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Quality in China: important to stay one step ahead!

For many years ‘Made in China’ has been synonymous with ‘bad quality’. Typically, most of the toys, clothing, shoes, etc. were coming from the “factory of the world”, as China was called at the time. Quality was of less importance than the price and the speed of delivery.

Today the reality is quite different. Not only costs and salaries have significantly increased in recent years, but also the type and the overall quality of the products have considerably improved. Sure, you can still get rubbish when you import products from China, but you could as well get top quality products from China, sometimes even better than you could get anywhere else in the world.

China still has a bad reputation as far as quality is concerned. But the Chinese government, headed by President Xi Jingping, has put the ‘Made in China’ strategy on top of their agenda. Product quality and efficiency, driven by innovation, are key drivers to the sustainable growth targets of the Chinese government. But China’s ambitions are bigger. They also want to create brands with international reputation. Companies such as Lenovo and Huawei are already quite famous in Western countries and more Chinese brands will follow soon.

Western companies should not underestimate China’s ambitions and must continue to focus on innovation, trying to be one step ahead of their Chinese counterparts. Just sitting back and relying on their existing technological base is not the right choice. Western companies who do not understand this will not only fail in China, but even worse: they can expect competition from China soon.

It will take only a few more years before Chinese manufacturers will overcome the typical obstacles to deliver top quality products: the poor level of English and the copying behaviour of Chinese companies in combination with their interpretation of quality as a product characteristic, with less attention to a wider customer-oriented approach. Once they take this hurdle, nothing will stand in their way, as money is mostly not a problem compared with the limited resources of many Western companies, especially companies from small countries such as Belgium or the Netherlands.

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