all, even on wages we consider tiny.

Mind you, that's urban China. It's a very different matter out in China's sticks, of course.

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Bronze badge

Re: Mostly true

>> there are far too many people that think we in Britain "don't do manufacturing

This is an interesting point. Several people who probably know a lot more about these things than I do have predicted that manufacturing is experiencing a slow swing back to Europe and the Americas. This because of rising standards of living in traditional locations such as India and China, such that outsourcing is not as cheap as it used to be (after factoring in transportation etc).

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Silver badge

Re: Mostly true

We also lack the number of graduate production engineers required to set up and run such a production line, plus all the parts would have to be shipped from China or other parts of the Far East where they are made, adding delays to the process.

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Re: Mostly true

"plus all the parts would have to be shipped from China or other parts of the Far East where they are made, adding delays to the process."

Shipping the parts vs. shipping the finished product - makes no difference - in fact if the working capital is yours, there may be a small advantage in shipping the components into the final sales region vs. shipping the finished product.

In any case there is no real reason why the chips couldn't be made in US/Europe too - as the process technologies change, so new fabs must be built and this provides an opportunity to relocate them to the new regions if it makes economic sense to do so..

Our customers do low volume manufacturing in the UK (measured in 1,000's of units per year, so not troubling Apple :-)) - we got some quotes to do the complete manufacture in Asia - all things added up, it was no cheaper. Your mileage may vary, especially if your volumes are much higher than ours.

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Chinese Marketing

China is moving its national policies away from exporting and into internal consumption of Chinese brands and products. I don't think the deadly phone story was aimed at Westerners, it was aimed at Chinese citizens who are looking for a new phone.

The Chinese successfully leveraged their massive population to build a manufacturing infrastructure designed to build things for the Chinese, not the West. Now they have enough paid workers who are experiencing consumption addiction for the first time and they can and are slowly (re)building walls around themselves. Everything up to this point was to allow them to jump start internal Westernesque markets and they've succeeded. We can expect many more anti-Western product stories.

Also, the pilot names thing was funny. I'm really, really sad for the people who perished but there's nothing wrong with having a good chuckle at a tangentially related aspect of the story. Cultures all over the world make fun of how words in other languages sound/mean in their languages.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Chinese Marketing

If the story tells people anything it should be not to buy cheap / crappy chargers - AFAIK it was not an official charger that did it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Chinese Marketing

Or "don't play with electrical sockets after getting out of the shower"

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Anonymous Coward

I really enjoy your articles, please keep them coming. You're like a less egotistical Dominic O'Connor.

As anyone who has been to the east can confirm, their casual racism (which they are oblivious to) puts ours to shame.

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Silver badge

there are far too many people that think we in Britain "don't do racism".

We do; and on the whole, we do it bloody well. Seriously high quality, a lot of real innovation, some exciting, creative products as well as the more mundane items.

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Bronze badge

>> You're like a less egotistical Dominic O'Connor

Dominic is not egotistical, he just knows what he's writing about. I don't.

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Happy

Re: >> You're like a less egotistical Dominic O'Connor

But you're willing to admit that! Hence a balance in your favor.

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Holmes

Amateur hour

Compared to the East Asians, we're rank amateurs in the racism business. I mean, people actually have to look and sound different from us before we start to think about discriminating against them! Nope, the Japanese are the real masters, with their second-class citizenship for people of Korean ancestry and their endless obsessions about not having peasants in your ancestry. No doubt China has similar distinctions that only the Chinese are even capable of noticing.

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Fit an RCD

Perhaps the newspapers should have used the chance to educate people why a simple $20 RCD would have probably saved her life?

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This post has been deleted by its author

- a fool

any one who can write and believe the below paragraph :

In fact, ask anyone from Hong Kong to qualify the use of Cantonese in business and they’ll explain to you in no uncertain terms that Mandarin is a modern bastardisation of something or other and generally

is a fool , just like the author, of the article

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Headmaster

Re: - a fool

I must disagree, from what I know about Tang dynasty rhyming guides for poetry.

Some of the rhymes no longer make sense in Mandarin.

Cantonese preserves many of the rhymes. Mandarin makes a mess of it.

Somewhere I encountered a poem that makes this point. It's a nonsense poem about about some chickens on a knitting machine, or something like that.

