Why Is This News

WITN: Is It Racist To Say That Chinese Manufacturing Leads To Low Quality Goods — And Fraud? [TCTV]

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Earlier this week, CrunchGear’s John Biggs sparked controversy (within TechCrunch ranks at least) with a post entitled “Alibaba And The Curse Of Chinese Manufacturing“. In the post Biggs wrote (amongst other things) that…

“Many decry the sad state of American manufacturing but these [Chinese] companies still sell billions in janky garbage that washes up here in huge containers and is sold throughout our 50 great states and, more important, the rest of the developed and developing world.”

Gosh.

He added…

“I was not surprised to hear that the CEO and those Alibaba employees were taking cash from criminal gangs to receive “gold ratings” on their products. This only makes sense. In an unfettered market, the unfettered will push their way to the top.”

So that’s how John Biggs feels about Chinese manufacturing companies, particularly those who sell on Alibaba. As Biggs was keen to point out, he has visited China, so this isn’t just a protectionist rant from a xenophobic American.

But here’s the thing: Sarah too has traveled to China. Quite a few times. In fact she just wrote a book (partly) about the country’s growing technology manufacturing industry. And on TechCrunch’s internal Yammer discussion platform she called Biggs out – even going so far as to accuse him of veering towards racism. Biggs responded that, if she disagreed so strongly, Sarah was welcome to write a rebuttal.

Instead we decided to head to the TCTV studio. In this week’s Why Is This News, we discuss whether Biggs had a point or whether… well… watch the video and see.

Update: John Biggs has responded in the comments…

“I wasn’t given the option of being on TCTV this time so I’ll rebut here. My line of thinking is this: Chinese manufacturers are forced BY OUR OWN DESIRE for a deal to make things as cheaply as possible. I don’t blame them. In a very many cases, a Chinese-made product can be well-made, environmentally friendly, and ISO-compliant. This is an absolute fact. HOWEVER, sites like Alibaba allow people with very little interest in those aspects of quality to find providers who are equally lax. The result is junk that gives China a bad name. THIS is my point, not that all Chinese manufacturing sucks. Sarah believes I’m playing into stereotypes but she and I both know using stereotypes is not how I argue.

I find it delightful that the same people who call for blood when it comes to Foxconn’s practices will rail against me for slighting Alibaba, a site that connects sellers of junk with buyers of junk. A real manufacturer goes to China, makes relationships, and builds a product and I’ve met a few of those people. He or she doesn’t find a cheap tablet/laptop/whatever, rebadge it, and sell it as the latest thing. There is more to selling an object than swiping a credit card.

Sarah focuses on business and people. She found it offensive that I called out a CEO. Fine. I’m sure he’s a charming guy with a house and kids. So am I. Howeever, I focus on technology, on physical things that clutter our homes and planet. I’ve seen to much garbage in various countries and places to defend the peddlers of this trash. Crap is made everywhere, to be sure, but surprisingly it is TOO EXPENSIVE TO MAKE CRAP OUTSIDE OF CHINA, which hinders the trade. Maybe Alibaba’s original mission was to make it easier for the next Ron Popeil to make is pocket fisherman. It isn’t anymore.”

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