Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Made in China: Episode II

Recently the senior executives of Mattel apologized for their recall
of the toys made in China. The Chinese media seize this opportunity to
claim that the wave of Western media reports questioning the country's
export safety was unfair. It is worth noting, however, that
technically the apologies from Mattel are only to the Chinese people,
more specifically the Chinese customers (see below for the excerpt
from Reuters); they are not to the Chinese government, or the Chinese
OEM manufacturers for Mattel.

The Mattel apology underlines the fact that China is not only the
factory of the world, it is also the market of the world, where
billions of consumers, armed with an ever-stronger RMB, tries to buy
more and more goods, which, of course, include Barbie, the top
money-maker for Mattel. Moreover, one can not really separate "Made in
China" with "Sold in China": without the money they make in the
foreign-invested firms in China, how could an average Chinese worker
afford all these expensive Western products? Thus, Mattel probably
should also apologize to their suppliers, because when the workers in
these factories get off work, they become the consumers whom Mattel
wants to please.

Below is the Reuters Report:

China seizes on Mattel apology to emphasize safety
Mon Sep 24, 2007 12:56pm EDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - China highlighted Mattel's apology over its recall
of huge numbers of toys on Monday to press Beijing's claim that its
exports are generally safe and foreign politicians and media have
unfairly hyped quality scares.

Before those recalls, a spate of complaints involving unsafe Chinese
products ranging from other toys and seafood to toothpaste that
entered EU and U.S. markets prompted calls on both sides of the
Atlantic for stricter scrutiny of made-in-China goods.

Thomas Debrowski, executive vice president of worldwide operations for
toymaker Mattel Inc, apologized on Friday following recalls of about
21 million Chinese-made toys over five weeks. The recalls stoked U.S.
complaints that lax Chinese quality controls threatened foreign

"Mattel takes full responsibility for these recalls and apologizes
personally to you, the Chinese people and all of our customers who
received the toys," Debrowski told China's quality watchdog chief, Li
Changjiang, in Beijing.

The vast majority of recalled toys suffered from a design defect that
was Mattel's own fault, Debrowski said.

Mattel subsequently issued a statement saying his words had been
"mischaracterized" -- though it did not specify how -- and his apology
was directed at buyers of its toys.

But China's state-run media have seized on his remarks to make their
government's case that the country has been the victim of unfair
accusations echoed throughout the international media.

"The apology, though delayed, should help dispel the suspicion
American customers harbor against Chinese-made products," the China
Daily said in an editorial.

"Its (Mattel's) reputation will be impaired when the whole truth about
the recalls is finally made public."

Last week Mattel CEO Robert Eckert had to defend his company's toy
safety record as Democratic lawmakers accused him of stonewalling a
U.S. congressional probe into production practices in China.

The People's Daily -- the official voice of China's ruling Communist
Party -- said the apology showed the wave of Western media reports
questioning the country's export safety was unfair.

"If China's toy exports depended solely on a cheap price and did not
ensure quality, we would never have won such a massive worldwide
market," the paper said, citing a toy-making association official in
Guangdong, the southern province where Mattel produces many of its

The paper said that China-based suppliers and workers had suffered
unfairly because of the Mattel recalls.

The International Herald Leader, a newspaper issued by the official
Xinhua news agency, called for U.S. news media to follow Mattel's
example and apologize for what it called flagrant bias.

"The U.S. media have also made an irreplaceable contribution to making
made-in-China wear these dark accusations for so long," the paper

But Xinhua has also reported that police detained four Chinese
nationals accused of having supplied one of Mattel's contract
manufacturers, the Lida Toy Company, with the substandard paint behind
the first recall in August.

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