In Mandarin, every character in the entire poem is pronounced in exactly the same way. So the poem is nothing but a string of undifferentiated "chi, chi, chi, chi...".

It makes perfect sense (other than the nonsense story in the poem) when recited in Cantonese.

The story I've ben told is that the "civilized' folks moved South during the Sung dynasty, because of the invasion by "barbarians" from the North. As a consequence, the Southerners preserved the spoken language much better than the Northerners.

Not that language bastardization is a bad thing, look at the glory that is English!

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Bronze badge

Re: - a fool

You're a good judge of character but a poor reader of text. I am a fool but do not wish to agree with what I was told about Mandarin. I am in no position to believe or not believe it since I lack knowledge.

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Unhappy

I once spent 8 days in the PRC on business and I, too, can attest to the utterly horrid nature of the food. Lost 10 pounds in those 8 days on a steady diet of Many Fine Weeds with Rice, I Can't Believe It's Not Pork, Lucky Dog and Nine Lives Cat. After a while one also notices the lack of stray dogs, cats, rats and homeless people and cannot help but wonder if there is a connection.

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Bronze badge

JIT NIH?

I had thought that JIT was pretty much invented by Toyota, initially due to their capital constraints and thus their financial inability to afford large inventories of parts and tooling.

Your WWII, backsliding, and inventor changing his efforts to Japan story sounds much more like W. Edwards Deming, who introduced a lot of statistical quality control methods to US industry during WWII. Those methods were largely dropped after the war as US exporters could sell pretty much anything they made overseas, no matter the quality,

Deming famously brought his statistical quality control and his manufacturing/management philosophy to Japan after the war, initially getting their census running and later teaching Japan's rebuilding industries his ideas. In his honor, a Deming prize was established and remains very prestigious in Japan although often unknown in the West.

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If you don't think 90% of Chinese output is crap...

...then obviously you've never been to Walmart. Or pretty much any other big retail chain for that matter. It's worth every penny to find something made elsewhere (even elsewhere in the 3rd world) and pay double or triple for it. Unfortunately that's becoming harder and harder to do.

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Bronze badge

Re: If you don't think 90% of Chinese output is crap...

>> obviously you've never been to Walmart.

True. Walmart still hasn't got around to opening a store in Bromley.

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Silver badge

Re: If you don't think 90% of Chinese output is crap...

Where was the computer you're using and its components made?

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Devil

Re: If you don't think 90% of Chinese output is crap...

Indeed. If you shop at Wallmart (Asda in the UK) or Tesco. That's also where you find beef labeled as horsemeat, too _AND_ that is not a mere coincidence. It is a natural result of the procurement strategy and methodology.

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Silver badge

But it is particularly galling that popular journalism likes to play on outdated childhood conceptions about China’s manufacturing past while completely ignoring the fact that practically all the sexiest, highest quality and most expensive computing devices we use here are manufactured there. And they do it because we can’t.

I would argue that no-one equated "made in china" with crap.

It's all a question on who asks what to be manufactured - if shortcuts are warranted and allowed for by the designer, then shortcuts WILL be taken.

A case in point, pick ANY no-name cheap chinese external hard drive that comes with it's own power supply and an IEC power cord. Prove to me that power cord contains a regulation amount of copper, then YOU plug it into an appliance that is rated at the current STAMPED on the cord.

YOU tell me if it doesn't light up like a christmas tree - in a bad way.

"Outdated childhood conceptions" my arse.

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Mixed up

It doesn’t help my case that I have just mixed up China, South Korea and Thailand, but I am talking about Western attitudes to the Far East in general.

Yes, but would you really be offended to find out that the average Korean mixes up the British, French, Germans, or Americans? OK, maybe the Americans, but still..

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Anonymous Coward

How much do you want to pay?

I work for a firm that manufactures its top end products and buys-in the lower priced models from China.

Our MD tells the story of his first visit to China 15 years ago when he had been given the tour of the factory, the (apparently very good) banquet and then discussed prices.

He was asked quite simply, 'How much do you want to pay for this product?'

There was no lower price - you could price it down and down to be junk, or price it up and up to contain much better parts that would last longer, and might be better put together too.

If only our customers and their customers (the public) would actually pay the higher price - but they don't, they simply don't...

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We did at one time...

" And they do it because we can’t." is really sad! Where did western innovation go? Once upon a time the west almost had it all...

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