In a rush to save face, China is now saying that the real problem with toys made there is poor design engineering in the United States. Mattel Inc. recently recalled close to 20 million Chinese-made dolls, cars and action figures that had lead paint or small magnets that children could swallow. "About 85 percent were directly designed by the American company and produced according to requirements of the American importer," says Li Changjiang, director of China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. "I personally have seen some of the toys. There are serious problems in their design, so they are highly dangerous for children. These types of toys would be recalled in any country," he said in a news conference today in Beijing.
Know what I think?
China has a terrible safety track record, and has no business trying to bounce back the blame. Also in the news today: 1) 265 workers in the city of Xiamen got sick after eating at a restaurant and 2) New Zealand launched an investigation after children’s clothes imported from China had dangerously high levels of formaldehyde.
Sure Mattel deserves a lot of grief for not supervising their supply chain better and not thinking through toy designs in advance. To Mattel’s credit, though, they have quickly owned up to their problems and promised to turn things around.
What are the lessons from this? Let’s rethink what “the China price” really means. Sure you can get a quick 20 to 50 percent savings. But what’s the long-term cost? Not just economically, but to your company’s reputation?
Does it bother you that American imports of Chinese-made products hit $288 billion last year, triple the total from 2001? It should.